Long-term repository governance : a socio-technical challengeLong-term repository governance : a socio-technical challenge
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
Society and Environment
Journal of risk research. - London
18(2015):3, p. 378-391
University of Antwerp
As geological disposal (GD) of higher activity radioactive wastes seems to be moving towards implementation in some countries (most prominently perhaps in Finland and Sweden), this paper reflects on a number of governance questions this raises. We highlight the near long-term governance of such repositories (that is to say the process beginning with construction and finishing when closure is fully completed). This time period comes into view when the implementation process shifts from siting to hosting. The notion of hosting emphasises the relationship between the repository and its host community. A relationship that demands, we argue in this paper, a re-figuration of the geography and temporality of GD. Hosting a geological disposal facility brings with it specific socio-technical challenges, i.e. problems which involve both social and technical adjustments, as well as reconfigurations of the boundary between them. In this paper, we discuss three such challenges, namely complexity (due to the changes in spatial organisation), residual risk (referring to events that are not accidents, but sub-critical in relation to hazards or anomalies in relation to expectations) and perpetual uncertainty (with respect to both scientific knowledge and societal decision-making). As such, the question of the long-term governance of geological repositories is not specific to the post-Fukushima era. However, we do see a strong link between this question and the question of the (long-term) governance of major accident sites, of which Fukushima figures as one of the most poignant examples, and which also face issues of complexity, residual risk and perpetual uncertainty.