Nuclear Energy Risk Communication in the Media: A Case Study of “The Simpsons”

Description: Research project published in the Undergradute Journal of Science and Technology


Abstract: This paper examines risk communication of nuclear energy in the context of two episodes of “The Simpsons”, the longest running animated sitcom in the United States and America’s “nuclear family.” According to the World Health Organization, risk communication is the exchange of information, advice, and opinions between experts and people facing threats to their health, economic, or social well-being. The primary purpose of risk communication is to enable people at risk to make informed decisions. Previous research has explored the differences in online and traditional media coverage of nuclear energy, but no case study has been conducted analyzing the risk coverage of nuclear energy in “The Simpsons”. Through analyzing select episodes of “The Simpsons”, three nuclear energy themes emerged: incompetence, unnatural occurrences, and negative consequences. This paper suggests that these images fit into current risk communication frameworks including the psychometric approach, the heuristic-systematic information-processing model, and cultivation theory. Using these frameworks, it is clear that “The Simpsons” has the potential to influence public perception of nuclear energy negatively, which may hinder the future use and innovation of nuclear energy as a viable alternative energy source. Further studies should be conducted to determine the risk coverage impact on actual public perception.

Keywords: nuclear energy, risk communication, entertainment


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