Wealthy males are the group most willing to give pooped-out plutonium a place to retire for the next 10,000 years.
A community in Finland was surveyed about a proposed spent nuclear fuel storage area in their region. Women were more apprehensive about the project than men. Wealthier residents were more in favor of the radioactive waste storage facility than were poorer residents.
Put those two results together and you have what the study's authors call the “white male effect.” The white male effect is a term for the upper echelon of Western society's reduced anxiety about many risks compared to groups with less power.
The white male effect has been documented in numerous studies over the past two decades, but never completely understood. Some have suggested the effect results from wealthy, white men's insulation from the damaging effects of certain risks. Since they are less likely to suffer, they are less likely to feel fear.
Another hypothesis about the white male effect is that certain risky situations actually benefit some wealthy white males or enforce their worldview. In the case of the spent nuclear fuel site, the wealthier members of the community maybe focused upon the revenues and jobs it will bring, and therefore view the project more favorably. The storage area may also serve as a symbol for the continued success of industrialized technology. Since industrialism has partly driven the rise of wealthy males to power, the continued success of that system may offer more perceived benefits than risks to the psyche of the wealthy man.
The authors of the paper about the Finnish spent fuel site noted one aspect of the studied community that may have affected the results. The community already has two nuclear power plants with a third being built and a fourth in the planning stages. Since some members of the community are already benefiting from nuclear power, they are more likely to view anything related to the nuclear industry more favorably.
The paper was published in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management.
Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France (Stefan Kühn, Wikimedia Commons)