The clock is ticking: understanding the ‘mixed feelings’ about fusion energy in Europe

Christopher Robert Jones, Christian Oltra*, Alessio Giacometti, Vanja Čok, Janez Povh, Ursa Lamut, Gaston Meskens, Joke Kenens, Robbe Geysmans, Catrinel Turcanu, Zoltan Ferencz, Maria Teresa Orlando, Chiara Bustreo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

If it can be made to work, fusion energy offers the potential for unlimited, clean energy. This prospect has seen substantial investment in the science and engineering behind fusion in order to demonstrate its viability. As key societal stakeholders, the opinions and actions of publics can shape the success of emerging energy technologies. To date, however, there have been relatively few studies focused on the public acceptability of fusion. The current study provides insight into public perspectives about fusion in five European countries (Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Spain). Using a qualitative ‘World Café’ type method, participants (n = 10–25 per country) were provided with basic and balanced information about fusion, before being invited to discuss the risks, benefits and drawbacks of the technology and investment in its development. Transcripts from each World Café were subject to template analysis. The results indicated that while awareness of fusion was low in each country, participants were broadly supportive of fusion. This support was, however, tentative due to its commercially unproven nature. This stimulated questions about the value of investment in the technology, particularly given the urgency of addressing climate change. While there was some variation in the sub-topics raised and discussed in each country, the principal themes raised were broadly comparable. These findings add to our systematic understanding of the ‘mixed feelings’ held about fusion and have implications for future public engagement and communication efforts relating to the technology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103538
Number of pages17
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Volume113
Early online date25 Apr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 25 Apr 2024

Keywords

  • Fusion
  • Energy
  • Attitudes
  • Public acceptance
  • Social acceptance
  • World Cafe

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