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Kärnproblem : opinionsbildning i kärnavfallsdiskursen i Malå

  • Sjölander, Annika
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2004
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
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At the centre of this study lies one of the critical questions faced by (late-)modern society, namely that of taking care of the long-lived radioactive waste from nuclear power production. The problems of nuclear waste management are pictured as embracing a complex web of essential issues for society today, in terms of both its capacities and its shortcomings – so called core issues. The principal aim of the thesis is to examine the nuclear waste discourse in Malå, Västerbotten, from a critical discourse analytical perspective, through applying the approach developed by Michel Foucault in The Order of Discourse. During the 1990s, the municipality of Malå played a prominent role as a candidate site for the geological disposal of Sweden’s spent nuclear fuel. A five-year process culminated in a local referendum on whether detailed site investigations should be permitted within the community. Following the result no further investigations have been undertaken. The discourse analysis is carried out through a study of opinion formation in the municipality during the period October 1992 to October 1997. Two main types of empirical material have been collected: interviews with opinion leaders (politicians, activists, journalists, information professionals, etc.) and contemporaneous mass media content (the local newspaper and regional television news). In the empirical analysis, a review is made of the workings of the external and internal control mechanisms within the discourse; that is to say, how they serve to set limits on the content and form of the sense-making process concerning nuclear waste management. Important themes in the opinion forming process in Malå include information and expertise, opposition and legitimacy, the centre/periphery relationship and the themes of mistrust, partitioning and rejection. Among other themes identified as being marginalised or absent, one example is the Samish citizens’ views on the nuclear question. Four actors play a prominent role as authors of the discourse, namely the nuclear industry, the experts, Greenpeace and the mass media. The voices of resistance groups are also significant. Representatives from authorities and civil servants were most likely to take the commentary role in the discourse, along with journalists. In the concluding analysis of the nuclear waste discourse in Malå, two main types of desire for truth, which form the discourse’s main order, are identified. The stronger concerns the will to know, which places the expert with a scientific background as the principal truth-teller. The other is ‘ordinary’ people’s desire, which influences the content and form of the opinion formation. It is also concluded that the mass media institutions play a significant role in this context, not least as mediators. Reflections on contemporary ‘core issues’ to which the analysis bears witness, such as the crisis of democracy, are also included. In addition, the implications of applying the Foucaultian research programme to a study of the nuclear question have been considered.

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