need for flexibility and independence in pursuing the studies that suggests scientists outside the government should conduct much of the work.

  1. We should realize that answers will come slowly and decisions will have to be made on an uncertain basis for some time in the future.


There is a need for research that will contribute to better understanding of the factors that determine public perceptions of the health and environmental risks of energy systems, and their acceptance by different subgroups within the public. No strategy for risk reduction in energy systems can be fully acceptable if it does not take into account these public perceptions and judgments, even when they are seen as unfounded by experts.* It is unlikely that the appraisal of risk will ever be able to avoid difficult relative value judgments between different kinds of risks, as well as between risks and economic or other benefits of energy technologies. This is not to say that present methods of risk assessment cannot be improved. Nevertheless, the judgmental factor will continue to predominate in decisions among energy alternatives, and is unlikely ever to be superseded by formal analysis of risks and benefits. This underscores the importance of an informed and open public debate.



1. 40 Code of Federal Regulations 190,02 (a), (b), 1978, “Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations,”


2. In addition to the risks associated with the operation of an energy system itself, those associated with construction of power plants and the occupational risks of manufacturing its parts might also be considered (as done in chapter 6). It was recently claimed (H.Inhaber, Risk of Energy Production (Ottawa, Ontario: Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB 1119), March 1978); and H.Inhaber, “Risks from Conventional and Unconventional Sources,” Science 203 (1979):718–723) that inclusion of these risks brings solar power to a level of risk approximately equal to that of power from coal or oil. The calculations supporting these widely publicized conclusions have been rejected. (See, for example, J.P.Holdren, K.R. Smith, and G.Morris, “Energy: Calculating the Risks (II),” Science 204 (1979):564–568; R. Caputo, “Energy: Calculating the Risks,” Science 204 (1979):454; R.Lemberg, “Energy: Calculating the Risks,” Science 204 (1979):454, and John P.Holdren et al., Risk of Renewable Energy Sources: A Critique of the Inhaber Report, Energy and Resources Group (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California, June 1979).) The inclusion of these risks is worth consideration, but the ramifications might be endless, and ultimately the definition of the risks under investigation would blur. For further discussion of risk and its estimation, see National Research Council, Risks and Impacts of Alternative Energy Systems, Committee on


See statement 9–22, by H.Brooks, D.J.Rose, and B.I.Spinrad, Appendix A.

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