The Committee on Laying the Foundation for New and Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the United States, convened thanks to support from the National Academy of Engineering and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, is undertaking a study to identify opportunities and barriers to the commercialization of new and advanced nuclear reactor technologies in the United States over the next 30 years as part of a decarbonization strategy. To support its information gathering, the committee convened a workshop on September 1–3, 2021, titled Understanding the Societal Challenges Facing Nuclear Power. More than 700 participants registered for the workshop to discuss the nature and extent of the societal challenges facing nuclear energy, along with lessons that industry, analysts, and policy makers might learn from past experiences in the nuclear industry, from analogous industries, and from rigorous social science.
Richard Meserve of Covington & Burling, LLP, committee chair, welcomed participants to the workshop and outlined the committee’s goals and information needs. The workshop featured experts from industry, government, and academia and was organized into six sessions. In sessions focused on nuclear power and society’s relationship to it, participants explored how public perceptions and attitudes toward nuclear technology have evolved over time, how understanding of risk perception and science communication can inform public engagement around nuclear energy, and the many factors that play into a community’s willingness to accept nuclear energy solutions. In several sessions, participants examined lessons learned from public engagement efforts surrounding
nuclear facilities, including the siting of new plants, the decommissioning of old ones, and the storage of nuclear waste. Other sessions revealed lessons from public engagement around other highly scrutinized or contentious areas such as the aviation industry and efforts to gain community approval for wind and solar installations.
The workshop was unclassified and open to the public. This report offers a condensed summary of the proceedings based on recordings, slides, and transcripts from the workshop.1