Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2021. Vol. 66. № 4. P. 105–112

Radiation Risk Communication Problems in the Context of Promoting a Public Dialogue 

E. Melikhova, I. Abalkina

Nuclear Safety Institute, Moscow, Russia

Contact person: Elena Mikhailovna Melikhova: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The persisting gap between the scientific knowledge of the effects of radiation and the public perception of radiation risk remains a source of potential problems not only in connection with probable radiation accidents, but also in the implementation of new long-term solutions, such as siting of radioactive waste disposal facilities, the nuclear-fuel cycle (NFC) closure and others. The authors analyze why, in the 30 years after the Chernobyl accident, nuclear industry specialists and radiological community failed to change this situation substantially and reflect on what one can do in the future. The authors attribute the low efficiency of the traditional approach “explaining risk in simple language", on the one hand, to the known limitations of scientific and technical rationalism in matters relating to human health, and, on the other hand, to internal inconsistency of modern approaches to regulating radiation risks in the range of fundamental scientific uncertainty. The authors present two directions to move forward. The first one is to involve social science specialists, who study the patterns of public perception of health risks (risk communication experts), in a dialogue with the public. The second one is the recognition by the professional radiological community of their moral responsibility for “side” social effects arising from the insufficient social adaptation of risk management recommendations offered to the authorities, with the subsequent transition to a value-oriented risk communication strategy.

Key words: nuclear power, public dialogue, radiation risk communication, radiation accident, moral values, professional ethics 

For citation:  Melikhova EM,  Abalkina IL. Radiation Risk Communication Problems in the Context of Promoting a Public Dialogue. Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety 2021;66(5):105-112.

DOI: 10.12737/1024-6177-2021-66-5-105-112


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Conflict of interest. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Financing. The study had no sponsorship.

Contribution. Article was prepared with equal participation of the authors.

Article received: 23.12.2020. 

Accepted for publication: 20.01.2021.