Managing Nuclear Information

Sitakanta Mishra

Every consent is manufactured on the basis of the kind of information disseminated. With the revolution in Information Technology (IT), public perception is shaped in varied ways on varied aspects for varied lengths. However, some issues tend to remain in vogue in the public domain for decades owing to its perceived relative impact on the human civilization. Here, the kind and the nature of information disseminated on a phenomenon is crucial than the real nature of the phenomenon itself. One such example is the idea of nuclear technology.

Presently, public perception on anything nuclear is almost blurred, not because the technology is brutish but the nature of the information and the way it is disseminated. In fact, many mediums and propagators failed to understand two thumb rules on nuclear technology. First, technology misunderstood is development missed. Second, nuclear bomb now is more psychology than physics. Everyone today better know who has the bomb or is trying to have one rather how many patients reap their lives everyday in a local medical through the same technology. This simply vindicates the lopsided management of information on nuclear technology.

At every stage in the development of nuclear energy – fissile material mining, enrichment, energy generation, and waste management – information are necessitated and also generated. Thus, nuclear industry has unique information preservation issues. It needs to preserve records and the knowledge of how to use the information in a sustainable way. The creation of a national nuclear archive can be considered to store data of various nuclear facilities, ranging from operational information to results of tests.

Not long ago, Mark Claxton, a nuclear projects specialist at Oxfordshire based Tessella Support Services indicated that ‘there is an urgent need to store the (nuclear) data, how to make use of it, and information about what it actually means so that each generation may pass it on to the next. He further added that although there has been the paper and nonacid-based ink records of storing, there should be a comprehensive strategy for maintaining the information for posterity with a combination of methods like, metal, paper and electronic form.

Moreover, information professionals need not only consider how and what information is preserved, they must also create information on how to access and use them while zeroing every chance of their slippage. Also at regular intervals research information storage systems needs to be assessed.

Secondly, the scientific community has a bigger role in managing nuclear information. It is they who know what is what; their every single word has bearing on the future of the civilization. It is their obligation to keep away science from ideology and politics for being the privileged, endowed with higher capacity, to nurture the nature.

Thirdly, the political establishments (both the government and the opposition) devoid of all electoral gimmicks must frame unbiased national nuclear policies and update the citizenry with necessary information on the discourse without manipulation. Every dissent on the issue should be entertained and examined even if the opinion is quite unconventional.

Fourthly, the media, writers and the academia has double role in the effective management of nuclear information. It is they who should investigate the available information, and it is they who should bring the reality into light. However, they must shed their political affiliations while interpreting the investigation on the information and their dissemination for public scrutiny. Again with the flood of information caused by IT revolution, it is a stupendous task for them to pick up the right and relevant information. They should be aware that if information missed or misinterpreted technology is misunderstood and if technology is misunderstood development bound to be missed or delayed.

Last but not the least, the role of civil society is equally important in the effective management of nuclear information. Every concerned citizen, NGOs, social groups, and think tanks with their intrusive enquiry must evaluate the objectivity and authenticity of all projected information before articulating their perception. They must demand accountability of the information provided.

It must be understood that every phenomenon has its own life cycle. Once certain kind of perception is framed, it bound to be in vogue for the life of its own, despite how much efforts advanced later to modify it. Thus the onus for directing human imagination lies on the propagators, the professionals, the media and the government. Every single individual, medium and authority should be accountable for the information it preserved/propagated, disseminated, and regulated respectively, unless the safety of our grandchildren's grandkids will hang on a weak thread. Therefore, better education on nuclear technology and energy is needed, so more people would understand its importance and only then demonization of nuclear technology can be avoided.

Author Note
The author is associated with Center for Air Power Studies, New Delhi