Germany has twice decided to abandon nuclear energy. The first time, it set somewhat dynamic shutdown dates for plants before changing course. The second time, it set fixed shutdown dates. Game theory holds that awareness of shutdown dates may lead to endgame behavior, in which people at all levels of the industry behave more self-interestedly, thus potentially jeopardizing public safety, as the end dates approach. We examine whether such behavior is occurring in Germany by drawing on three sources of evidence: the public record, the frequencies of reportable safety-related events, and experimental data. The findings are inconclusive but suggest that the concerns merit consideration by policymakers in Germany or wherever policies need to be designed for the phaseout of dying industries. Counterintuitively, a policy designed to increase public safety may inadvertently create novel risks if it does not attend closely enough to the behavioral factors involved in its implementation.


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pp. 40-54
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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