Authors: Erik Laes & Gunter Bombaerts

This paper aims to open up high-level waste management practices to a political philosophical questioning, beyond the enclosure implied by the normative ethics approaches that prevail in the literature. Building on previous insights derived from mediation theory (in particular the work of Verbeek and Dorrestijn), Foucault and science and technology studies (in particular Jasanoff’s work on socio-technical imaginaries), mediation theory’s appropriation of Foucauldian insights is shown to be in need of modification and further extension. In particular, we modify Dorrestijn’s figure of “technical determination of power relations” to better take into account the (literal and figurative) aspects of imagination, and complement Dorrestijn’s work with the figures of techno-scientific mediation, and the inherently political figures of socio-technical and state-technical mediation, both based on Foucault’s notion of governmentality. Our analysis implies that the practical implementation of a high-level nuclear waste (HLW) management strategy will require the “stitching together” of these different mediations, which is an inherently political task.

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