This paper builds on the participation of the authors in a series of international research projects on public involvement in nuclear waste management. It aims to compare and contrast the contemporary role assigned to public reason and opinion in the appraisal of nuclear waste policy options in two national contexts: Sweden and the UK.

Controversies surrounding nuclear power during the 1970s and 80s led to uncompromising demands for demonstrable safety in nuclear waste management (NWM). Following these demands, regulatory environments for NWM have tended to resemble courtroom settings where the long-term performance of prospective waste facilities has been presented as subject to highly exacting processes of expert-led prosecution and assessment. While these arrangements have generated varying levels of public confidence in NWM in different countries, they have rarely proved sufficient to allow for the successful construction of major waste facilities.

Given this situation, the principle of ’negotiated safety’ has gradually grown to challenge that of ’ demonstrated safety’ in the framing of national programmes of NWM. Sweden and the UK form the basis for an interesting comparison, as no country has come as far as Sweden in making the original principle of demonstrated safety work, while no country has displayed a greater willingness to break with tradition and broaden public participation in the assessment of basic policy options than the UK after 1997.

While both Sweden and the UK stand overtly committed to dialogical science communication in the field of NWM today, the publics to be engaged and mobilized in order to advance policy objectives remain distinctly dissimiliar. As the paper will discuss, the public currently mobilized in Swedish NWM remains an overwhelmingly local public, centred on the country’s two leading nuclear communities, while the participating public in UK NWM is envisaged in far more all- inclusive terms.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Nuclear waste dialogues in Sweden and the UK
Making publics differently

Mark Elam   Göteborg University

This paper builds on the participation of the authors in a series of international research projects on public involvement in nuclear waste management. It aims to compare and contrast the contemporary role assigned to public reason and opinion in the appraisal of nuclear waste policy options in two national contexts: Sweden and the UK.

Controversies surrounding nuclear power during the 1970s and 80s led to uncompromising demands for demonstrable safety in nuclear waste management (NWM). Following these demands, regulatory environments for NWM have tended to resemble courtroom settings where the long-term performance of prospective waste facilities has been presented as subject to highly exacting processes of expert-led prosecution and assessment. While these arrangements have generated varying levels of public confidence in NWM in different countries, they have rarely proved sufficient to allow for the successful construction of major waste facilities.

Given this situation, the principle of ’negotiated safety’ has gradually grown to challenge that of ’ demonstrated safety’ in the framing of national programmes of NWM. Sweden and the UK form the basis for an interesting comparison, as no country has come as far as Sweden in making the original principle of demonstrated safety work, while no country has displayed a greater willingness to break with tradition and broaden public participation in the assessment of basic policy options than the UK after 1997.

While both Sweden and the UK stand overtly committed to dialogical science communication in the field of NWM today, the publics to be engaged and mobilized in order to advance policy objectives remain distinctly dissimiliar. As the paper will discuss, the public currently mobilized in Swedish NWM remains an overwhelmingly local public, centred on the country’s two leading nuclear communities, while the participating public in UK NWM is envisaged in far more all- inclusive terms.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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