Public awareness of nuclear, refinery, and fracking sites

For a variety of reasons—including aesthetics, perceived safety, and quality of life—people might want to be aware of whether they live near nuclear reactors, refineries, and fracking wells. Yet, seemingly, many people are unaware of it.

cooling towers of a nuclear power plant
Image: Frédéric Paulussen/Unsplash

A little more than half of the U.S. adults (54%) living within 25 miles of a nuclear site say they do, according to the new study of proximity and risk perceptions, “Proximity (Mis)perception: Public Awareness of Nuclear, Refinery, and Fracking Sites.” Less than a third of those living within 25 miles of fracking wells (30%) and refineries (24%) answer correctly, the study found.

The more risk that people thought the nuclear, refinery, and fracking sites posed, the less likely they were to report that they lived near one. In contrast, those who live near the energy sites were more likely to say so when they believed that the sites are safe.

The study, led by researchers with the Annenberg Public Policy Center examines factors that could help people form more accurate perceptions—or could distort perceptions—of their proximity to energy sites. The study was published recently in the journal Risk Analysis.

“We found that people are really accurate overall: Most people don’t live near these nuclear, fracking, and refinery sites and they say they don’t,” says lead author Benjamin A. Lyons, who conducted the research as a postdoctoral fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “But if you look at people who live within 25 miles of these sites, many of them say they don’t—despite the objective reality.”

Read more at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.