Access to relevant information in an understandable manner is highly important for decision makers in order to arrive at well-founded collective decisions, which might have far-reaching consequences, such as exposure to radiation. Explicitly throughout the thesis I stick to the assumption that the goal of any economic analysis is to supply the decision makers with sufficient and understandable information to make well-founded decisions. Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) aims to play a significant informational role in decision-making processes as a tool of policy analysis. Its capacity to achieve this goal is considered from two standpoints: (A) CBA as a tool to rank alternative projects according to their social desirability; and (B) CBA as an informational background for the democratic decision-making procedure. In this thesis I investigate whether CBA can improve on democratic decision-making processes which concern radiation-related projects and their adverse health effects. Nuclear power-related projects constitute a particular point of interest in this research. CBA turns out to be problematic to use in decision-making processes from both standpoints set above. As a tool of ranking the alternatives, CBA provides too aggregated information to judge about the social desirability of the projects because different decision makers have different political and ethical preferences. Applied CBA ignores distributional concerns, but if ignored, the very distribution of radiation-related risks to human life and health can be unfair. CBA rests upon monetary valuation of the project’s effects, but putting prices on intangible values, such as life and health, is a highly controversial and demanding task. In addition, CBA appears to take improper account of risk and uncertainty, which are inherent in radioactivity. Besides, this thesis approaches CBA in the context of conflict. Initially some experts consider CBA as a measure to control proponents of risk regulation since the latter are perceived as powerful political groups and thus overregulate excessively. However, it may appear to be the case that rather the proponents of CBA themselves constitute well-organized politically powerful groups, which intend to manipulate the outcome and the use of CBA. The need for stronger public participation in democratic decision making is stated, and possible roots of weak public participation are addressed. Several alternatives to CBA are proposed as well.
Keywords: Cost-benefit analysis; Democratic decision making; Radioactivity; Nuclear power technology; Adverse health effects; Risk and uncertainty