Care for the Future. Acting in an Uncertain World.

Seminar with Luis Aparicio
What if future generations found more satisfactory methods of dealing with high-level nuclear waste? What if one day the technical capabilities of our distant descendants made it possible to transform this waste into a resource? Is final disposal in contradiction to the scientific approach?

Political debates often refer to “our responsibilities to future generations”. Health care, education, environment, labor – we all know of the controversies that force us to relate to our futures. But how do we act in an uncertain world, find decisions, and take care of the future? Decision-making involves democratic governmental demands, it involves experts and lay-persons, it produces publics. As citizens we learn that science and technology plays a considerable role in each of these issues and that often political, economic and ethical problems are inseparably linked to scientific and technical questions.

France has set the concept of reversibility at the core of its high-level radioactive waste management policy. The French approach on reversibility stands out as it grants the next generation the possibility of making its own choices, providing the necessary means and resources. It thus goes beyond mere waste package retrievability during at least a century.

In the seminar, together with our guest, we would like to use the deep underground disposal of nuclear waste as an example to discuss the political qualities of technology, and whether and how different decision-making models – as well as specific approaches to safety – are inscribed within technical devices. What procedures allow nuclear waste to be made ‘governable’?

Luis Aparicio is in charge of Social Sciences and Humanities research at Andra, the French Radioactive Waste Management Agency, since 2008. He holds a PhD in “Science, Technology and Society” from Strasbourg University (2005) and teaches a course on Technical Democracy at Paris-Descartes University. He has edited the book “Making nuclear waste governable. Deep underground disposal and the challenge of reversibility” (Springer, 2010).