Issue No.8 Spring
(April 2005)


ENS News

ENS President's Contribution

Tapping Unusual Quarters

ENS Events

PIME 2005

RRFM 2005

ETRAP 2005

ENC 2005

Member Societies & Corporate Members

News from Poland

News from Lithuinia

Corporate communication

YGN Report

Young nuclear specialists in the new Europe

European Institutions

7th Framework Programme

News from Bulgaria

ENS World News

International Ministerial Conference in Paris

NEA Publication

NucNet News

ENS Members

Links to ENS Member Societies

Links to ENS Corporate Members

Editorial staff
RRFM 2005RRFM 2005

ETRAP 2005
23-25 November 2005 in Brussels









Listening to others

Tapping Unusual Quarters: a personal view by Andrew Teller, ENS society manager

Making progress on the communication front

Attending PIME1 (the last issue took place last February in Paris) is always a thought- provoking experience. One cannot say that there is a palpable build-up of knowledge from one year to the next: communication is not a hard science, but is surely is a skill that can be improved. And one definitely came away with the feeling that nuclear communicators are improving theirs. The participants exchanged as usual their most noteworthy experiences, leading to the emergence of best practices. Among many valuable presentations, I would like to mention “Measuring what cannot be seen: how to gauge your corporate reputation” by Susan P. Brissette, from Bruce Power, Canada. While everybody was focussing on positive results, she devised a clever way of taking account of the negative ones that have been avoided (for more information on this: link). Not so long ago, the nuclear industry was still grappling with the hard fact that facts and figures were not enough to sway public opinion. These days are clearly gone. The industry has become much more professional in the way it deals with public issues and is putting in all the efforts necessary to understand the psychological phenomena at play.

A noteworthy example of this trend towards professionalism is an investigation launched by Philippe d’Iribarne, a reputed French social scientist. He applied on a large scale the techniques developed for consumer behaviour research to assess how opinions on nuclear energy are formed in the general public. The results of this investigation are due to be published in May this year. One can expect that its results will enable nuclear communicators to fine-tune their messages further. There will be more on this in the autumn issue of this e-Bulletin.

The drive towards ensuring better public acceptance is not confined to communicators. The task of the latter will be made easier if those at the source of potential bones of contention, i.e. the engineers, develop greater awareness of the consequences of their activities. This concern is now taken care of in books aimed at engineers. “Making Technology Work – Applications in Energy and the Environment2” is to be commended for filling a clear gap in the curriculum of engineering schools. The authors, both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, draw on their personal experience to put energy-related projects into their proper context, which means that they go far beyond the technical aspects. The book succeeds in happily merging three lines of enquiry. It provides a wealth of technical information on the various energy sources; it highlights the societal dimension of their implementation and it provides the econometric tools needed to assess their cost-effectiveness. I would warmly recommend it to anybody interested in energy issues.

Still on the communication front, it is interesting to note that experiencing difficulties is not specific to the nuclear sector. Faithful to my habit of listening to unusual quarters, I tried to find out from the Internet how the communicators in the environmentalist circles were faring. In many instances, their problems mirror those of the nuclear sector. For all the successes they have scored, green communicators feel there is no room for complacency. Pollution is not decreasing as much as intended; energy is higher than they would like. Raising awareness relative to environmental matters was relatively easy, but explaining more complex concepts, such as sustainability, appears to be much more challenging. They fret about the increasing energy needs of developing countries. They also feel a need to make their messages clearer and to listen more to their partners, such as educators, broadcasters and journalists. Their pragmatic, result-oriented approach is to be noted, even if it cannot be copied. Their main goal is avowedly to change people's behaviour. Having observed that imparting the relevant information is not enough to change attitudes and that a change in attitude does not necessarily result in a change of behaviour, many green movements have opted for legislative action in order to have their goals enforced. If you ever wondered why the Green parties were so active in the European Parliament, now you know.

1 Should you need a reminder, PIME stands for Public Information Material Exchange.
by John M. Deutch and Richard K. Lester, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004, 272 p.

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