Projected futures: the political matter of UK higher activity radioactive waste
This paper identifies, and works from, the technoconceptual as a site of intervention for a politics of stuff. Its case is radioactive waste: specifically, UK higher activity wastes (HAW) and the policy future of a UK Deep Geological Disposal Facility (DGF). The paper proceeds through three steps. It charts, first, the unravelling of HAW as onto-politics through the democratisation of technoscience, showing that, as the gap between stuff and politics has opened, HAW’s future in a DGF has become the preserve of science–technical discourses (currently geology and engineered design). Secondly, it joins with the undone-science traditions of STS (science, technology, and society), to critique existing technoscientific conceptualisations of a DGF and to anticipate a future in which a DGF is abandoned. Third, and in response to abandonment, it proposes a different future for a DGF. This starts from thinking radioactive waste as ‘thing power’ but argues that, for a DGF to be materialised in ways that forge attachments with publics, requires a turn to material culture. More broadly, the paper argues that furthering onto-politics requires keeping the demos alive to stuff’s vitality. This means engaging in political settlements of technoscientific controversies; with old, or established, technologies, and ‘cold’ politics; and in politics as practised. Keywords: radioactive waste, materiality, deep geological disposal, onto-politics, UK
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