Anti-nuclear Movements in Discursive and Political Contexts​ : Between Expert Voices and Local Protests

Abstract: Energy policies which maintain and extend nuclear energy are often opposed by anti-nuclear movements. Ambitious plans for developing nuclear energy in Russia, constructing a first nuclear plant in Poland, and lifting the ban on nuclear energy while allowing the replacement of old reactors in Sweden are examples of such energy policies. In contrast to the massive anti-nuclear movements of 1970-1990s, recent anti-nuclear movements are not organized as national protest campaigns. This thesis examines repertoires of anti-nuclear movements in the alleged “Nuclear Renaissance” period.  Repertoires of anti-nuclear actions are analyzed from the perspective of discursive and political opportunities of anti-nuclear movements. Discursive opportunities are enabled or hindered in the ordering of nuclear energy discourses, making messages and actions of social movements legitimate or illegitimate. While discourses of anti-nuclear movements are complex, official discourses of nuclear energy featuring arguments about profitability, energy security and environmental security in connection to nuclear energy development, resonate more with broader socio-political developments. Ordering of discourses is established in such a way that expert rhetoric becomes a standard approach for discussing nuclear energy, while references to emotions and subjective matters are unacceptable.Political contexts of anti-nuclear movements provide opportunities for environmental NGOs, one kind of actor in anti-nuclear movements, to pursue nonconfrontational strategies and engage in institutional channels, where they can contribute their expert knowledge. Concurrently, another actor in anti-nuclear movements, local anti-nuclear groups, on the one hand, share argumentative structures with environmental NGOs, and, on the other hand, attempt to mobilize local population and organize local protests. Due to limited opportunities for attention from the national media and focus on local issues, local protests are not featured in the national media, which is crucial for national protest actions.The differences in repertoires between these two kinds of actors and absence of actors opting for mass engagement provide insight into repertoires of anti-nuclear movements as a whole. This thesis demonstrates how discursive opportunities of social movements, which result from competing discourses of movements and their counter-agents, and political opportunities structure repertoires of actions of these movements.

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