The Holy Grail of energy? A content and thematic analysis of the presentation of nuclear fusion on the Internet

Abstract: 

The Internet is increasingly considered as a legitimate source of information on scientific and technological topics. Lay individuals are increasingly using Internet sources to find information about new technological developments, but scientific communities might have a limited understanding of the nature of this content. In this paper we examine the nature of the content of information about fusion energy on the Internet. By means of a content and thematic analysis of a sample of English-, Spanish- and Portuguese-language web documents, we analyze the structural characteristics of the webs, characterize the presentation of nuclear fusion, and study the associations to nuclear fission and the main benefits and risks associated to fusion technologies in the Web. Our findings indicate that the information about fusion on the Internet is produced by a variety of actors (including private users via blogs), that almost half of the sample provided relevant technical information about nuclear fusion, that the majority of the web documents provided a positive portrayal of fusion energy (as a clean, safe and powerful energy technology), and that nuclear fusion was generally presented as a potential solution to world energy problems, as a key scientific challenge and as a superior alternative to nuclear fission. We discuss the results in terms of the role of Internet in science communication.

Published: 

17 November 2014