Acclimatizing nuclear? Climate change, nuclear power and the reframing of risk in the UK news media

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    In January 2008, the UK Labour government announced that new nuclear power would play a role in the generation of low carbon electricity, and thus in the mitigation of climate change. This reframing of new nuclear power as a means of tackling climate change signalled a dramatic U-turn on Labour’s commitment to decommission all existing UK nuclear power stations by 2025. In the context of the political reframing of new nuclear builds, this article examines how the UK news media contributed to the reframing of nuclear power as low carbon, and the implications this has for public under- standing of nuclear power and climate change. Covering the time period from September 2005 to January 2008, a critical discourse analysis of three UK newspapers – the Daily Mirror (tabloid), the Daily Mail (mid-range) and The Independent (broadsheet) – is pre- sented. This period covers the months leading up to the launch of the UK government’s first Energy Review in January 2006, to the publication of the government’s final White Paper on Nuclear Power in January 2008. The analysis found that the official governmental discourse on nuclear power as essential to climate change mitigation and the security of future energy supplies was variously reproduced and contested across the three news- papers. However, while the government’s rebranding of nuclear as less risky than climate change is not explicitly endorsed by any of the newspapers, it certainly provides the dis- cursive context through which policy decisions on new nuclear have been largely accepted by the UK news media.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)107-125
    Number of pages19
    JournalInternational Communication Gazette
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


    • nuclear power
    • climate change
    • news media
    • discourse analysis
    • risk, nuclear policy


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