Developing stakeholder and community decision support tools for the consideration of ethics in UK radioactive waste management policy

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The problemo f long-termr adioactivew astem anagemenitn the UK is one that has been fraught with political difficulties. Previous radioactive waste siting processes have been largely technocratic, based primarily upon technical and scientific criteria - leading to local backlash against facility proposals and deepening distrust in the institutions involved. UK Government's Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) programme seeks to change this, by refraining the problem as a socio-technical issue and incorporating public and stakeholder values into the decision-making process, with the hope of strengthening legitimacy and public support for facility siting. This thesis explores one aspect of the challenge this presents; namely how best to incorporate ethical values into the deliberative decision-making process. Incorporating ethics involves recognising the tension between the types of justification derived from `top-down' normative ethical perspectives (which are often universal); and those that emerge from `bottom-up' stakeholder-led judgements and concerns (which are diverse and contextually specific). This thesis, drawing upon the tradition of philosophical pragmatism, argues that ethical issues should be explored both in relation to a plurality of perspectives and values, in a manner consonant with deliberative stakeholder and public engagement and also in relation to established ethical theory. The research entails the experimental development of a new deliberative approach inspired by Rawlsian reflective equilibrium, labelled "Reflective Ethical Mapping". This involves coherently balancing the insights of specific stakeholder-generatedju dgements and ethical principles using a sequential decision-support process within a deliberative workshop format, tested with participants from communities close to existing nuclear facilities. The results show that `lay' participants can quickly engage with complex social, technical and ethical issues and that the structured deliberative format enables them to critically reflect upon a broad range of ethical perspectives. It is argued that tapping into the affect-laden intuitions of participants and then exposing these to a range of ethical principles, encourages improved moral communication between participants and, if used as a decision-support tool, can strengthen the ethical validity of radioactive waste siting decisions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of East Anglia
Award date7 Jul 2009
Electronic ISBNs0000 0001 3390 133X
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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