Technical safety vs. public involvement? A case study on the unrealized project for the disposal of nuclear waste at Wellenberg (Switzerland)

Pius Krütli, Thomas Flüeler, Michael Stauffacher, Arnim Wiek, Roland W. Scholz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    29 Scopus citations


    The disposal of radioactive waste is a striking example with which to trace the changing relationship between technology, society and policy when dealing with societally relevant controversial issues. The change is characterized by a transition from a technocratic approach to an approach with more intense cooperation and public participation. We analyze the societal discourse of a failed disposal project for low- and intermediate-level waste at the Mount Wellenberg site, Canton of Nidwalden (Central Switzerland). Insights are based on a case study in 2006, with focus groups, expert interviews, a media analysis, a representative canton-wide postal survey and targeted in-depth stakeholder interviews. The article focuses on the relationship of safety and process aspects. The data suggest that both are prime issues and people recognize the need for disposal of radioactive waste in a technical system but only if a fair procedure is guaranteed. We conclude that a sound balance between safety and procedural aspects needs to be found and thus a functional-dynamic view of public involvement is necessary, i.e. distinct levels of involvement (ranging from mere information up to empowerment) must fit the corresponding technical and non-technical requirements of a stepwise decisionmaking process.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)229-244
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Integrative Environmental Sciences
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 1 2010



    • Fairness
    • Nuclear waste repository
    • Public involvement
    • Safety

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
    • Environmental Science(all)
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

    Cite this