Issues and Problems in Inferring a Level of Acceptable Risk

by Steven L. Salem, Kenneth A. Solomon, Michael S. Yesley

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Findings from a review of how technical and nontechnical factors influence the perception and regulation of risks from technological activities. It is found that (1) society has not been able to quantify risk acceptance criteria that are generally acceptable and applicable to all forms of risk, (2) different regulatory bodies (and their members) seek to attain different risk-reduction goals, even for identical risks, and (3) the acceptability of energy technologies varies significantly as a function of the risk-reduction goals used. The report concludes that regulatory agencies should explicitly recognize and consider the effects of the goals they adopt. They must be self-aware in specifying risk-reduction goals, must relate them to other relevant goals, and must understand their implications for the choice of energy alternatives.

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