Linda Soneryd and Rolf Lidskog ACCOUNTABILITY AND (IR)REVERSIBILITY The deep repository [for spent high level radio-active fuel] is designed in such a way that it is possible for future generations to retrieve the fuel if they want to do something else with it. (SKB Website)1 When the hazard level of planned physical enterprises is high and something goes wrong, traditional forms of political accountability fall short of the mark. To replace the government after general elections or to force discredited politicians to leave during their mandated period seem to be inadequate measures for acting on decisions that could result in an irreversible impact on the environment – decisions such as the granting of large infrastructure investments or the establishment of nuclear power plants. Similarly, when there are many uncertainties about the implications of technological developments and when adequate evidence of their negative impact can be seen only after the applications have been in use for a long time, traditional mechanisms such as supervision, monitoring or inspection seem inadequate. For example, biotechnological developments have caused public debates about long-term, cumulative and irreversible eﬀects on humans and the environment – eﬀects that could occur in spite of many control mechanisms. As the opening quote of this chapter indicates, there is always one intricate question involved in thinking about technologies with long-term and uncertain impact: how to take future generations into consideration. This issue is particularly important in discussions over the planned ﬁnal disposal of spent nuclear fuel. The quote could...
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