AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

The Ethics of Nuclear Waste in Canada: Risks, Harms and Unfairness.

by Ethan Wilding

Institution: University of Waterloo
Year: 2010
Keywords: philosophy; ethics; nuclear; policy; waste; radioactivity
Record ID: 1876172
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10012/5143


The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO)  – the crown corporation responsible for the long-term storage of nuclear fuel waste in Canada  – seeks to bury our nuclear fuel waste deep in the Canadian Shield, with the provisions that the waste is monitored and remains retrievable for possible future use. To ensure that its solution is ethically acceptable, the NWMO established a set of requirements which, if satisfied, would successfully discharge its ethical obligations to both present and future generations. Those requirements include the obligation to justify its practice, minimize risk, clearly identify all of the relevant costs and risks of harm, abide by the precautionary principle, obtain fully informed consent from potentially affected individuals, and distribute the risk fairly across multiple generations. In this document I show that the ethical principles, as formulated by the NWMO, are either (a) seriously vague and unhelpful; or (b), where substantial and helpful, the nature of the practice show that many of the principles cannot be satisfied. As a final result, it is deeply questionable whether nuclear power in general, and especially the current solution to nuclear waste in particular, can ever be deemed ethical in Canada.