Agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan, MP, has said the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant has widened the scientist—society perception gap.

Technical experts and the general public are living in different worlds.

However, neither the scientists could claim that the local community is not aware of the significance of a nuclear plant nor could the people assume that the scientists are least concerned about the safety aspects, Mr. Swaminathan said.

He made this observation as part of his convocation address at Annamalai University at Chidambaram on Thursday.

Mr. Swaminathan underscored the point that nuclear power was environmentally benign and clean, and above all, it did not add to the green house gas burden.

However, there were apprehensions among the people about its safety, particularly in the aftermath of the nuclear accidents that occurred at Chernobyl many years ago and at Fukushima recently.

From the Kudankulam episode the lesson learnt was that the interaction between the technical experts and the local community should be strengthened.

Mr. Swaminathan said that such interaction and conversation should begin from the very early stage of the conception and construction of the nuclear plant.

He opined that formation of Citizens’ Consultative Councils would help to promote more enlightened and informed discussions on the issues involved.

The Atomic Energy Regulator Authority Bill provided for an autonomous and professionally credible and competent regulatory body.

However, Mr. Swaminathan stated that the regulatory body should not be under the control of the persons to be regulated, which was the case until recently.

Ultimately, regulation alone would not be adequate for achieving public acceptance.

Education and social mobilisation through elected local bodies were equally important.

In the public view biotechnology and nanotechnology, which were at a nascent stage, too were other areas of concern. The uproar against Bt brinjal was a case in point.

“Science communicators”

If such was the case what would be the fate of those who had obtained degrees and doing research in those emerging fields, he asked.

In this regard Mr. Swaminathan mooted raising the cadre of “science communicators” who would possess both proficiency in science and mastery in communication.

It was through the “science of science communication” Mr. Swaminathan hoped to effect a better scientist—society interface.