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Three decades of social science research on high-level nuclear waste: Achievements and future challenges

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Barry D. Solomon
Mats Andrén
Urban Strandberg
Publicerad i Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy
Volym 1
Nummer/häfte 4
Sidor 13-47
ISSN 1944-4079
Publiceringsår 2010
Publicerad vid Institutionen för litteratur, idéhistoria och religion
Centrum för forskning om offentlig sektor (CEFOS)
Sidor 13-47
Språk en
Ämnesord nuclear waste, public policy, nuclear fuel
Ämneskategorier Elkraftteknik, Studier av offentlig förvaltning


Research on high-level nuclear waste management has focused on technical and scientific issues since the U.S. National Academy of Sciences first studied the problem in the mid-1950s and recommended long-term disposal in deep salt formations. In this review, we trace the development of the problem’s definition and its associated research since socioeconomic, political, and policy issues were first given consideration and nuclear waste management became recognized as more than a technical problem. Three somewhat overlapping time periods can be identified. First, from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, initial research explored institutional dimensions of nuclear waste, among other subjects, while several countries attempted to officially solve the problem. The second period began in the early 1980s with a concerted effort to site nuclear waste repositories, and ended in the mid-1990s with some progress in Sweden, Finland, and the United States, and general stalemate elsewhere. This period accelerated research on risk perception and stigma of nuclear waste, and elevated a focus on public trust. Special attention was given to repository siting conflicts in particular. The last period, since the mid-1990s, has been characterized by failure and continuing political stalemate, with the major exception of Scandinavia, and increased attention to public participation, political systems, and international solutions. Questions of ethics have been given serious attention, while research on risk perceptions and siting conflicts continues. Thus, we see some signs of progress toward final disposal. We frame these periods in a broader context of the shifting role of applied social scientists. The paper concludes with a general discussion of this research area and prospects for future research.

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