The study examines a case of companies cooperating with the State to prevent a public controversy over nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster and achieve mutually beneficial policy outcomes. It analyses the private and public communication of pro-nuclear corporate, political and regulatory actors.
Drawing on political economy theory, the study examines how actors mobilised power by accessing an existing social network to agree a joint public communication strategy in order to ensure public support for the continuation of nuclear power generation in the UK. It traces discursive frames from their inception in private communication to their reproduction in public communication and their dissemination via the media.
The study provides evidence of pro-nuclear actors cooperating behind the scenes to achieve consistent public pro-nuclear messaging. It finds evidence of four discursive frames: (1) avoiding knee-jerk reactions, (2) lessons learned, (3) safety, and (4) nuclear renaissance. In combination, they guide audiences’ evaluation of the consequences of the Fukushima disaster for the UK in favour of continuing the commercial use of nuclear energy.
The private e-mail exchange between pro-nuclear actors presents a unique opportunity to examine the mobilisation of less visible forms of power in the form of agenda setting (manipulation) and discursive framing (domination) in order to influence policy outcomes and shape public opinion on nuclear energy. This is problematic because it constitutes a lack of transparency and accountability on part of the State with respect to policy outcomes and restricts the civic space by curtailing the articulation of alternative interests and voices.