Human behaviour is primarily driven by perceptions and this is particularly important in the aftermath of a nuclear accident. One of the main lessons we can draw from the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents is that once the acute phase of the accident is over, it is important to engage in dialogue with the affected population. Science-based government measures, imposed from above, give rise to much opposition. Examples of this are the aversion of having to live in a contaminated territory, the reluctance of consumers to buy even slightly contaminated food and the opposition of most evacuees to return to their old homes. The continuing controversy within the scientific community about low-dose risks, which results in conflicting messages to the population, is also not very helpful. A way to deal with these problems is by empowering the affected population by establishing a kind of formal consultation structure funded by the authorities but operated by the local community. This will give the population the feeling of having some control over the situation. Such a participatory approach is very demanding for the authorities, but is likely to change the state of mind of the affected people from victims to survivors.