Reversible Experiments: Putting Geological Disposal to the Test

Jan Peter Bergen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Conceiving of nuclear energy as a social experiment gives rise to the question of what to do when the experiment is no longer responsible or desirable. To be able to appropriately respond to such a situation, the nuclear energy technology in question should be reversible, i.e. it must be possible to stop its further development and implementation in society, and it must be possible to undo its undesirable consequences. This paper explores these two conditions by applying them to geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste (GD). Despite the fact that considerations of reversibility and retrievability have received increased attention in GD, the analysis in this paper concludes that GD cannot be considered reversible. Firstly, it would be difficult to stop its further development and implementation, since its historical development has led to a point where GD is significantly locked-in. Secondly, the strategy it employs for undoing undesirable consequences is less-than-ideal: it relies on containment of severely radiotoxic waste rather than attempting to eliminate this waste or its radioactivity. And while it may currently be technologically impossible to turn high-level waste into benign substances, GD’s containment strategy makes it difficult to eliminate this waste’s radioactivity when the possibility would arise. In all, GD should be critically reconsidered if the inclusion of reversibility considerations in radioactive waste management has indeed become as important as is sometimes claimed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-733
Number of pages27
JournalScience and engineering ethics
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

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Radioactive Waste
Nuclear Energy
Radioactivity
Waste Management
experiment
radioactivity
Radioactive wastes
nuclear energy
Nuclear energy
Experiments
Technology
Waste management
energy technology
Waste disposal
waste management
historical development
inclusion
Experiment
Disposal

Keywords

  • Geological disposal
  • Lock-in
  • Retrievability
  • Reversibility
  • Social experiment

Cite this

Bergen, Jan Peter. / Reversible Experiments : Putting Geological Disposal to the Test. In: Science and engineering ethics. 2016 ; Vol. 22, No. 3. pp. 707-733.
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Reversible Experiments : Putting Geological Disposal to the Test. / Bergen, Jan Peter.

In: Science and engineering ethics, Vol. 22, No. 3, 01.06.2016, p. 707-733.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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