Constrained Deliberation: Public Involvement in Swedish Nuclear Waste Management

Sundqvist Göran.  2004-04.  Constrained Deliberation: Public Involvement in Swedish Nuclear Waste Management. STAGE (Science, Technology and Governance in Europe).

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In this paper a typology of approaches to the governance of science and technology is applied to thirty 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. In all this, one common theme can be identified: the maintenance of a strong demarcation between science and democracy. It is shown that such an approach creates problems, while causing a fragile interface between experts and other groups. An alternative to this is deliberative governance, which means softening the boundary between science and democracy and enabling a simultaneous discussion of technical and political issues. In the Swedish history of nuclear waste, deliberative processes have never become strong. Instead they have often been constrained by other kinds of approaches, such as corporatist or agonistic governance. The paper concludes that a sustainable nuclear waste siting process, leading to robust decisions, needs an improved view of public involvement in decision processes, as well as better communication between different groups in order to strengthen a mutual process of understanding. This means the cultivation of deliberative governance.

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