The limits of public communication coordination in a nuclear emergency: lessons from media reporting on the Fukushima case

Iztok Prezelj, Tanja Perko, Marie Claire Cantone, Eduardo Gallego, Yevgeniya Tomkiv, Deborah Oughton

    Research outputpeer-review


    Coordination of public communication has become a key issue in management of complex emergencies, and is a matter of debate between nuclear emergency management professionals. A particular problem is when inconsistent information is sent to the media and public by official sources from different levels, which has led to calls for a more coordinated approach. The IAEA created guidelines recommending a one-voice communication approach that provides clear, consistent and coordinated information by relevant stakeholders. The reviewed theory on the emergency communication coordination and the empirical results in this paper demonstrate some challenges regarding the feasibility of the above stated goal. This paper explores the communication process in the two-month period of the Fukushima nuclear emergency by using a quantitative comparative content and discourse analysis of 1340 printed media articles on the Fukushima nuclear disaster from two major newspapers in Spain (‘El País’ and ‘El Mundo’), Italy (‘Corriere della Sera’ and ‘La Repubblica’), Norway (‘Aftenposten’ and ‘Dagsavisen’), Slovenia (‘Delo’ and ‘Večer’), Belgium (‘Le Soir’ and ‘De Standaard’) and Russia (‘Komsomolskaya Pravda’ and ‘Izvestiya’). The results show that it will be difficult to achieve a truly coordinated approach and one-voice communication in severe nuclear and radiological emergency due to the communication difficulties created by the dispersion of information sources, a broad and dispersed focus of the reported information, partially subjective and conflicting media reporting. The paper suggests ways to improve public communication coordination in nuclear and radiological disasters.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationJournal of Radiological Protection
    StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016
    EventRICOMET 2015 - Risk perception, communication and ethics of exposures to ionising radiation - Brdo Castle, Kranj
    Duration: 15 Jun 201517 Jun 2015

    Publication series

    NameJournal of Radiological protection
    PublisherIOP - IOP Publishing
    ISSN (Print)0952-4746


    ConferenceRICOMET 2015 - Risk perception, communication and ethics of exposures to ionising radiation
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