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Stepwise Approach to the Long‐Term Management of Radioactive Waste1

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Stepwise decision making has long been utilised as a tool for handling the technical complexity of radioactive waste management (RWM). Recently, it is being recognised as a useful means to address social complexities. This paper reviews—through a number of examples—the current developments regarding the stepwise approach to managing long-lived wastes from a societal point of view with the aim of pinpointing where it stands, highlighting its social dimensions, and identifying guiding principles and issues in implementation. It is observed that there is convergence between the approach taken by the practitioners of RWM and the indications received from social research, and that general guiding principles can be distilled from the analysis of RWM case histories. The paper concludes that a stepwise approach to decision-making indeed constitutes an effective tool, and that competing requirements of social sustainability and efficiency, openness and analytical rigour will need to be balanced. A long-term process of decision-making incorporating the views of national and local stakeholders will very likely be a difficult process to implement. The concrete arrangements for sketching out and agreeing on decision phases, for selecting and involving stakeholders in a participatory process, and for adapting institutions to meet long-term requirements, will require careful reflection and tuning in each national context.

Keywords: Radioactive waste; adoptive management; stepwise approach

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, France 2: Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Sociology, Budapest, Hungary

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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