Ethical Theory versus Unethical Practice: Radiation Protection and Future Generations

Ethics and the Environment 3 (2):177 - 195 (1998)
The main international standard-setting agencies for ionizing radiation, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) both subscribe to principles which (they claim) lead to equitable protection for all generations exposed to radioactive pollution. Yet, when one examines the practices both groups support, it is clear that these practices discriminate against future generations with respect to radioactive pollution. After showing (I) that the IAEA and ICRP rhetoric of equity does not match their policies and practices, the essay argues (2) that current people ought to try to treat members of future generations equitably with respect to protection from radioactive pollution. The essay also argues (3) that current policies of permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste do not meet the second criterion, and therefore (4) that society ought to investigate whether another strategy for managing the waste would provide better equal protection among all generations.
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