The adaptation of discourses on nuclear energy in times of crisis



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Tartu Ülikool


The following research seeks to answer the question, how did the discourse surrounding nuclear energy adapt to account for the multiple crises present in 2022? To gain an answer to this question, a comparative study of the US and the UK is conducted, and their discourses over the course of January to October 2022 are analysed. This is done via a study of five mainstream media outlets within each state, using a critical discourse analysis (CDA) theory and methodology. Additionally, a conceptualisation of a crisis as an event which generates a dislocation in the hegemonic articulation of nuclear energy, that was previously dominant, is utilised. In a situation where multiple crises are present the different articulations have one crisis placed at the centre as the primary source of dislocation, and thus, as the crisis which a hegemonic articulation should address. In both the US and the UK, prior to the presence of multiple crises in 2022, there was a hegemonic articulation of nuclear energy, which passively supported it, but did not invest much into it and was allowing it to slowly decline. Through implementing a two-level CDA approach to the discourse in both states, first at the level of the text and then at the level of the ideologies these texts are part of, the new articulations can be accounted for. Over the course of 2022 it can be seen that in the US three new articulations emerge, two of these centre the climate crisis as the primary source of dislocation, ‘Nuclear Energy Against the Environment’ and ‘Nuclear Energy for the Environment’. The other centres the security crisis, ‘Nuclear Energy for Security’. In the UK four distinct articulations emerge, with two that centre the economic crisis as the primary source of dislocation, ‘Nuclear Energy for the Economy’ and ‘Nuclear Energy Against the Economy’. The other two centre the climate crisis, ‘Nuclear Energy for the Environment’ and ‘Nuclear Energy Against the Environment’. Finally, following the CDA framework, the second level of analysis is utilised to highlight the broad ideologies each articulation is factored into, which construct a reality that conveys the articulation as the most suited to take on the role of hegemonic articulation.