Despite media interest in Britain’s nuclear industry, a key issue of public concern has been missing from discussion on and about issues in this industry. This is the problem of permanently disposing of- or ‘containing’, in the industry’s language- its “legacy”, comprising radioactive plant and waste from all of the country’s nuclear reactors. Britain’s media is aware that the country’s nuclear legacy constitutes a potentially catastrophic hazard to public health and the environment. Yet the issue has persisted after six decades of nuclear operations without any serious effort to contain it.
In investigating this puzzle, Barry Pemberton (a post-doctoral student whom I examined) and I reviewed primary and secondary public documents surrounding Britain’s worst nuclear accident at Windscale (1957). We found that core issues behind the accident continue to resonate with deep flaws in the corporate governance of the country’s nuclear sites. In this research, we suggest that a principal source of these flaws is a “culture of secrecy” within Britain’s nuclear industry that has constrained meaningful public interaction on managerial oversight and accountability of nuclear sites.
Consequently, a “stakeholder deficit” now characterizes low levels of public trust in site managers, which is at least partly reflected in rudimentary public participation in tackling Britain’s nuclear legacy. In addressing this deficit, we examine in our research how a transparent perspective of public trustworthiness may be developed that focuses on resolving, rather than merely shelving, the legacy.
Recent Publications on Corporate Governance and Management of Britain’s Nuclear Industry (with Barry Pemberton, University of Roehampton):
Pemberton, B. & Ng, W. (2021). ‘Corporate Governance Paradigms of Hazardous Industries: Enduring Challenges of Britain’s Civil Nuclear Industry’, Journal of General Management, 46(2), pp. 156-167. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0306307020915103.
Pemberton, B. & Ng, W. (2019). ‘Solving an Extremely Hazardous Problem. Disposing of Toxic Waste from Britain’s Nuclear Industry and Nascent Public Engagement’, Public Money & Management, 39(4), pp. 335-341. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09540962.2019.1612210.
Pemberton, B. & Ng, W. (2019). ‘Conceptualizing Corporate Governance for Hazardous Industries: Public Engagement as a Risk Management Process in Britain’s Nuclear Industry’, International Journal of Public Administration, 44(3), pp. 192-201. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01900692.2019.1672726.
Pemberton, B. & Ng, W. (2018). ‘Too Close for Comfort: Regulation and Governance of Britain’s Nuclear Industry and Implications for Inter-Generational Equity’, Public Money & Management, 38(5) (July), pp. 330-332. DOI: https://doi.org/10/1080/09540962.2018.1477576