Research Projects and Publications

An Exploration of Critical Junctures for Public Participation in Multinational Final Nuclear Waste Disposal

Economics, Policy and Business

Author: Anja Kathrin Ruess
Year: 2018
Supervisor:  Ágúst Vafells


The question of final nuclear waste disposal challenges traditional means of decision making in regard to both technological uncertainty and societal conflict. Until now, public participation and multinational cooperation in repository planning have been considered independent fields of research. This study combines the two aspects by investigating citizen participation in the context of multinational final nuclear waste disposal. More precisely, the aim is to assess whether public participation in a multinational repository scenario requires harmonization and to identify critical junctures. The research question is addressed in a case study comparing Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands by means of qualitative and quantitative content analysis. The main research focus is placed on public participation from a political point of view, while the technological and legal dimensions are considered as boundary conditions. Key results include the delineation and qualitative characterization of national approaches to public participation in Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. Variations are found to persist despite similar democratic systems and integration in a common (EU) legal framework. Moreover, critical junctures emerge from discrepancies in technological path dependencies, specifically in regard to waste inventory composition and expected future sources of waste. The national legal frameworks, on the other hand, are not found to hinder a joint participation strategy. In sum, this thesis highlights that public participation requires harmonization among partner states, which includes not only the technical problem definition, but also a common understanding of nationally distinct notions of citizen involvement.