Communication of uncertainties in radiological risk situations

Ferdiana Hoti, Tanja Perko

Research output


In risk sciences, a great deal of progress has been made in terms of risk communication. Yet, findings on uncertainty communication, especially in the nuclear and radiological field remains scarce and contradictory. From the ethical, democratic, and transparency point of view, communicating uncertainties is essential since it not only provides all existing and missing information, but it also allows individuals to make informed decisions whether existing evidence is sufficient to justify certain actions. Given the complexity and the current controversy around nuclear energy, this dissertation studies uncertainties that are present in nuclear and/or radiological risk situations, and identifies the impacts that communication of such uncertainties has on emotions and participation intention of different target audiences such as laypeople and experts. This dissertation aims at finding out 1) what types of uncertainties are there in nuclear and/or radiological risk situations; 2) What is the impact of uncertainty communication on participation intention; and 3) What is the impact of uncertainty communication on feelings and emotional arousal The research questions of this dissertation were studied by using various methods such as scoping review of literature, non-participatory observation of nuclear/radiological emergency exercises, public opinion surveys, and psychophysiological experiment. In order to capture different aspects of nuclear/radiological risk situations, this dissertation focuses on two case studies: nuclear/radiological emergency situations, and decommissioning of nuclear installations. Our research shows that different groups of society react differently to different uncertainties. When studied with the general population, communication of two out of three uncertainties (i.e. the amount of radioactive waste, and financial uncertainties) slightly negatively influenced self[1]assessed feelings of pessimism and worry. When tested with employees of nuclear-related institutions, one of the three uncertainties (i.e. public’s acceptance of remaining radioactivity) did influence their emotional arousal, but none of the uncertainties influenced negative self-assessed feelings. Based on these results, this thesis concludes that while uncertainty communication might indeed cause some emotional effect on the short term, long term uncertainty information and familiarity with uncertainties will give assurance and comfortability with uncertainty information.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Science
Awarding Institution
  • UA - Universiteit Antwerpen
  • Thijssen, Peter, Supervisor, External person
  • Perko, Tanja, SCK CEN Mentor
  • Renn, Ortwin, Supervisor, External person
Date of Award1 Mar 2023
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023

Cite this