A German referendum would have kept nuclear, says academic

If Germany had held a referendum on whether to keep atomic power, the country would still have nuclear reactors in its energy mix.

That was the claim made by sociologist and political scientist Piet Sellke at the European Power Plant Suppliers Association technology evening in Brussels last night.

Sellke said that the public tends to be far more conservative than decision makers and he believed it was likely that a country-wide vote to ban nuclear would have met with failure.

However, he stated that anti-nuclear opinion in Germany – which was running at 90 per cent according to figures released at the end of last year – was stronger than its European neighbours because of fears over risk management. He said that opposition to nuclear is “much the same” in France as in Germany, but crucially, the French believe have greater trust in the risk management of their nuclear sector.

Sellke – who is based at Stuttgart University’s department for sociology of technologies and environment – said nuclear suffers from the “perceived dread” of what could happen: “Human behaviour is not based on facts, it’s based on perception.”

But he stressed that “people want to be taken seriously about what they fear”.

He said the days when the energy sector could “just decide” to go ahead with infrastructure are over. “It just doesn’t work. There must be a public dialogue.”

And he added: “The energy mix of the future has to be something that is seen to be just and fair for future generations.”

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