An Assessment of the Influence of Industry Communication on Public Perception of Nuclear Energy: A Case Study of Pickering, Ontario
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Increasing concerns over climate change have created a global resurgence in interest for the use of nuclear energy (World Nuclear Association, 2017). Canada is in a position to become a world leader in the nuclear industry; however, negative public perception has been cited as a key obstacle preventing the industry from moving forward both domestically and internationally (Canada's Public Policy Forum, 2014). Despite identifying the importance of industry communication, it has been largely overlooked as a factor that influences public perception in previous studies, which have mainly focused on single determinants of public opinion. In this study, the null hypothesis stated that the integration of industry communication within a community would not have any affect on public perception of nuclear energy. The alternate hypothesis stated that the integration of industry communication would have either a positive or negative effect. Surveys were distributed to 50 participants (25 from Pickering, Ontario; 25 from Guelph, Ontario). The surveys measured perception of nuclear energy across four main categories: trust, fairness, knowledge, and experience with the technology, as well as overall level of support. Residents from Pickering displayed significantly more positive responses across all four categories, which rejected the null hypothesis and supported the alternate hypothesis. However, this was not shown to lead to greater levels of support for the construction of new reactors. While it is evident that existing communication is effective enough to foster public acceptance, overall lack of support for the construction of new reactors, and the persistence of negative perceptions about nuclear energy in non-nuclear communities are issues that should be examined further given the critical need for public support in the future growth of the industry.