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Narrative Research and Living with Risk: Methodological Reflections . Karen Henwood ^ , Karen Parkhill * , Nick Pidgeon * , Peter Simmons + & Dan Venables * ^ School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University * School of Psychology, Cardiff University + School of Environmental Science, UEA.
Karen Henwood^, Karen Parkhill*, Nick Pidgeon*, Peter Simmons+ & Dan Venables*
^ School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
* School of Psychology, Cardiff University
+ School of Environmental Science, UEA
Type 1 Narrative
did you know about the plant before you moved here?
can you tell me what you remember about the building of the power plant?
Type 2 Biographical/Life Journey/Choices Narrative (local context)
I.e. Thoughts and feelings about living in the area generally
Denise York: We've rather digressed from power stations.
R: It's interesting too. The point of the research in a way is what exactly people are interested in…
DENISE YORK: Why we are living in this neck of the woods.
R: Well, what are the important things, you know the power station is not the only thing in the village so we're interested in things like the WI because that is important to people.
(Denise York, Bradwell)
Type 3 Focused Questions
- e.g. new build, incineration, climate change, health impacts
Bradwell Power Station, Essex
St Peter-on-the-Wall Chapel (“No they’ve made a lot of arguments about the oldest, it’s the oldest Christian chapel; up until the 1930s it was a cow shed…!”)
View from Sedbury/Chepstow
Actually I seem more concerned about it when, it’s that concept of perceiving real risk because I don’t, I’m a member of the sailing club, although I don’t have a lot of time for real sailing, but the first time somebody took me out sailing on the river, now that’s quite a dangerous place to sail with a forty foot tide, um, ten knot tide so with the rise and fall it’s ten knot up and down, you can get swept away if you’re not careful but being out there on the water,the water being splashed on you and then there’s the power station pumping away and it makes you think ‘oh I wonder how, what’s in the water?’but until I was out there getting splashed by the water going past I’d never given that a second thought. There’s loads, there’s loads of people that go sailing there every week and there’s no big incidence of cancer in Thornbury sailing club, you’d probably pick up something a lot more biologically active from the river, another group that’s out, it’s a much cleaner place. So everywhere you turn there are risks.
(Harrison Donaldson, Oldbury)
Ryan Kirk: Um, yeah I do see it all changing; I think it has changed since I’ve been here. At first I didn’t feel any risk but I got attacked a while ago by a group of young thugs who were thinking that they’re running the streets or whatever and they just, they were quite aggressive, I mean there was this gang around me, I didn’t know any of them, and I’d only lived here for a couple of months so I didn’t really know what was going on, um, and there was about fifteen or twenty of these people and as soon as I raised my head I got a fist in it and I got kicked and beaten quite a lot. I did report it to the police and I managed to get fifty pound out of it but it didn’t really make me feel any safer on the streets and that does, I do worry about that quite a lot, when I’m going out at weekend or whatever, being on the streets, I do worry about those people being out there
Interviewer: Is that just in Thornbury then?
Ryan Kirk: Yeah, well in Bristol as well I guess but I don’t really go out in Bristol that often, but yeah I do worry about what could happen at late night or whatever, even in broad daylight when it happened to me it was in the middle of the day, I mean I didn’t know it was going to happen so, but I do, I worry about anyone else I know really that will go out as well, I mean anything could happen anytime
I.e. There are more immediate personal threats than the power station
Toby Bundock: [omitted foreword] …Now when we were there, when I was there as a young man, we used to smash it about and it would be dust and throw it at somebody underneath, and they'd be covered in this dust, like flour. Nowadays, if there's a chance of a matchstick head of asbestos about it's contained, sealed, taken away. You know, you can't work there, you can't go close to it. In those days, so who knows what's in people's lungs now, waiting to become malignant.
Interviewer: And did you say some people you know were...
Toby Bundock: Yes, I know of two people and I know one that's dying at this very moment, you know, he's got a year or two to live. From Berkeley Power Station and Aubrey, which is a bit sad and it's a bit... concerns you a little bit,cos, it could be you next and it comes about very quickly and not a very pleasant death.
Interviewer: Right, and is that the sort of thing you've checked out or...
Toby Bundock:I have had checked out, yeah. And now that they've recognised it they didn't know how bad it was, nobody did, all other industries were exactly the same, the aircraft industry, ICI, all the... all industries, you know, the construction industry particularly bad.
There was something that happened in the summer this year, our youngest the baby was diagnosed with genetic condition. Both Gibson and I were evaluated to see if we were carriers and neither one of us are and it's a spontaneous occurrence of this genetic disorder which is somewhat unusual and we did have a conversation, well I wonder if it was because of the proximity or some kind of elevation in radiation or if she was conceived and I was pregnant the whole time <??> and it's one of those things where winners are known so when things don't quite add up you start looking, well could it be that. We both know it probably isn't linked at all but it's one of those kind of unanswered questions and if it was something where some of the other kids in the village all of a sudden came up with this disorder that's like um, maybe there is something to it.
