Siting a Nuclear Waste Disposal Facility

Elizabeth Brubaker
Borealis Energy Research Association on behalf of Energy Probe
July 28, 1995

Part 1 of Energy Probe’s Submission on The Adequacy of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s Environmental Impact Statement on the Concept for Disposal of Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste. Submitted to the Federal Environmental Assessment Review Panel.

 

Introduction

In September 1994, Atomic Energy of Canada
Limited (AECL) completed its Environmental
Impact Statement on the Concept for Disposal of Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste

(the “EIS“). The following month marked the beginning of a nine-month review of
the EIS. As part of that review,
Energy Probe retained Borealis Energy Research Association as a consultant to
examine approaches to siting. Energy Probe advised Borealis to focus on the
following areas: past and current site selection methods; community
decision-making structures, and processes for the incorporation of these
decision-making structures into site selection decisions; ethical
considerations for site selection; and criteria used by AECL to site a disposal
facility and transport routes.

In describing the first phase of work, Energy
Probe asked Borealis to review the EIS
and supporting documentation on its behalf and to comment on the extent to
which AECL addresses the siting issues raised in the Federal Environmental
Assessment Review Panel’s Final
Guidelines for the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement on the
Nuclear Fuel Waste Management and Disposal Concept
(the “Guidelines“).

The following report provides that review. In
general, it documents multiple failures on AECL’s part to produce the
information requested in the Guidelines:
AECL’s review of site selection methods is incomplete, unclear and
insufficiently analytical; AECL fails to examine the applicability of others’
experience to the siting of a permanent high-level nuclear waste disposal
facility; AECL provides insufficient information on key elements of the
proposed approach; and AECL’s analysis of ethical issues is inadequate.

As requested by the Panel, this report refrains
from commenting on the merits of the opinions and conclusions of the EIS. Accordingly, the absence of
critical remarks herein should not be mistaken for endorsement of AECL’s
positions.

It must be noted that funding for intervenors
in this review has been extremely limited, and will not permit them to lead the
kind of expert evidence necessary to remedy the inadequacies documented below.
It is therefore essential that AECL be directed to correct these inadequacies
promptly before any more effort is spent on the review of the merits of the
opinions and conclusions of the EIS.

 

 Facility Site Selection Methods, Processes, and Experiences: The History and Promise of Voluntarism

 The Federal Environmental Assessment Review
Panel’s Guidelines require AECL to
include in its discussion of siting options “the use of past and current site
selection methods, processes, and experiences” (35). Canadian case studies to
be used as analogs could include “mining developments, power plant facilities,
and toxic waste management facilities” (32). In addition, the Guidelines suggest that AECL should, like the Panel, examine plans for siting nuclear waste disposal facilities in
other leading countries: “The Panel will also become aware of the development
of programs for appropriate plans and schedules for siting and construction of
nuclear fuel waste management facilities in these countries” (xi).

 Canadian Experience

In discussing past and current site selection methods, AECL concentrates on those based on the principle of voluntarism. Its EIS mentions two recent Canadian siting processes – in Alberta and Manitoba – in which communities volunteered to host hazardous waste management facilities. The EIS also notes the process now underway to site Ontario’s low-level radioactive waste (66). It does not, however, provide any information or commentary on these processes. One of AECL’s primary reference documents, Disposal
of Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste: Public Involvement and Social Aspects
(“Social Aspects“), provides further information on Canada’s experience with voluntary siting processes, concluding that “[r]ecent experience with voluntary siting processes demonstrates that communities are willing to be considered as potential host communities” (194). But its discussion of the above-noted experience, admittedly “brief” (164), is unsatisfactory. Covering less than two pages, it contains virtually no information on what made the successful processes work, what their key components were, what opposition they met, what other problems they faced, or how the siting organization addressed such problems. Nor does AECL discuss the long-term impacts resulting from the experiences analysed, despite instructions that its analysis should include “evaluation of the changes or
impacts, over appropriate time periods, that could be viewed directly or indirectly
as having resulted from activities or aspects of the major projects selected as
analogs” (Guidelines, 47‑48).

