Nuclear Waste: Exploring the Ethical Dilemmas


176 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55134-116-6
DDC 363.72'896'0971




Reviewed by Richard G. Kuhn

Richard G. Kuhn is an associate professor of geography at the University
of Guelph.


Controversy has surrounded the development and use of nuclear power in
Canada and many other countries. Although the expansion of nuclear power
has halted in Canada, major challenges face the industry. Of particular
importance is the management of spent nuclear fuel. To date, no country
has implemented a permanent nuclear fuel waste-disposal facility.
Options considered have included burial in the Antarctic ice sheet,
geological medium, or the seabed; disposal in space; long-term storage;
reprocessing, transmutation, or retrievable geological disposal. Deep
and permanent geological burial is the method most favored by the
nuclear, scientific, and regulatory community and the option that most
countries are pursuing. However, there is not unanimous agreement as to
what should be done with nuclear fuel waste in order to close the
nuclear fuel cycle.

The proposed Canadian solution consists of deep geological burial in
rock formation on the Canadian Shield. An environmental assessment of
this proposal began in 1989 and was completed in 1998. Lois Wilson was a
member of the environmental assessment panel. In a real sense, this book
is a rebuttal and challenge to what she sees as an overly narrow
technocratic focus of the assessment of the safety and acceptability of
geological disposal. Her emphasis is on the social and ethical issues
raised in the nuclear fuel waste debate. Specifically, she focuses on
the submission made to the assessment panel by the United Church of
Canada. The book is part diary and personal impressions she gained while
traveling across the country in role as a panel member. It presents
anecdotes and details her concern with issues raised by local resident
groups, environmental organizations, and First Nations.

Nuclear Waste will appeal primarily to readers familiar with or
involved in the assessment of Canadian nuclear fuel waste management. It
provides an extremely useful counterpoint to the environmental impact
statement released in 1994, as well as to the panel recommendation and
the government response, both released in 1998. The writing style is
engaging and the author’s sense of purpose and commitment is clearly


Wilson, Lois M., “Nuclear Waste: Exploring the Ethical Dilemmas,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,