Post-Fukushima discourse in the US press: Quantified knowledge, the technical object, and a panicked public

Tollefson, J.

Public Understanding of Science 29(7) | PDF

Abstract Many thought that the 11 March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan might be the end of the “global nuclear renaissance.” In Europe, mass media after Fukushima increasingly presented negative framing of nuclear energy and highlighted declining support for the nuclear industry. In the United States, however, nuclear production and public support for the industry remained steady. This article analyzes US media documents to understand the construction of public discourse on nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Through a content analysis of US newspapers, it demonstrates that post-Fukushima media framed the crisis in a way that privileged expert knowledge and opinion, while delegitimizing non-expert engagement with nuclear energy issues. A comparison between national newspapers and newspapers located in two regions with controversial nuclear plants and active anti-nuclear citizens’ movements additionally demonstrates the power and reach of the identified framework across the spectrum of views on nuclear power.