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Abstract

A new urgency is emerging around nuclear power development and this urgency is accentuated by the post-tsunami events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. This urgency extends beyond these dramatic events in Japan, however, to many other regions of the world and situations where nuclear power development is receiving renewed attention as an alternative to carbon-based energy sources. As a contribution to the growing public debate about nuclear power development, this paper offers a set of insights into the social and ethical aspects of nuclear power development by drawing from published literature in the humanities and social sciences. We offer insights into public risk perception of nuclear power at individual and national levels, the siting of nuclear waste repositories, the changing policy context for nuclear power development, social movements, and the challenges of risk management at the institutional level. We also pay special attention to the ethical aspects of nuclear power with attention to principles such as means and ends, use value and intrinsic value, private goods and public goods, harm, and equity considerations. Finally, we provide recommendations for institutional design and performance in nuclear power design and management.

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