The mid-1950s saw the advent of nuclear industries with the first radiological research centre in Brazil and today the country has four research reactors and two nuclear power reactors in operation as well as eleven fuel cycle facilities. Researchers writing in the International Journal of Nuclear Energy Science and Technology, explain that nuclear power represents about 3 percent of output but this in no way represents the full potential of nuclear in the country. This is particularly poignant given that Brazil has the seventh largest reservoirs of the nuclear starting material, uranium.
One of the obstacles that the team of Vitor Fernandes de Almeida, Luciana Sampaio Ribeiro, Edilaine Ferreira da Silva, Anna Flávia de Freitas Valiante Peluso, Nathália Silva de Medeiros, and Amir Zacarias Mesquita of the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) in Minas Gerais, see in changing this situation is that the general population has little comprehension of the nuclear industry, which, of course, is the case in many other parts of the world. As such approval when sought is often met with misunderstandings and misconceptions.
Given that the nuclear industries could have an important role to play in addressing climate change as well as their ongoing role in medically important radiopharmaceuticals and diagnostics, there is a pressing need to understand the level of understanding among the public to allow the nuclear industries in Brazil to mature further. Greater understanding of such issues usually leads to greater approval and the team’s evidence suggests that this is the case in the situation. However, the perceived negatives often receive greater attention in the media and on social media than the benefits of the nuclear industries, often being equated with weaponry and environmental harms.
The team suggests that clear and accessible information about the benefits and the limitations of the nuclear industries is needed if the general public is to accept the paradigm. Opening up visitor centres for adults, improving educational input, as well as endeavouring to drive a positive message across social media could all be done to benefit the nuclear industry and reduce unwarranted prejudice without compromising integrity and being accepting of the limitations.
“Public acceptance of nuclear power and radiation applications are important for the government, the major stakeholder of the industry because consensus is required to drive actions,” the team writes.
de Almeida, V.F., Ribeiro, L.S., da Silva, E.F., de Freitas Valiante Peluso, A.F., de Medeiros, N.S. and Mesquita, A.Z. (2020) ‘The current public acceptance in Brazil of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes’, Int. J. Nuclear Energy Science and Technology, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp.328–338.