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Visual Representations of Radiation Risk and the Question of Public (Mis-)Trust in Post-Fukushima Japan

Thomas Feldhoff ()
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Thomas Feldhoff: Department of Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, Ruhr University Bochum, D-44801 Bochum, Germany

Societies, 2018, vol. 8, issue 2, 1-20

Abstract: In the aftermath of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, an estimated 150,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture were displaced because of both real and perceived risks of radioactive contamination. While previous research has provided ample insight into the causes and effects of the disaster, there is a lack of analysis of the production of visual representations of radiation risk. This article aims to fill this gap by exploring the question of what different cartographic representations of the types and levels of radioactive radiation are available; what information is released and how people get informed; how certain areas are considered ‘safe’; and how arbitrarily government organizations draw and remove spatial boundaries of ‘safe areas’. Due to the particular concern of children, who have a comparatively low-threshold radiation tolerance, the focus is on child care facilities and elementary schools. The article identifies different sources of public mistrust in the context of information seeking and sharing and addresses this issue as part of the larger question of institutionalized information processes in Japan. This also includes a prudent assessment of the increasing importance of citizen science in Japan, a society of traditionally technocratic, paternalistic, top-down approaches to public policy making. The paper concludes that because of the growing mistrust of the general public in Japan’s elites, civic engagement should focus on gaining more influence on the political discourse, agenda-setting and collaborative planning and policy.

Keywords: radiation monitoring; radiation risk; visual representations; citizen science; trust and mistrust; collaborative rationality; Fukushima; Japan (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A13 A14 P P0 P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 Z1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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