Accepted Paper:

Making things personal: Consulting a UK nuclear new build project  


Márton Fabók (Energiaklub Climate Policy Institute)

Paper short abstract:

The paper addresses a shift in public engagement practices in the current UK new nuclear programme by using the ethnography of Wylfa Newydd in Wales. A customised democracy is emerging via fragmentation and personalisation of public consultations.

Paper long abstract:

What kind of democratic practices are configured along with large-scale infrastructural projects (Barry, 2013; Mitchell, 2013)? In challenging that nuclear power is anchored to certain political practices (Winner, 1988), I contrast the current public consultations with the historical grand nuclear public inquiries, a subject of classic STS works on democracy and technological decisions (O'Riordan et al., 1988; Wynne, 1982). The paper builds on a multi-sited ethnographic study of the public engagement practices around the Wylfa Newydd project in northwest fringes of Wales, one of the proposed constructions in the current 16 GW nuclear new build programme in the UK.

The current differentiated public consultations create fragmented publics, in sharp contrast with a national monolith public inscribed in the historical nuclear inquiries. The nuclear megainvestment is broken up into disjointed issues by drawing geographic boundaries, and by segregating nuclear and non-nuclear elements, as well as technical and generic concerns. The public consultation discussions are personalised through one-to-one drop-in sessions and targeted stakeholder meetings, in contrast to general public meetings and hearings. This results in the absence of an explicit political controversy, where differences are articulated through legal wrangles on the boundaries of geographies of affect and negotiations of nuclearities. The paper concludes by raising the question of a broader shift from mass democracy to a customised democracy in the consultation practices of infrastructural projects in the UK.

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