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In this chapter, we discuss the evolution of the field of ‘ethics of nuclear energy’, regarding its past, present and future. We will first review the history of this field in the previous four decades, focusing on new and emerging challenges of nuclear energy production and waste disposal, in light of several important developments. Four of the most pressing ethical challenges will be further reviewed in the chapter. First, what is a morally ‘acceptable’ nuclear energy production method, if we consider the existing and possible new technologies? Second, provided a new tendency to consider nuclear waste disposal with several countries, what would be the new ethical and governance challenges of these multinational collaborations? Third, how should we deal with the (safety) challenges of the new geographic distribution of nuclear energy, tilting towards emerging economies with less experience with nuclear technology? Fourth, nuclear energy projects engender highly emotional controversies. Neither ignoring the emotions of the public nor taking them as a reason to prohibit or restrict a technology – we call them technocratic populist pitfalls respectively – seem to be able to guide responsible policy making.
This chapter discusses the importance of the legal aspects of energy policy. It advances two main propositions: (a) different legal expressions of similar energy policies have different implications for the effectiveness and overall impact of a policy, and (b) the choice of legal expression is highly constrained by (i) law as a technology (i.e., the tools available to translate a policy into legal terms), (ii) the need to fit the policy within a broader legal framework and (iii) the underlying economic, social and political considerations affecting the choice of certain legal expressions. The chapter illustrates these two propositions by reference to three case studies relating to the extraction of shale gas in the EU, decarbonisation in the United States, and state support for renewable energy in India.
It is not just economics and technology but stakeholder interests which have shaped the evolution of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as an option with a portfolio of low-carbon technologies. We trace how over the course of the 2000s, CCS went from largely unknown to being seen as a flexible, dispatchable technology applicable to coal, gas or biomass, which could address concerns over security of supply with minimal disruption to the existing power system and business models while addressing hard-to-abate sectors including heat and process industries. Four general themes are identified as explaining why the politics of CCS has been so difficult: (i) there is no pressure for politicians or other stakeholders to seek more efficient solutions; (ii) the lack of a coherent logic or overarching industrial policy narrative for supporting CCS, except perhaps in a few isolated locations; (iii) the nature of CCS requires a much larger initial investment and greater systems integration than other low-carbon options; and (iv) changing energy industry business models, which, over the past decade, had eroded some of the factors that had worked in favour of CCS.
Political science does not offer a distinct subdiscipline to address the subject of energy. Insofar as political science has addressed energy, it has focused on issues often neglected by other disciplines, notably the role of geopolitics and international relations, and the domestic politics of resource-rich states. Apart from the different subfields, we examine different approaches including realism, constructivism, liberalism and Marxism. The rise and fall and rise again of academic articles on energy in leading political science journals is reviewed and linked to exogenous forces such as the price of oil. Two distinct energy topics which have received attention are nuclear power and the oil crises of 1973–79 because of their wider geopolitical ramifications. Perhaps the most prominent or consistent thread through studies of the politics of energy is the question of energy security or energy independence. Finally, in recent years, energy has increasingly emerged as a focus for study in environmental politics and climate change politics in particular.
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