Nowhere does AECL discuss the applicability ofspecific case studies to the siting of a repository for high-level radioactive waste. In the absence of an analysis of the similarities and differences in public attitudes towards the facilities, and of how any differences might
affect sitability, it is impossible to judge whether past experiences might be replicable in the context of high-level radioactive waste disposal.

The comments that AECL does offer regarding the similarities or differences among various types of controversial facilities contradict one another. AECL downplays potential differences in its volume summarizing the EIS (the “EIS Summary“), suggesting, “The types of potential effects identified are not unique. Those identified for the disposal
facility are similar to effects encountered at large civil engineering projects, mining developments, nuclear generating stations, waste management facilities, and other large‑scale projects” (41). This echoes an earlier statement that “[t]he potential socio‑economic effects of disposal, both adverse and beneficial, are to some degree similar to those associated with any large‑scale facility or transportation system.” AECL follows that statement with the concession that “the potential for radiological effects on human
health and the natural environment might be of concern to people living near a disposal facility and along the transportation route, despite the low radiological risk estimated by the safety assessment” (EIS Summary, 39, emphasis added).

AECL’s reluctance to admit that the public could well be uniquely terrified by the prospect of living near a high-level nuclear waste repository sharply contrasts with its discussion in Social Aspects of the uniqueness of nuclear waste. There it acknowledges that “Canadians feel personally at risk, no matter where they live, from nuclear waste more than from any other health hazard” (125).  “[M]any members of the public,” it explains, “view nuclear waste as uniquely hazardous and difficult to handle. The risk associated with it is seen by some people to be absolute rather than relative, and some hold the view that unknown catastrophic events are somehow inevitable” (117). AECL’s identification of both dread and catastrophic potential as affecting the public’s evaluation – and, presumably, acceptance -of risks (xiii) further calls into question the direct applicability of other siting experiences to the siting of a high-level nuclear waste repository.

AECL’s discussion of Canada’s experience with voluntary siting processes omits several important examples. Although instructed to include in its analysis “justification of the selection of the case studies under consideration” (Guidelines, 47‑48), AECL fails to explain its reasons for studying certain cases and ignoring others. It offers no reason, for example, for omitting Quebec’s experience with siting a hazardous waste facility in the early 1980s.

Nor does AECL, in either the EIS or Social Aspects, explain its omission of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council’s commissioning of a study of the feasibility of hosting a high-level
nuclear waste repository in northern Saskatchewan – a story that made the news as early as April 1994. In fact, “aboriginal considerations” fill only two pages in Social
Aspects
‘s chapter on site selection, under the heading of “framework for public involvement in siting a nuclear fuel waste disposal facility” (178‑79). Since experience in both Canada and the United States suggests an unusual degree of aboriginal interest in the
hosting of nuclear facilities, AECL’s coverage is inadequate.

AECL also fails to examine voluntary siting processes in a different field: municipal waste disposal. Audrey Armour (1990) describes the Peel Region’s standard (i.e., non-voluntary) process for siting a municipal landfill in a “state-of-the-art” review of facility siting processes commissioned by AECL. The inclusion suggests that municipal landfills are relevant to high-level nuclear waste repositories. If such experience is indeed relevant, AECL has erred in neglecting to review voluntary siting processes for landfills, such as that
utilized by Browning-Ferris Industries in Manitoba.

