In the shadow of Tomioka: On the institutional invisibility of nuclear disaster

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


The 2011 meltdowns at Fukushima might have falsified long-standing expert assertions that nuclear power is ‘safe’, yet it has failed to do so. This paper looks at why. It explores two core tenets of post-Fukushima nuclear discourse: (1) that nuclear meltdowns will not occur; and (2) that nuclear accidents are ‘tolerable’. In each case, it outlines how accounts of the disaster shield the credibility of the wider nuclear industry; and it then explains why these accounts are misleading. In doing so, it offers a critical perspective on the public discourse around technological risk and disaster. It concludes with a brief discussion of the sociology of denial. Invoking both the agnotology and science and technology (STS) literatures, it argues that it is often more fruitful to temper claims of deception with a recognition of the genuine ambiguities and structural weaknesses of complex knowledge-claims.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherLondon School of Economics: Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)2049-2718
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Fukushima
  • Disaster
  • Agnotology

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