3rd Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Decommissioning and Environmental Restoration - 2016 Sept. 11-14

Presented at:
3rd Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Decommissioning and Environmental Restoration
2016 Sept. 11-14
Ottawa, Canada
Session Title:
Session T1: Stakeholder Engagement

S. Waldman (Carleton University)


Controversies over technologies with uncertain risks, such as deep geological repositories (DGRs) for nuclear waste, are some of the most divisive current societies face. In their approach to policy controversies, Schön and Rein (1994) elaborate how communities of meaning frame issues around different underlying cultural metaphors. Cultural theorists of risk similarly observe that plural socio-cultural groups understand risk in ways according with diverse socio- technological worldviews. While these cultural divisions around technological risk can seem intractable, it may be possible to develop pragmatic solutions to policy controversies by looking for broader “metanarratives” according to which plural policy narratives make sense simultaneously (Roe, 1994). I use Interpretive Policy Analysis (Yanow 2000) to anatomize the policy controversy around Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) projected DGR represented in the public dialogue between OPG and a community action organization, Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump (STGLND). Intensity- and theory-driven coding of environmental review submissions, public relations documents, and media quotations reveals underlying narratives in these organizations’ discourse roughly correspond to Buss et al’s techno-optimistic and techno- pessimistic socio-technological worldviews (1986). While OPG’s underlying narrative focuses on the capability of good geology to contain nuclear waste and the need for experts to determine this geology, STGLND focuses on the vulnerability of water to contamination by nuclear waste and the need for ordinary citizens to protect the water. Subsequently, I use Roe’s narrative policy analysis to discover a metanarrative that coordinates these underlying narratives that I call Responsible Geology: the cautionary (but not precautionary) concern of some geologists that DGR siting remains experimental, entailing more extensive and publicly accountable study. This name has deliberate echoes with the Responsible Innovation movement that seeks maintain the empirical premises of regulatory science while making it more accountable to the public.

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