The long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste is one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Increasing quantities of nuclear waste in temporary storage and renewed interest in nuclear energy in light of concerns for climate change have amplified concerns. Historically, the siting of long-term nuclear waste facilities has been mired with public controversy, often driven top-down, and often ultimately unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Canada has a nuclear waste siting approach that is community-driven, adaptive, and engaged, focusing on the search for an “informed and willing host”. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in Canada, this dissertation research examines Canada’s waste siting process as it unfolds in two communities in an existing nuclear landscape in Southern Ontario, analyzing the extent to which Canada’s approach is fair, transparent, and just. In this presentation, I will explore one aspect of this research which scrutinizes the role of geography and local context in shaping how fair or just a process is. I seek to explain contradictions of context, or how a well-intended nuclear waste siting policy may get translated into unfair process by being influenced by local context, specifically the local nuclear landscape and accompanying socio-politics.
Marissa Bell is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geography at SUNY University at Buffalo, where she earned her master’s in geography. Interested in energy justice, environmental governance, and political economy of risk, her dissertation examines fairness and justice in nuclear waste siting in Canada.