The Ethics of Nuclear Waste in Canada

November 18, 2009 :: Ethan Wilding
Moderated by Tom Cain


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 his talk Ethan Wilding will show that the ethical principles, as formulated by the NWMO, are either (a) seriously vague or unhelpful; or (b), where substantial and helpful, the nature of the practice show that many of the requirements 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.

Speaker: Ethan Wilding

Ethan Wilding is a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo. He has taught several courses on Applied Ethics, and is currently a sessional lecturer in the department of philosophy at the University of Lethbridge.

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