[Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Effect of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the risk perception of residents near a nuclear power plant in China

Lei Huang<SUP>a</SUP>, Ying Zhou<SUP>b</SUP>, Yuting Han<SUP>a</SUP>, James K. Hammitt<SUP>c</SUP>,<SUP>d</SUP>, Jun Bi<SUP>a</SUP>,<SUP>1</SUP>, and Yang Liu<SUP>b</SUP>
Author Affiliations: <SUP>a</SUP>State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resource Reuse, School of the Environment, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, People?s Republic of China; <SUP>b</SUP>Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322; <SUP>c</SUP>Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, MA 02115; and <SUP>d</SUP>Toulouse School of Economics (Laboratoire d'Economie des Ressources Naturelles?Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), 31000 Toulouse, France

Edited* by Roger E. Kasperson, Clark University, Worcester, MA, and approved October 15, 2013 (received for review July 25, 2013)


Because of its severity and proximity, the Fukushima nuclear accident exposed the Chinese public to the potential risks associated with nuclear power. Our analysis of surveys taken before and immediately after the event shows that this disaster has dramatically changed the risks of nuclear power perceived by the public and has significantly decreased public acceptance. Our study identified females, those who are not in public service, lower-income workers, and residents close to existing nuclear facilities as potentially the most affected. Effective communication strategies to facilitate public judgments about new nuclear plants should recognize these sensitive subgroups.


We assessed the influence of the Fukushima nuclear accident (FNA) on the Chinese public?s attitude and acceptance of nuclear power plants in China. Two surveys (before and after the FNA) were administered to separate subsamples of residents near the Tianwan nuclear power plant in Lianyungang, China. A structural equation model was constructed to describe the public acceptance of nuclear power and four risk perception factors: knowledge, perceived risk, benefit, and trust. Regression analysis was conducted to estimate the relationship between acceptance of nuclear power and the risk perception factors while controlling for demographic variables. Meanwhile, we assessed the median public acceptable frequencies for three levels of nuclear events. The FNA had a significant impact on risk perception of the Chinese public, especially on the factor of perceived risk, which increased from limited risk to great risk. Public acceptance of nuclear power decreased significantly after the FNA. The most sensitive groups include females, those not in public service, those with lower income, and those living close to the Tianwan nuclear power plant. Fifty percent of the survey respondents considered it acceptable to have a nuclear anomaly no more than once in 50 y. For nuclear incidents and serious incidents, the frequencies are once in 100 y and 150 y, respectively. The change in risk perception and acceptance may be attributed to the FNA. Decreased acceptance of nuclear power after the FNA among the Chinese public creates additional obstacles to further development of nuclear power in China and require effective communication strategies.

public perception - nuclear risk ? spatial distribution


<SUP>1</SUP>To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: jbi@nju.edu.cn.
Author contributions: L.H. and J.B. designed research; L.H., Y.H., and J.B. designed and conducted the surveys; L.H., Y.Z., J.K.H., and Y.L. analyzed data; and L.H. and Y.L. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

*This Direct Submission article had a prearranged editor.

This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1313825110/-/DCSupplemental.

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option.