International
Experience

AECL’s treatment of international siting
experience is even less satisfactory than its treatment of Canadian experience.
Appendix C of the EIS, “Nuclear Fuel
Waste Management in Countries Other Than Canada,” barely touches on siting
processes. And the discussion of siting in Social
Aspects
addresses just one example: the proposed Monitored Retrievable
Storage (MRS) facility in the United States. As
the MRS siting process represents a rare attempt to voluntarily site a
high-level nuclear waste facility, and shares a number of the characteristics
of the siting process proposed by AECL, it merits careful review.
Unfortunately, AECL, devoting just one paragraph to the MRS, fails to produce a
useful analysis. It appears that it has looked at only one source more recent
than 1992. It specifically mentions only the interest expressed by the
Mescalero Apache (165), who are  now
pursuing a storage facility outside of the MRS process. And its discussion
shares the failures listed above, notably a lack of detail on the process, its
reception by potential hosts and the broader community, and its applicability
to the siting of a permanent repository.

Nowhere does AECL discuss unsuccessful international experience with the voluntary siting of
disposal facilities for low-level radioactive waste, hazardous waste, or
municipal waste. Information on the difficulties experienced by, respectively,
Nebraska, Minnesota, or New York would provide insight into how and why
voluntary siting processes may fail and, conversely, what changes may be
required in order for them to succeed.

 

 

Alternative
Methods or Processes

The Environmental Assessment Review Panel
requested more from AECL than a review of case studies: “In order to achieve a
clearer understanding of the concept, in particular the socio‑economic aspects,
the proponent is encouraged to make use of appropriate analogs, natural and
otherwise, appropriate case studies of actual projects, and scenario analyses”
(Guidelines, 2). “Scenario analyses”
should include alternative methods or processes suggested in the siting
literature or tested in related fields. AECL reviews no such scenarios.

One method, recommended by a number of
academics and industry representatives but ignored by AECL, entails the use of
auctions to site controversial facilities. Herbert Inhaber (1991, 1992), for
example, recommends a reverse Dutch auction. Howard Kunreuther and Paul
Kleindorfer (1986), in contrast, suggest a sealed bid auction.

Another method, resting on strong property
rights, would enable individuals affected by nuisances to obtain injunctions
against noxious facilities, in effect giving them veto power over such
facilities. But AECL barely mentions property rights when discussing siting.
While it acknowledges in Social Aspects
that risk includes “the possible loss or diminution of some valued aspect of .
. . the perceived rights of surface land ownership” (115), it fails to discuss
the nature of such rights (perceived or real) and their implications for
siting.


 

AECL’s
Proposed Approach

 

AECL proposes a siting process based on the
principle of voluntarism: “A community would have the right to determine
whether or not it was willing to be a host community” (EIS Summary, 23). AECL’s rationale for recommending a voluntary
process is pragmatic: a voluntary process is more likely to succeed than an involuntary one. As the EIS suggests, “if people near a proposed
site feel they were not . . . offered the right to refuse the facility, then
they would likely oppose the project regardless of the validity of the
arguments for the suitability of the site . . . [P]eople consider the risk of
an activity to be lower or more acceptable if . . . they engage in or accept
the activity voluntarily” (65).

 

AECL remains vague about the details of a
voluntary siting process: “For each community that was willing to be considered
as a potential host for a disposal facility, the approach would be to make the
process fit the community” (EIS Summary,
25). Such flexibility, while potentially admirable in practice, contributes
little information about how the proposed siting process might work. Nor does
it distinguish between the flexibility to do good or to work harm. The Panel
cannot be expected to give AECL free rein in the name of flexibility. AECL should
describe realistic scenarios and recommend minimum standards without
compromising its proposed flexibility.

A number of issues concerning voluntarism
require further discussion or clarification. Specifying who could volunteer for
a facility – defining a host community and distinguishing it from an affected
community – should be a priority. While AECL notes the importance of defining
the boundary of a potential host community (EIS, 66;
Social Aspects
, 107), it offers little guidance. In fact, it is often
intentionally unclear on the issue: “What constitutes the boundaries of a
potential host community would need to be clearly defined during the siting
stage. The boundary could be based, for example, on municipal boundaries. A
potential host community could include more than one administrative unit, such
as several local municipalities or a regional municipality” (Social Aspects, 183).

