German Nuclear Power Policy Before and After Fukushima: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Change in the German Government’s Discourse on Nuclear Power

Natacha Holst Hansen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Through a social constructionist approach on critical discourse analysis, the thesis investigates how the nuclear incident in Fukushima, Japan 2011 changed the German government’s discourse on the nuclear power policy. Immediately after the Fukushima incident in Japan in 2011, the German government decided to phase-out nuclear power by 2022. Until 2011, nuclear power had been a large part of the energy mix, supplying Germany with 25% of its energy demands (World Nuclear, 2016). Due to the immediate proximity of the policy change to the Fukushima incident, the thesis identifies how Fukushima has changed the discourse on nuclear power policy. Using concepts from Siegfried Jäger (Wodak & Meyer, 2001), the thesis selects two political speeches held by representatives for the Merkel cabinet II at different points in time. The first speech is held before the Fukushima incident, and the second speech is held after. The discursive properties are analyzed through Norman Fairclough’s three-dimensional framework for discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1992). Discourse practice, text practice of the speeches are compared in order to identify the nature of the change and the effect of Fukushima. The results are evaluated normatively and discussed with other interpretations of the realpolitik of nuclear power policy. The analysis has been concerned with how the government articulates the nuclear power policy. It finds that there has been a great deal of change in the German government’s discourse on nuclear power policy. The discourse changed on seven different elements of discourse. Among other elements, the analysis identifies the discourse in the political speech before Fukushima as business liberal as it foregrounds the economic benefits to producing nuclear energy. After the Fukushima, the discourse is concerned with risk and risk assessment as the trust in the security of nuclear power plants had been damaged due to the widespread consequences of the Fukushima incident.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages102
SupervisorsMagali Gravier