Geology as Unconforming Infrastructure For the Hosting of Nuclear Waste

Engineering the containment of nuclear waste



As the dramatic consequences of climate change finally begin to motivate governments around the world to explore how to move away from a dependence on fossil fuels, nuclear power is back on the agenda in the UK as a potential energy source. However, this new-found enthusiasm confronts a fundamental challenge—namely, that the radioactive wastes, accumulating since the very first nuclear power stations were built in the 1950s, have yet to be made safe for the long-term future. At the governmental level, there is a clear international commitment to the view that the most secure option for the management of radioactive waste matter is burial deep underground in an engineered geological disposal facility (GDF). Finland leads the international field, and the repository at Onkalo is expected to be fully operational by 2025. The Swedish government approved plans for the construction of an underground repository for spent nuclear fuel in 2022, with Canada, France, Japan, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA all actively engaged in siting and design initiatives. Strategies for generating public acceptance of geological disposal vary, as do the modes of engagement, the investments of time and money afforded, and the decision-making processes. These processes are conceptually and politically challenging. They require not only technical expertise and scientific understanding across an entire range of disciplines, but also the imaginative capacity to think across scales of time and space in what Ele Carpenter (2016: 14) has suggestively referred to as ‘reverse mining’.




How to Cite

Harvey, P. (2024). Geology as Unconforming Infrastructure For the Hosting of Nuclear Waste: Engineering the containment of nuclear waste. Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 48(2), 67–83.