The Banality of Consent Through Process in Nuclear Waste Siting in Ontario, Canada

Authors: Marissa Bell*, University At Buffalo
Topics: Energy, Social Theory, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Nuclear Geographies, Nuclear Waste, Energy Justice, Banality of Consent, Energy Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8224, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While nuclear technologies tend to arouse controversy across varied geographic contexts, either deliberately or not, some nuclear industries achieve acceptance through reinterpretation and association with everyday life. It is this process of emphasizing the “normal” and the “mundane” which I argue holds the greatest potential to transform the exceptionality of nuclear industry into something unexceptional and uncontroversial. Particularly through the banality of process and bureaucratic assurances, nuclear technology not only creates social polarization, but also uneven nuclear geographies associated with “nuclear oases” where nuclear technologies and livelihoods are seen as normalized.

Through the case study of consent-based nuclear waste siting in Ontario, Canada, I examine the potential for bureaucratic processes associated with “consent-building” to in fact produce apathy as a form of resigned acceptance, and therefore a specific type of consent for the purposes of siting nuclear waste. This type of consent is what I refer to as “banality of consent” and, while critical of this process, I do not discount its social value and functionality. Banality of consent, I argue, is produced through various practices such as the use of drawn-out time-frames, repetitive and technical meetings and information, socio-political mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, and the existence of political economic and financial mechanisms that integrate nuclear into the everyday. Under the guise of engagement, these practices produce acceptance by default while drawing from and reinforcing existing class, gender and nuclear colonialist dimensions.

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