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A new epistemic community in nuclear waste governance? Theoretical reflections and empirical observations on some fundamental challenges

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Abstract:

Discourses around nuclear waste were, for decades, dominated by techn(ocrat)ic debates. The respective international group of experts can be understood as an epistemic community (Haas 1992), as this community impacts on the way an issue is perceived and discussed. Yet, nuclear waste is not only a technical, but also a so-called socio-technical problem, and hence the discourses have been broadened. Lately, risk communication has become ubiquitous in discussions on the siting of nuclear waste across the globe. Lay knowledge, risk perception, involvement and procedural justice are some of the terms used and negotiated here. Thus, the question can be posed as to whether this trend will lead to the development of a new epistemic community that also includes experts on social scientific aspects. Using a set of different sources, we demonstrate potential difficulties in the mutual understanding of interdisciplinary teams in nuclear waste governance. We conclude by arguing that epistemological differences and structural challenges are so fundamental that it is unlikely that a new epistemic community will be able to develop.

Keywords: epistemic community; interdisciplinarity; international organizations; nuclear waste; risk communication; sociology of science

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/cjcs.2.2.197_1

Affiliations: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH).

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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  • The Catalan Journal of Communication and Cultural Studies (CJCS) is committed to publishing research and theoretical articles in the fields of media studies, popular culture and cinema, public relations and advertising studies, social communication, new media, language uses in the media, communication and cultural policies, social and national identities, gender studies, sports and leisure, tourism and heritage, among other related issues. CJCS publishes double blind peer-reviewed articles and its aims and scope cover not only Catalan media and cultural systems but also other social contexts.
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