Some controversies, as the useful cliche has it, generate more heat than light. Nowhere is this more true than in the polarizing debates that are sparked by public hearings on the licensing, location, and construction of nuclear power plants and on the safety criteria that they should be required to meet.The pro and anti confrontations are tests of strength--divided among corporate, governmental, and local citizens' bodies--that do not guarantee an outcome that is fair or based on factual merit. Moreover, this book argues that where scientific and technological issues are involved, an adversary procedure, however properly moderated, is fundamentally incompatible with the impartial search for truth through scientific methods.And yet the desirability of participatory democracy--of people exercising their right to determine the shape and future of their society by some effective process--is clear and postulated as inalienable. However, in the nuclear power controversy, the adversarial process is inappropriate not only in principle but also in practice, as far as ordinary citizens are concerned. As the authors point out, government and industry have tended to become allied against small groups of concerned, even worried, citizens. Clearly, the weight of influence, talent, money, power, policy, and decisionmaking lies with government and industry. As a result, citizen groups are usually restricted to raising questions about matters concerning which they possess little knowledge or expertise.In order to examine the process as it works now and to propose improvements for the future, the authors undertook an intensive one-year study, covering three cases: the construction permit hearings on the nuclear plants proposed for Midland, Michigan; the operating license proceedings for the plant at Vernon, Vermont; and the rule-making hearings on criteria for emergency core cooling systems. Altogether, hearings were attended for some 48 days, and more than 100 people on all sides of the issues were interviewed.After a thorough analysis of the findings, the book offers in its concluding chapter a number of specific recommendations to ensure that the public interest will be better served. And these are offered from a position of strict impartiality: We have found that despite lip service paid to citizen participation in governmental decisionmaking agency arrogance, expert elitism, stacked-deck proceedings, and the consigning of citizens to helplessness before the steamroller of big government is more the rule than the exception. On the other hand we have found strong evidence among citizens groups of 'know-nothingism, ' blind anti-technology and anti-government sentiments, pessimism, and doom forecasting.... We have attempted scrupulously to view the panoply of issues and the cast of characters analytically and fairly.
Publisher: MIT Press Ltd