Even AECL’s efforts to be more precise fail:
“In an area over which a community had jurisdiction, a disposal site would be
sought only with the support of the community. On crown land, a disposal site
would be sought only with the consent of the government that had jurisdiction.
The implementing organization would encourage the government to identify a
potential host community for a disposal facility on crown land in order to
ensure public involvement in siting decisions pertaining to that potential
site. Since a community would have the power to veto the selection of a site within its jurisdiction, this would
ensure that local concerns were addressed and that local criteria for
acceptance were met” (Social Aspects,
174, emphasis added; echoed in EIS
Summary
, 23). It remains unclear if, under AECL’s proposal, a nearby
community would actually have veto power over a facility on Crown land, since
that land would not be within its jurisdiction. Similar questions remain about
the rights of people living in unincorporated areas or living just outside a
potential host community’s boundary.

Another difficulty regarding the definition of
affected communities concerns native lands. While AECL maintains that a “siting
process that adheres to the principle of voluntarism would mean that a disposal
facility would not be imposed on an aboriginal community” (Social Aspects, 179), it offers no specific assurances regarding an
aboriginal community’s traditional lands.

Despite its instructions to include
“definitions of . . . acceptability” and “identification of a variety of
community decision‑making structures, and processes for the incorporation of
these decision‑making structures into site selection decisions” (Guidelines, 9, 35), AECL provides little
guidance on the subject. It notes a number of possible decision-making methods:
“How a community would decide whether or not to participate in siting and
whether and under what conditions it would be prepared to remain in the process
would need to be determined by the community itself. The means by which a
community would express its decision could include resolution by local
municipal councils, recommendations from a citizens’ committee appointed by the
community, or a referendum organized by the community” (Social Aspects, 183; echoed in
EIS
, 67). AECL fails to analyse the merits of these various methods. It
ignores the literature concerning conflicts between communities’ interests and
the interests of their elected politicians. It suggests no method of ensuring
that municipal councils don’t grant themselves powers that the citizens would
rather hold. And it proposes no minimum requirements – for example, support
from a three-quarters majority in a referendum – that potential host
communities must meet. Finally, AECL fails to note that the Canadian process
for siting a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility includes all three of the decision-making
hurdles mentioned in the EIS: both
town councils and special citizens’ committees have had impressive
decision-making authority, and the citizens must approve the proposed
arrangement in a referendum. AECL must explain why the process for nuclear fuel
waste should have fewer safeguards than that for less hazardous low-level
waste.

While allowing some details of the process to
remain flexible, AECL should recommend principles to ensure that the
decision-making process protects citizens against overly-ambitious municipal
governments, protects minorities against majorities, and ensures that an accepted facility is actually an acceptable facility.

Lastly, AECL remains vague about the powers
held by non-host communities affected by the proposed waste repository:
“Potentially affected communities that are not potential host communities would
establish with the implementing organization methods for consultation that
would provide opportunities for their views to be taken into account in
decision making” (Social Aspects, 171‑72;
echoed in EIS Summary, 26). Given the
frequent conflicts between host communities and their neighbours in other
voluntary siting processes, more detail is required to ensure the adequate
protection of those outside of the host’s boundaries.

 


Transportation
Route Selection Methods, Processes, and Experiences

AECL’s
Proposed Approach

 

In contrast to its approach to siting a
disposal facility, AECL does not propose using community acceptance as a
criterion for selecting transportation routes to a disposal facility. While it
notes that during the scoping meetings some suggested “that public approval
should be required in order for nuclear waste to be transported through or near
their community,” and that a 1987 survey showed that, outside of northern
Ontario, “obtaining an endorsement from local municipal officials would make
transportation more acceptable for 53% of Ontarians” (Social Aspects, 103, 104), it excludes voluntarism from its list of
principles governing transportation issues. AECL makes no attempt to justify
its choice of public involvement rather than public control.

