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Opening up or closing down radioactive waste management policy? Debates on reversibility and retrievability in Finland, France, and the United Kingdom

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 22:58 authored by Markku Lehtonen
The possibilities of recovering radioactive waste deposited for final disposal (retrievability), and of reversing decisions concerning the management of the waste (reversibility) have emerged as central issues on the policymaking agenda in a number of countries. Calls for reversibility and retrievability (R&R) have emanated mainly from civil society and politicians, and have subsequently, and to varying degrees in different countries, been translated into technical and administrative solutions. This paper examines the ways in which R&R have been dealt with in the national-level radioactive waste management (RWM) policies in France, Finland, and the UK, and examines the role of the debates around R&R in fostering deliberative democracy. The focus of the analysis is on the participatory and deliberative planning and decision-making processes instigated by the state and the nuclear industry. The paper argues that in France and the UK the broad societal debates over the years concerning R&R have to a certain degree contributed to an opening up of the RWM policymaking to new options and new actors. In Finland, by contrast, R&R were addressed briefly, as an essentially technico-economic issue, with a rapid closure of the debate around the notion that retrievability had been ensured in the RWM companys original disposal concept. The paper identifies three factors that may, apart from the strict administrative and legislative framework governing the Finnish RWM policy, help to explain the differences between the three countries in general and the Finnish exceptionality in particular: the control of knowledge production in the area of RWM, the degree of trust in public institutions, and the credibility and status of nongovernmental organizations.


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  • Published


Risk, Hazards, and Crisis in Public Policy




De Gruyter





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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

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