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Ethical Aspects of Radiation Risk Management
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6388-8674
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is based on the assumption that the intersection of moral philosophy and practical risk management is a rewarding area to study. In particular, the thesis assumes that concepts, ideas, and methods that are used in moral philosophy can be of great benefit for risk analysis, but also that practices in risk regulation provide a useful testing ground for moral philosophical theories. The thesis consists of an introduction and five articles.

Article I is a review article on social and ethical aspects of radiation protection related to nuclear power generation. The paper concludes that four areas of social and ethical issues stand out as central: The first is uncertainty and the influence of value judgments in scientific risk assessments. The second is the distributions of risks and benefits between different individuals, in both space and time. The third is the problem of setting limits when there is no known level of exposure associated with a zero risk. The fourth is related to stakeholder influence and risk communication.

Article II discusses ethical issues related to the proposal that doses (or risks) below a certain level should be excluded from the system of radiation protection, without any regard for the number of people exposed. Different arguments for excluding small radiation doses from regulation are examined and a possible solution to the problem of regulating small risks is proposed in the article: Any exclusion of small doses (or risks) from radiation protection ought to be based on a case-by-case basis, with the condition that the expected value of harm remains small.

Article III examines what makes one distribution of individual doses better than another distribution. The article introduces a mathematical framework based on preference logic, in which such assessments can be made precisely in terms of comparisons between alternative distributions of individual doses. Principles of radiation protection and from parallel discussions in moral philosophy and welfare economics are defined using this framework and their formal properties analyzed.

Article IV argues that the ethical theory of “responsibility-catering prioritarianism” is well positioned to deal with the reasonable requirements in an ethical theory of risk. The article shows how responsibility-catering prioritarianism can be operationalized using a prioritarian social welfare function based on hypothetical utilities. For this purpose, a hypothetical utility measure called ‘responsibility-adjusted utility’ is proposed, which is based on the utility that would normally be expected given circumstances outside of the control of the individual.

Article V was written as a response to the Fukushima disaster. Several authors have called the Fukushima disaster a ‘black swan.’ However, the article argues that the hazards of large earthquakes and tsunamis were known before the accident, and introduces and defines the concept of a ‘black elephant,’ as (i) a high-impact event that (ii) lies beyond the realm of regular expectations, but (iii) is ignored despite existing evidence.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2012.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831 ; 41
Keyword [en]
radiation protection, radiological protection, nuclear power, nuclear energy, social issues, ethical issues, ethics, risk, uncertainty, value judgments, precautionary principle, distributive issues, justice, limits, prioritarianism, responsibility, egalitarianism, black swan, black elephant, risk management
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-100730ISBN: 978-91-7501-460-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-100730DiVA: diva2:544731
Public defence
2012-09-14, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20120816Available from: 2012-08-16 Created: 2012-08-15 Last updated: 2012-08-22Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Radiation protection issues related to the use of nuclear power
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Radiation protection issues related to the use of nuclear power
2012 (English)In: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, ISSN 2041-8396, E-ISSN 2041-840X, Vol. 1, no 3, 256-269 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Nuclear power generation require protection against harmful effects of ionizing radiation. Radiation protection is based on the linear, no‐threshold model of health risks at low doses and three fundamental principles: justification, optimization, and limitation. The practical application of radiation protection is divided into three areas: planned, emergency, and existing exposure situations. Planned exposure situations include difficult social issues related to the exposure of large populations, exposure of future generations, protection against accidents, and protection of the environment. Emergency and existing exposure situations are both characterized by heterogeneous distributions of exposures and complex social and economic aspects, which make assessment and evaluation of protective strategies complicated and value laden. Four problem areas of social and ethical issues stand out as central for radiation protection: The first is uncertainty and the influence of value judgments in scientific risk assessments. The second is distributions of risks and benefits between different individuals, both in space and time. The third is the problem of setting limits when there is no known level of exposure that is associated with a zero risk. The fourth central problem area is related to stakeholder influence and risk communication.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2012
Keyword
radiation protection, radiological protection, nuclear power, nuclear energy, social issues, ethical issues, ethics, risk, uncertainty, value judgments, precautionary principle, distributive issues, justice, limits, stakeholders, risk communication
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-100727 (URN)10.1002/wene.22 (DOI)000209098000002 ()2-s2.0-84877820069 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20130214