AECL’s proposed criteria for public involvement
remain vague. Although required to discuss “public involvement with decisions
concerning the choices of transport modes, routes, and methods of operation” (Guidelines, 40), AECL proposes no
specific methods of involving the affected public in transportation choices.
Instead, it merely states, circularly, “The organization(s) would consult with
communities along the potential transportation routes to establish a procedure
to seek and address their views” (EIS,
161). Nor does it attempt to ensure that public input is meaningful or that,
with route selection occurring after site identification (EIS, 161), certain routes do not become inevitable, making
consultation a sham.

 

Finding
a Volunteer Host: The Components of a Successful Voluntary Siting Process

 

Individual
or Community Control

AECL identifies control as a key component of a
successful voluntary siting process. It explains in the EIS, “Research into people’s perception of risk . . . suggests that
people consider the risk of an activity to be lower or more acceptable if . . .
they believe they have some ability to control the risk” (65). Further detail
appears in Social Aspects:
“Experience in the United
States . .
. indicates that more control over the operation of the facility by local
people was the most important factor in obtaining the community’s acceptance. .
. . In 1988, a survey commissioned by AECL asked Canadians what conditions
would make siting a nuclear waste disposal facility near their community more
acceptable to them, and it was found that people considered community control
in siting decisions and independent monitoring of the facility (another way of
facilitating control) by far the most important” (129‑30).

AECL proposes a process of undefined community
control: “Each potential host community, and later the host community, would
share in decision making as negotiated” (EIS
Summary
, 23). Leaving details to be negotiated at a later date should not
excuse AECL from supplying sufficient detail to enable the Panel to envision
specific realistic processes, their effectiveness, their limits, and their
implications.

AECL fails to examine the importance, in
previous or current voluntary siting processes, of empowering prospective host
communities to choose their preferred disposal method. Likewise, it ignores the
potential role of this element of community control in its proposed method of
siting a high-level nuclear waste facility; it simply assumes that the siting
process will involve a single deep geological repository. Although required by
the Panel to discuss “the implication of a number of separate or dispersed
disposal facilities” (Guidelines,
12), nowhere does AECL examine whether multiple long-term disposal sites might
be more easily sited than one repository. Nor, despite the requirement to
examine long-term above ground storage  (Guidelines, 12), does it analyse whether
monitored retrievable storage (be it at a centralized facility or at power
generation sites) would be more sitable still.

 

Compensation
and Incentives

In the EIS,
AECL acknowledges compensation’s key role in encouraging people to accept a
potential risky facility: “Research into people’s perception of risk . . .
suggests that people consider the risk of an activity to be lower or more
acceptable if . . . they benefit from the activity” (65). In Social Aspects it notes, “Researchers
suggest that the adverse perception of risk might be reduced more easily by
increasing the salience of associated benefits than attempting to convince the
public that the risks are small” (131).

AECL pays surprisingly little attention to financial compensation and incentives,
either when analysing experience elsewhere or when proposing a siting process
for a Canadian high-level nuclear waste facility. While it describes measures –
job creation and the provision of various amenities – used to “manage” the
socio-economic impacts of other projects (EIS,
198), its analysis of other siting experiences contains virtually nothing on
the role of financial incentives. In some cases, such as the siting process for
an MRS facility in the United States (where communities were offered $100,000
for merely expressing a non-binding initial interest in considering a facility,
and can expect to receive $10 million annually for hosting an operating
facility), AECL’s oversight is inexcusable.

AECL also fails to examine alternative
compensation methods suggested in the literature regarding both siting and
liability. An analysis of the potential role of auctions, community buy-outs,
and the payment of damages for nuisances (including perceived risks) under
common law property rights regimes would assist the Panel considerably in
making an informed decision.

