Framing Ethical Acceptability: A Problem with Nuclear Waste in Canada

TitleFraming Ethical Acceptability: A Problem with Nuclear Waste in Canada
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWilding, ET
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Volume18
Issue2
Pagination301 - 313
Date Published6/2012
ISSN Number14715546
KeywordsENGINEERING , ENVIRONMENTAL , ENVIRONMENTAL ethics , Environmental Sciences , ethical , Informed , Nuclear
AbstractEthical frameworks are often used in professional fields as a means of providing explicit ethical guidance for individuals and institutions when confronted with ethically important decisions. The notion of an ethical framework has received little critical attention, however, and the concept subsequently lends itself easily to misuse and ambiguous application. This is the case with the ‘ethical framework’ offered by Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), the crown-corporation which owns and is responsible for the long-term management of Canada’s high-level nuclear fuel waste. It makes a very specific claim, namely that it is managing Canada’s long-lived radioactive nuclear fuel waste in an ethically responsible manner. According to this organization, what it means to behave in an ethically responsible manner is to act and develop policy in accordance with its ethical framework. What, then, is its ethical framework, and can it be satisfied? In this paper I will show that the NWMO’s ethical and social framework is deeply flawed in two respects: (a) it fails to meet the minimum requirements of a code of ethic or ethical framework by offering only questions, and no principles or rules of conduct; and (b) if posed as principles or rules of conduct, some of its questions are unsatisfiable. In particular, I will show that one of its claims, namely that it seek informed consent from individuals exposed to risk of harm from nuclear waste, cannot be satisfied as formulated. The result is that the NWMO’s ethical framework is not, at present, ethically acceptable.
DOI10.1007/s11948-011-9262-6
Short TitleSci Eng Ethics
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