Multinational nuclear waste repositories: ethics and acceptability

The safe disposal of nuclear waste is a challenge to humanity. While nuclear waste disposal was previously a national responsibility, countries are now considering multinational repositories. This raises new and intricate ethical issues. Like for many other major technological projects, a gap exists between assessing acceptance and acceptability. Public acceptance studies fail to include all the morally relevant features of technological projects, while ethical acceptability analyses often lack stakeholders’ insights.

 

This research aims to develop a novel framework to integrate ethical analysis and stakeholders’ opinions about multinational repositories. My ethical analysis will build upon the Wide Reflective Equilibrium that facilitates incorporating particular moral judgements and moral principles. To systematically map stakeholders’ opinions, I will use Q‐methodology, which allows for investigating trade‐offs (e.g. between short‐term and long‐term interests). I will conduct stakeholder interviews in Slovenia, Denmark and the Netherlands, three countries that consider both national and international disposal. Together with policymakers from the IAEA and ten EU countries, I will spell out the implications of this analysis when choosing a host country.

 

In this Veni research I will address the fundamental issue of ethical acceptability for multinational repositories, by integrating empirical insights and ethical analysis. The proposed approach enables reflecting upon the empirical findings from the perspective of theories on justice and ethics of risk, while enriching the ethical risk theory by stakeholders’ opinions. This is a novel approach in ‘ethics of technology’ and its relevance will extend far beyond multinational repositories; i.e. new technologies for combating climate change such as geoengineering raise similar transnational and intergenerational ethical issues.