As with other issues, AECL’s proposal for
compensation is unacceptably vague. Benefits, it sensibly suggests, “would be
negotiated with the host community” (Social
Aspects
, 176). Although it implies that benefits might be significant,
leaving a community “better off than it would have been without the facility” (Social Aspects, 203), nowhere does it
suggest their possible magnitude. Here, again, an examination of experience
elsewhere would be useful. For example, the United States
proposes to make annual payments of $20 million to benefit the community that
ultimately hosts a permanent high-level nuclear waste disposal facility. A
successful voluntary process could well require greater incentives. Such
incentive levels could have a considerable impact on the budget and should be
discussed fully and frankly.

AECL expresses concern that offering financial
incentives to host a facility “could be perceived as bribery. . . . Extreme
care should be exercised in negotiating trade‑offs so as to avoid the
perception that there is an attempt to “bribe” local residents to accept
project risks” (Social Aspects, 112,
135‑36). It does not, however, present opposing views, such as Herbert
Inhaber’s (1991, 1992) suggestion that such a concern is unfounded since
incentives share none of bribery’s three essential characteristics; unlike
bribes, incentives are not used in pursuit of an illegal act, they are not
offered under the table, and they are not specifically targeted.

AECL’s treatment of compensation for the
adverse impact of transportation is also unsatisfactory. It fails to review
others’ experience, such as the Ontario Waste Management Corporation’s
consideration of compensating those along routes to its proposed toxic waste facility
or Browning-Ferris Industries’ policy for compensating those along roads
leading to the Ridge municipal landfill near Blenheim, Ontario.
Furthermore, it is unclear whether – and how
– AECL proposes to compensate people along its transportation routes.
While it suggests “managing effects” (Social
Aspects
, 191), it makes no mention of monetary compensation.

Waste
Reduction

AECL makes it very clear that it does not
intend to discuss the role of waste reduction in the siting of controversial
facilities: the “terms of reference excluded consideration of reduction of the
waste at source by reducing the generation of nuclear energy. . . . The
question of how widely nuclear power is utilized, or how provinces choose to
generate electricity, is not something that can be answered by the waste
disposal concept. The concept is designed only to provide a means for the safe
disposal of the waste that has already been produced, continues to be produced,
and may be produced in the future” (Social
Aspects
, 64).

Although AECL acknowledges that other aspects
of the nuclear fuel cycle may influence the public’s perception of the disposal
concept (Social Aspects, ii), it
fails to note that some, such as Barry Rabe (1991, 1994), consider waste
reduction to be a critical element in successful voluntary siting process. If
reducing waste at the source is essential to ensuring a successful siting
effort, the option must be included in a comprehensive discussion of the
process. AECL should, at a minimum, examine the role of waste reduction in
other successful voluntary siting processes and comment on how its own failure
to consider waste reduction may affect the replicability of these processes.


Trusted
Institutions

AECL discusses the importance of trusted
institutions in the voluntary siting of controversial facilities. Obviously,
people are more likely to accept facilities perceived to be less risky. And,
AECL explains, “Research into people’s perception of risk . . . suggests that
people consider the risk of an activity to be lower or more acceptable if . . .
they trust the organization responsible for the activity” (EIS, 65).

Furthermore, AECL notes “a lack of confidence
in government and industry” (Social
Aspects
, 61; also see 62, 64) and that “building trust is much more
difficult than losing it” (Social Aspects,
132). It does not, however, pursue the matter or its implications for the
proposed siting process. It fails to examine the public perceptions of the
institutions involved in previous successful and unsuccessful siting
experiences, how they differed from public perceptions of Canada’s nuclear
institutions (including AECL itself), and how the differences might affect the
applicability of the experiences in one field to that in another. Of course,
these considerations should also influence Canada’s
choice of “implementing organizations” for nuclear fuel waste management and
disposal.

The
Likelihood of Success: Predicting Site Availability

Not surprisingly, the Panel instructed AECL to
comment on the likelihood that its proposed siting process would actually
result in the selection of a site. The discussion of options in the site
selection process, it said,  should
include “potential availability of sites in Canada” (Guidelines, 35). It should also include
“an analysis of the uncertainties involved in the identification and
characterization of candidate sites . . . and the consequences of these
uncertainties” (Guidelines, 34).

