Burying Uncertainty: Risk and the Case Against Geological Disposal of Nuclear Waste

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University of California Press, 1993 M12 3 - 368 pages
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Shrader-Frechette looks at current U.S. government policy regarding the nation's high-level radioactive waste both scientifically and ethically.

What should be done with our nation's high-level radioactive waste, which will remain hazardous for thousands of years? This is one of the most pressing problems faced by the nuclear power industry, and current U.S. government policy is to bury "radwastes" in specially designed deep repositories.

K. S. Shrader-Frechette argues that this policy is profoundly misguided on both scientific and ethical grounds. Scientifically—because we cannot trust the precision of 10,000-year predictions that promise containment of the waste. Ethically—because geological disposal ignores the rights of present and future generations to equal treatment, due process, and free informed consent.

Shrader-Frechette focuses her argument on the world's first proposed high-level radioactive waste facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Analyzing a mass of technical literature, she demonstrates the weaknesses in the professional risk-assessors' arguments that claim the site is sufficiently safe for such a plan. We should postpone the question of geological disposal for at least a century and use monitored, retrievable, above-ground storage of the waste until then. Her message regarding radwaste is clear: what you can't see can hurt you.
 

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Contents

1 The Riddle of Nuclear Waste
1
2 Understanding the Origins of the Problem
11
3 Reliance on Value Judgments in Repository Risk Assessment
27
4 Subjective Estimates of Repository Risks
39
5 Subjective Evaluations of Repository Risks
75
6 Problematic Inferences in Assessing Repository Risks
103
An Obstacle to Geological Disposal
160
An Obstacle to Geological Disposal
182
9 An Alternative to Permanent Geological Disposal
213
Notes
253
Index of Names
329
Index of Subjects
337
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Page xii - Expert Judgment in Assessing Radwaste Risks." Any opinions expressed in this book, however, are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of either the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, or the state of Nevada.

About the author (1993)

K. S. Shrader-Frechette is Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Florida and is the author of twelve books including Risk and Rationality (California, 1990).

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