Available from: 2012-08-15 Created: 2012-08-15 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
2. Trivial risks and the new radiation protection system
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Trivial risks and the new radiation protection system
2004 (English)In: Journal of Radiological Protection, ISSN 0952-4746, E-ISSN 1361-6498, Vol. 24, no 1, 3-11 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The International Commission on Radiological Protection proposes that doses below a certain level should be excluded from the system of protection, without regard to the number of people exposed. As the Commission assumes that there is a risk of harm even from very low doses, the proposal also disregards these very low risks. The arguments for this proposal are examined here. It is argued that the fact that risks are small compared to natural sources cannot be used as justification for accepting them. The principle 'if the risk of harm to the health of the most exposed individual is trivial, then the total risk is trivial-irrespective of how many people are exposed' is analysed. It is found to equivocate on the meaning of the word trivial and to ignore the total risk. It is also argued that the new proposal is not justified by a change from a utilitarian ethic to an ethic based on individual rights. Finally, it is suggested that small doses should only be disregarded if the expected value of harm is small, and the exclusion level should thus depend on the number of people exposed.

Keyword
Dosimetry, Health risks, Protection, Risk assessment, Social aspects
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5684 (URN)10.1088/0952-4746/24/1/001 (DOI)000220527500002 ()15080545 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-1842557427 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20101124Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10 Last updated: 2012-08-16Bibliographically approved
3. Principles of protection: a formal approach for evaluating dose distribution
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Principles of protection: a formal approach for evaluating dose distribution
2006 (English)In: Journal of Radiological Protection, ISSN 0952-4746, E-ISSN 1361-6498, Vol. 26, no 1, 69-84 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

 One of the central issues in radiation protection consists in determining what weight should be given to individual doses in relation to collective or aggregated doses. A mathematical framework is introduced in which such assessments can be made precisely in terms of comparisons between alternative distributions of individual doses. In addition to evaluation principles that are well known from radiation protection, a series of principles that are derived from parallel discussions in moral philosophy and welfare economics is investigated. A battery of formal properties is then used to investigate the evaluative principles. The results indicate that one of the new principles, bilinear prioritarianism, may be preferable to current practices, since it satisfies efficiency-related properties better without sacrificing other desirable properties.

Keyword
article, human, radiation dose, radiation protection, risk assessment, statistical model
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5685 (URN)10.1088/0952-4746/26/1/004 (DOI)000236778700011 ()16522945 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-33744481537 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20101124Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10 Last updated: 2012-08-16Bibliographically approved
4. Toward a responsibility-catering prioritarian ethical theory of risk
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Toward a responsibility-catering prioritarian ethical theory of risk
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

We argue that responsibility-catering prioritarianism is well positioned to deal with the basic requirements of an ethical theory of risk. We show how responsibility-catering prioritarianism can be operationalized using a prioritarian social welfare function based on hypothetical utilities. For this purpose, we propose a hypothetical utility measure based on the utility that would normally be expected given circumstances outside of the control of the individual. Finally, we argue that degrees of control and knowledge of risks and consequences should influence when and how people are considered responsible in social decisions on risk.

Keyword
responsibility, prioritarianism, risk, ethics, consequentialism, social welfare functions
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-100729 (URN)
Note
QS 2012Available from: 2012-08-15 Created: 2012-08-15 Last updated: 2012-08-16Bibliographically approved
5. Black elephants and black swans of nuclear energy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Black elephants and black swans of nuclear energy
2011 (English)In: Ethics, Policy & Environment, ISSN 2155-0085, E-ISSN 2155-0093, Vol. 14, 273-278 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2011
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-100728 (URN)10.1080/21550085.2011.605853 (DOI)
Note

QC 20120816

Available from: 2012-08-15 Created: 2012-08-15 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved

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