(Melanie Windsor, Bradwell)Biography and Risk Concern Intersection E.g. 4
Interviewer: Does the fact that it’s a nuclear power station have any affect on the way you live your life at all?
Oscar Berk: Uh not really, um we have the warning system, which can be a bit scary because unfortunately they haven’t got it quite right; it starts of by telling you there’s a major problem and then saying it’s just a test, I’d prefer it to do it the other way round (amusement) scariest thing there is that, ‘run for your lives, actually it’s just a test’ (amusement).
(Oscar Berk, Oldbury)
Brandon Heitman: Years ago when it was first built and for the first few years, well up until probably ten years ago, they used to come round here, always on a Sunday, whether they got paid overtime I don’t know , to do all these checks, but what the worrying thing was they’d park outside here and they’d all get out in their white suits, like a space suit, helmet and everything to do all the testing, well there we were sort of just ordinary and they did that up until ten years ago when the power station, I presume, was safe and everything. Now it’s getting towards its end and they, all around our fields they used to have lampshades
Molly Heitman: Well they used to come and test
Brandon Heitman: They used to come and test out, well they haven’t got those now. It seems to me that they do far less tests now when it’s more likely the power station’s going to be leaking radiation I should have thought, when it’s been warned, then everyday, years ago always seemed, well it was wannit? Always on a Sunday night they used to be about here doing it
Molly Heitman: About teatime
Brandon Heitman: Yeah
Interviewer: And how did it make you feel when you saw them doing this?
Brandon Heitman:Well worried to death ‘cause when they get out in their spacesuits and you’re part of it you, ‘cause sometimes they come and did it if they had an incident down there didn’t they? Well you know, we had no protection whatsoever…
(Brandon and Molly Heitman, Oldbury)
INTERVIEWER2: In terms of all the <??> I was just thinking, is there anything you would like to see in terms of consultation or any specific <??> that the Government could do that would improve the situation?
ROY: They could take that power station down and they can make site look more respectable so that they can take the stigma away from us and they don't have to rebuild, they mustn't think they've got a nuclear community, they can always do what they want here. They thought they could do that with Nyrex and they couldn't. It's not only a naïve thing for them to believe but a dirty attitude. It's like we can shit on this community. <??> in the middle of Birmingham or somewhere, Hyde Park, they build them out in communities who didn't have the power to protest.
Interviewer: Have either of you ever been concerned about things like radiation discharges into the Severn or into the atmosphere or waste issues, you know, transportation of waste, those sorts of things?
Naomi Gerritson: Yes um radiation no, I’m not concerned, rightly or wrongly I have confidence in them that they’re not doing anything polluting too badly because I actually think that pollution from other sources is probably worse than anything that comes out of the power station, that’s my view of radiation but waste, transportation of waste and the waste itself does worry me
Olivia Gerritson:No way mum, I’m sorry but do you not remember the time they had that big truck thing that was moving waste, did you not remember that? And they closed that whole road and they had these police coming either side of it and what did we do; if you were that scared of waste that instead of just going ‘oh there’s some waste out there’ that we actually got out off our seats, actually into the road and watched it go by, taking photos of the giant thing
Naomi Gerritson:Yes that was fine, that was one thing but I’m talking generally, this is a general thing, I’m not talking about that one specific, they had to take away part of a reactor or something
Olivia Gerritson: Yeah it was massive
Naomi Gerritson: And it was huge and they had to strengthen the bridges and I don’t know what else
Olivia Gerritson: Yeah put stuff on the bridges
Naomi Gerritson:But that was one isolated thing, I’m talking generally, I don’t know whether your question was general or specific but that to me, in general I do contact waste with...
(Naomi and Olivia Gerritson, Oldbury)
PHILLIP: I was young then, I didn’t care. I used to go to sleep on top of a ton of explosive, you just didn't think about it.
R: Do you think you would think differently about it now?
PHILLIP: I don’t think so. I just don't worry about them sort of things. I remember the last job there actually. We had a load of TNT come in and to move anything down there it was on black <??> on railway lines, metal wheels and metal tracks and I remember pushing this down and then one box fell off and nearly cut it in half. How it didn't go up I don't know because you've only just got to hit that stuff and I had two ton of it on that truck so I would have been in orbit. You're always living with some sort of danger.
(Phillip Cabot, Bradwell)
Allowed for differences to emerge in participants’ narratives – some constructing as potentially hazardous, while others’ narrative normalised the risk
I don’t particularly, I mean the safety record in this country is unbelievable, I mean I know accidents can happen like Chernobyl and things but I just think, I can’t imagine the power station getting to that stage, I mean there was a little fire last week and it was shut down instantly, the fire wasn’t even anywhere near the reactors, well from what I heard on the news it wasn’t anywhere near the reactors and it was just a piece of kit blew like any piece of kit can blow, you know, your toaster can blow and it caught fire and they instantly shut everything down and I just think that we’re so safety conscious, you know, I mean it’s people that work there and they’ve got to be safety conscious, it’s their health and their life isn’t it? So no, it doesn’t bother me
(Teagan Sloane, )