Bridging Radiation Protection Culture and Science
– Widening Public Empathy
After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in 2011, the importance of radiation protection culture and public empathy as well as radiation protection science has emerged and is widely accepted as one of essential elements for the sound, practical, and effective implementation of the radiation protection principles and technologies in the international radiation protection community.
Science is a basic and essential element of radiation protection. Despite the recent rapid development of radiation protection science, ethical and social value judgments as well as practical field experiences have gradually emerged and are important elements in the international system of radiation protection.
As witnessed at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in 2011, an apparent gap of understanding between experts and the public resulted in difficulties in the proper implementation of radiation protection measures and strategies. Experience from radiological emergencies highlights the importance of public communication and empathy as one of the most important challenges in radiation protection. Sometimes, an event is not considered to be a danger to experts but is perceived otherwise by the public. Also, the public intends to strongly make their own arguments when considering and facing the risk of radiation exposure.
"Empathy" implies a connection, which goes beyond communication – it means that there must be an emotional engagement, a full understanding and recognition of how the parties feel about the issue, which must be central to an ability to move forward. Without public empathy, a decision for implementation of radiation protection criteria, though it is based on sound science, has to go through lots of difficulties. Indeed, the public empathy includes comprehensive natures such as transparency, stakeholder involvement, self-help protection and an informed consent/decision.
The adoption of the theme “Bridging Radiation Protection Culture and Science – Widening Public Empathy” for the IRPA15 Congress reflects the strong commitment of the IRPA15 Organising Committee to provide invaluable opportunities to discuss and strengthen the correlation between Radiation Protection culture and science, and share various scientific knowledge and experiences on radiation protection not only among experts but also with the public. The IRPA15 Congress will certainly contribute to opening a new pathway to the development of future system of radiation protection, which is to be based on public empathy.