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Conflicts and barriers in decision-making with respect to nuclear waste management. Effects of deliberative procedures in internationally comparing perspectives

Conflicts and barriers in decision-making with respect to nuclear waste management. Effects of deliberative procedures in internationally comparing perspectives
Project team:

Hocke, Peter (Project leader); Sophie Kuppler; Melanie Mbah

Start date:


End date:


Research group:

Knowledge society and knowledge policy

Project description

Today, negotiation-oriented forms of conflict management are a recognized instrument in managing conflicts about the employment of complex technologies where stakeholders get involved as much as civil society players and governmental organizations. The application of these forms of conflict management and the implementation of the corresponding results in robust decisions are, however, most difficult tasks and their success can hardly be guaranteed. The controversy on the management of highly radioactive waste has been an unsolved problem for more than 30 years in this context. The current state of research refers to conflicts between stakeholders and other actors involved in order to explain the patterns and effects of decision-making processes. Especially the difficulties in aggregating the stakeholders’ and actors’ different positions are a central focus in the analysis of processes of interest aggregation. These difficulties are also present in German and Swiss final disposal politics.

The effects of the various modes of decision-making which are part of the official final disposal policies in the two countries are analyzed by means of comparison of the two countries and are interpreted in relation to the public and the power industry’s discourse. Based on this, the employed deliberative elements that are meant to process the publically presented concerns are studied. Dialog-oriented forms of political negotiation are highly persuasive due to the necessity to aim at broadly supported final disposal policies under the condition of sharp public dispute between central stakeholders (political parties, NIMBY politics in the case of some stakeholders, etc.).

Conceptually, the research concept is based on arguments of governance research and of sociology of the public sphere.

It must be treated as a pending question if the dialog-oriented forms of political deliberation have positive effects on interest aggregation and on decision-making in this highly politicized conflict around nuclear waste management and if they can contribute to high-quality decision-making processes. Germany and Switzerland are both countries with substantial nuclear power quota, different political cultures, and professional expertise in the field of nuclear waste management. An analysis of the intended political reform concepts in those two countries allows the examination of the effects of the planned processes of argumentative weighing of interests in decision preparation as well as the ones of the following political decisions. A key question in this is whether the attempts to integrate the central stakeholders in the decision-making process do influence the interest aggregation, help to clarify the different alternatives in decision-making in a stepwise approach and if they systematically relate those alternatives to each other. Integrating forms of interest aggregation are to be rated as an important requirement in this context in order to take up the barriers in decision-making in a constructive way and to make them, in their own sense of logics, accessible to consulting.

Research co-operations are planned with the ETH Zurich, the Freie Universität Berlin and the Institute for Applied Ecology, Darmstadt.

This research project is loosely related to an activity that involves scientific political counseling, which is carried out by ITAS. Since 2006, Dr. Peter Hocke is a member of the "Expertengruppe Schweizer Tiefenlager" (EschT), an organization, which operates on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and that supports the regional German "Begleitkommission" (BeKo) and the BMU within the process of the Swiss sectoral plan for a final nuclear disposal site with statements and consulting services (see www.escht.de).

In this context, the ITAS activities within the national controversy on final nuclear disposal are also relevant. On a national level, ITAS supported several dialog-oriented activities of the BMU that contributed to a civic processing of the German conflict on final nuclear disposal from March 2008 to December 2010 (Forum Endlager-Dialog, International "Endlager-Symposium" Berlin 2008). more


Stand der Arbeiten:

At present, the concept and the theoretical framework as well as the work division within the project are being developed further. A special focus is laid on the final nuclear disposal technologies and on the dimensions that are thereby relevant for technology assessment. Further publications are in progress.

The work of Sophie Kuppler (ITAS) for her PhD thesis is tightly linked to this project (Start: January 2010).


Hocke, P.; Renn, O.
Concerned public and the paralysis of decision-making: nuclear waste management policy in Germany. In: Journal of Risk Research 12/7+8(2009)7-8, S. 921-940

Hocke, P.; Grunwald, A.
Wohin mit dem radioaktiven Abfall? Perspektiven für eine sozialwissenschaftliche Endlagerforschung, Berlin (Reihe: Gesellschaft - Technik - Umwelt, Neue Folge Bd. 8). Neuauflage als Elektronisches Buch (Verlag: edition sigma; erschienen: 26.02.2009) (1.A.: 2006



Dr. Peter Hocke
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-26893