Accepted Paper:

Pioneers and Problems: Implementing Geological Disposal of Nuclear Waste  

Author:

Marika Hietala (University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

Geological disposal is recommended as the best available method for long-term nuclear waste management. Yet implementing it has proved difficult. Tracing imaginaries around nuclear things, this paper explores the dynamics at play in the implementation of geological disposal in two EU countries.

Paper long abstract:

Like nuclear power, geological disposal of nuclear wastes has climbed up the European political agenda. A 2011 EU Directive flagged geological disposal as the best available method for the long-term management of nuclear wastes and urged European nuclear nations to implement disposal solutions. Implementing geological disposal has however proved difficult with only a handful of countries having made progress towards siting and constructing a geological disposal facility.

Geological disposal is entangled with wide technopolitical aspirations instead of being simply about national nuclear waste management solutions. The EU for instance sees it as an enabling technology in a transition towards a low carbon European economy and in increasing nuclear power's share in the European energy mix.

Keeping this EU frame in mind, this paper examines the national and EU level technopolitical aspirations at play in the implementation of geological disposal in the UK and Finland. These countries represent two European nuclear nations with contrasting nuclear and disposal histories, but with converging visions of their particular nuclear futures.

This paper proposes that the Finnish and UK nuclear experiences can be compared and their particularities illuminated by evoking imaginaries of mundanity and exceptionalism around nuclear things. Tying together politics, technologies and visions of desirable as well as undesirable futures, imaginaries perform important coordinating work across 'disposal cultures'. By tracing imaginaries mundanity and exceptionalism within the UK and Finnish disposal cultures, this paper seeks to examine the dynamics at play in the implementation of geological disposal of nuclear wastes in the UK and Finland.

Panel T093
Infrastructures of nuclearity: Exploring entangled histories, spaces and futures