The Ethical Case for Geological Disposal

There is a simple question to ask:  we are the generation which uses electricity generated by nuclear power, and gets health benefits from MRI scanners, so should we take responsibility for clearing up our own waste, or should we just leave the problem lying around and hope some future generation can sort the mess out for us?

Those responsible for initially developing nuclear technology in the mid-20th Century gave little regard to waste management.  Sellafield is testament to the mess that can be created if you don’t think about what to do with the radioactive waste you are creating.

In the 21st Century we have become a more environmentally-conscious society, and at GDFWatch we believe in the simple mantra:

We are not going to leave our grandchildren’s generation with the radioactive mess our grandparent’s generation left us

In addition to the principle of “doing the right thing”, there are also practical issues which make geological disposal the ethical way forward, eg:

  • Although stored very safely on the surface at the moment, common sense dictates that the longer radioactive waste is kept at ground level (in ever-increasing amounts) you can only be increasing the risk of something going wrong — no matter how small that risk, why take it when you can permanently remove it?
  • There are significant training, skills and job opportunities associated with building and operating a GDF, and then selling that knowledge to a large global market for nuclear decommissioning – why would we want to deny these jobs opportunities to our children and grandchildren when we can provide them with the skills, work and life choices now?

There are legitimate and inevitable concerns people will have about geological disposal.  Ensuring those concerns are dealt with is one of GDFWatch’s primary missions.

However, we believe the situation is now all about how we geologically dispose of our waste, not if we should geologically dispose of it.

The ethical case for geological disposal has been discussed extensively around the world.  If you want further information, a starting point might be this summary report from the OECD-NEA.

There is also a very thought-provoking film, Into Eternity, about geological disposal.  Before you commit an hour and half of your life, you can get an initial summary and explanation of the film from this review in The Guardian newspaper.