Accepted Paper:

Sociotechnical imaginations of nuclear waste disposal  


Marika Hietala (University of Sheffield)
Susan Molyneux-Hodgson (University of Exeter)

Paper long abstract:

This paper uses the lens of sociotechnical imaginaries around nuclear power (Jasanoff and Kim, 2009) to examine accounts of nuclear waste disposal in the UK and Finland and how these have been shaped by the events at Fukushima in March 2011. Evidence will be drawn from an analysis of the public representations of waste debates in official and media accounts.

The events at Fukushima generated widely differing responses across Europe. Germany swiftly reversed its energy policy and announced its intention to phase out nuclear power by 2022. Yet, little immediate effect was visible in some countries, e.g. Finland, while support for nuclear power in others, e.g. the UK, has been growing post-Fukushima.

As issues of waste management have become more visible post-Fukushima, how has debate on it shifted? How can we understand the different impacts and responses across Europe? This paper suggests that the answers lie in understanding what factors go into the imagination of nuclear nationhood (Felt, 2013) and what forms of social order fulfil or constrain certain technoscientific projects. The paper argues that repercussions of nuclear disasters interact with, rather than dominate, local concerns and national imperatives.

The empirical work presented in this paper takes disposal debates in England and Finland as case studies to open up the effects of Fukushima on socio-technical imaginations. The analysis of these debates will illuminate the logics that are at play in the English and Finnish context and that serve to explain the differing positions on nuclear waste management post-Fukushima.

Panel L4
Energy controversies and technology conflicts