On the contribution of external cost calculations to energy system governance: The case of a potential large-scale nuclear accident

Erik Laes, Gaston Meskens, Jeroen P. van der Sluijs

    Research outputpeer-review


    The contribution of nuclear power to a sustainable energy future is a contested issue. This paper presents a critical review of an attempt to objectify this debate through the calculation of the external costs of a potential large-scale nuclear accident in the ExternE project. A careful dissection of the ExternE approach resulted in a list of 30 calculation steps and assumptions, from which the 6 most contentious ones were selected through a stakeholder internet survey. The policy robustness and relevance of these key assumptions were then assessed in a workshop using the concept of a ‘pedigree of knowledge’. Overall, the workshop outcomes revealed the stakeholder and expert panel's scepticism about the assumptions made: generally these were considered not very plausible, subjected to disagreement, and to a large extent inspired by contextual factors. Such criticism indicates a limited validity and useability of the calculated nuclear accident externality as a trustworthy sustainability indicator. Furthermore, it is our contention that the ExternE project could benefit greatly – in terms of gaining public trust – from employing highly visible procedures of extended peer review such as the pedigree assessment applied to our specific case of the external costs of a potential large-scale nuclear accident.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5664-5673
    JournalEnergy Policy
    Issue number9
    StatePublished - Sep 2011

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