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The Boundaries and Extension of Expertise: The Case of Nuclear Waste Siting
In this paper a two-dimensional typology of expertise is developed. The first dimension is about the degree of equalization between experts and lays people knowledge, while the second is about the degree of discrepancy between front stage and backstage presentations of this equalization. The typology is applied to twenty years of Swedish nuclear waste management. During these years’ different kinds of interaction between industry, government, municipalities, researchers, environmental groups and citizens have been developed in order to reach decisions on where to finally store spent nuclear fuel. Four phases in this history are discerned and analysed with the help of the typology. The overall argument in the paper is that the first two phases – the test drillings in the 1980s and the feasibility studies in the 1990s – are characterized by a strong divide between experts and lay people knowledge. In the third phase, the strong divide is questioned by a municipality and people from green organisations. In an article in Sweden’s most important daily paper it is argued that the separated understanding of the siting issue, as a political question for the municipalities to discuss on and as a technical question for the nuclear industry to handle, has resulted in a situation of “worst sites chosen”. However, this critique never grown stronger. Today, in the fourth phase, the Swedish nuclear industry is conducting site investigations, including extended drillings in the bedrock, in two municipalities, in order to assess the bedrock’s suitability for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste. In connection with these investigations an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is taking place. The nuclear industry, in charge of this process, has the general ambition to involve other groups. Thus, in their own words, it is important “to take advantage of the local knowledge that different individual citizens and organizations command”. Everyone who wants to be involved in consultations should be offered the possibility to participate and the aim is to achieve a “comprehensive and broad-based environmental assessment”. During the two site investigations a front stage presentation of co-operation and consultations between on the one hand experts from the nuclear industry and on the other representatives from the two municipalities and other concerned parties has grown strong, indicating an equalization between expert and lay people knowledge. However, backstage a strong divide between experts and lay people is still maintained. By the way of conclusion it is argued that this back stage presentation, resulting in a technocratic framing of the nuclear waste siting issue, is not only desired by the industry but also by the two concerned municipalities. If science could decide which municipality is the best for hosting a nuclear waste repository, the competition between them could be reduced. However, the discrepancy between front stage and backstage presentations means that public theatre is masking private sentiments.