Risk Communication: Translating Technically Complex Information to Facilitate Informed Decision-Making

by William M. Sprecher, U.S. Dept of Energy, Washington, United States,
Elissa Turner, U.S. Dept of Energy, Washington, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: High Level Radioactive Waste Management 1991


Based on a review of risk communication and related literature, including policy material, this paper describes the newly revamped risk management program of the Department of Energy's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM), and some of the risk-related issues being confronted as the high-level waste management program moves forward. It also describes preliminary activities underway in which the OCRWM is developing strategies for risk communication. We offer a definition of risk management as comprised by the components of risk assessment and risk communication. The paper explores the discrepant views that experts and nonexperts have with respect to what constitutes a valid risk assessment model. By illustrating differences in the assessment of risk by experts and lay people, the paper demonstrates how these differences can create challenges in communicating risk and making decisions about risk. Finally, the paper discusses ways in which risk communication could be enhanced, and elaborates on the OCRWM's commitment to improve its overall risk management efforts.

Subject Headings: Risk management | Decision making | Radioactive wastes | Waste management | Terminology and definition | Radioactive materials | Hazardous materials | Federal government

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