AECL never clearly addresses the issue of
potential site availability. Its comments on the subject seem contradictory. On
one hand, it notes the historic unpopularity of the prospect of hosting a
disposal facility: “A 1984 survey showed that 14% of Ontario
residents (up from 8% in 1983) and 22% of northern Ontarians would favour a
disposal facility near their community, provided the disposal method was found
to be safe” (Social Aspects, 35).

The unpopularity of nuclear waste disposal
facilities does not, on the other hand, prevent AECL from assuming that its
proposed siting process will be successful: “The application of these
principles of safety and environmental protection, voluntarism, shared decision‑making,
openness, and fairness could result in a site for a nuclear fuel waste disposal
facility that is both technically and socially acceptable” (Social Aspects, 195). A process based on
these principles, it adds more confidently, “would be likely to succeed” (Social Aspects, 203). It even suggests
that the process may be too
successful – that it may produce multiple candidate sites (Social Aspects, 185, 188).

AECL does not, however, address the opposite
possibility. It completely ignores the likelihood or consequences of failure.
It suggests no course of action in the event that no community volunteers to
host a site. It hints at one option: “some people feel that some caution is
required in granting host communities the power to veto siting, arguing that if
all potential host communities voted against a site, the facility would have to
be imposed on some community, which may not be the safest or fairest method” (Social Aspects, 108). It says nothing
about the option of increasing the financial incentives offered to potential
host communities. And it doesn’t explore the possibility of exporting waste to
a volunteer community south of the border. That option it dismisses without any
discussion of the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement or examination of
whether Canada’s waste would be welcome in an American MRS facility: “Although
there is extensive co‑operation among nations producing electricity from
nuclear energy to exchange information on nuclear waste disposal, Canada cannot
expect to dispose of its nuclear fuel waste in another country” (EIS Summary, 6).

Ethical
Considerations

Individual
Rights v. Community Rights

In responding to the Panel’s request that its
discussion of options in the site selection process include “a framework of
ethical considerations for site selection” (Guidelines,
35), AECL examines several philosophical perspectives on the nature and extent
of individual rights. AECL’s comments on the issue can be found primarily in Social Aspects. There it presents the
debate as one between utilitarianism, egalitarianism, and libertarianism (xiv‑xv).
AECL admits that “there does not appear to be agreement on which ethical
framework is best suited to siting a nuclear fuel waste disposal facility”
(172). In fact, it suggests that competing ethical frameworks may be
irreconcilable, noting “a clash between at least two different value systems
(societal rights and individual rights), neither of which accepts the premises
upon which the other operates” (143). Regardless, AECL firmly rejects
libertarianism in favour of  a modified
utilitarianism.

AECL’s use of the libertarian label is
confusing: it could apply to all those who advocate individual liberty, or it
could apply only to those who embrace a particular political philosophy or
party. AECL limits its discussion of individual rights to contemporary
libertarian philosophers, giving no indication of the breadth or depth of philosophical
interest in the issue. It doesn’t, for example, even mention liberalism, whose
founder, the seventeenth-century English philosopher John Locke, drew on a
long-established legal tradition of respect for individual rights.

AECL fails to explain its dismissal of a siting
approach based on respect for individual rights. Although it suggests that a
rights-based approach could not account for the needs of future generations
(144), it neither supports this conclusion nor reconciles it with the inherent
respect for others’ rights
traditionally found in rights-based approaches. Nor does it explore siting
processes that respect individual rights, or give any indication of whether
such processes could fruitfully be applied to the siting of nuclear waste facilities.
Nowhere does it examine the possibility that a siting approach based on
individual rights might be more palatable and therefore more likely to succeed.

This entry was posted in Nuclear Power, Nuclear Safety, Power Generation in Ontario. Bookmark the permalink.

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