Keywords: intergenerational decision making, Methuselah span, subjective utility theory, Yucca mountain, nuclear waste, nuclear safety, environment, health, environmental stewardship, precautionary decision making, radioactive waste, environmental pollution, regulatory decisions, public decisions, uncertainty, risk
Social, scientific and legal dimensions in Methuselah-span decision-making: the disposal of high level nuclear wastes
Methuselah-span decision-making is an aspect of precautionary decision-making under uncertainty and the risk that requires studying the essential dimensionality of the decision over extremely long time horizons. We provide practical answers for assuring long-term regulatory compliance of engineered systems, using the example of Yucca Mountain Repository (YMR) for high-level nuclear waste. Although the physical, chemical and engineering dimensions of the YMR may have been sufficiently studied, we find that the social, economic and health dimensions were not. We demonstrate that this dimensionality cannot be assumed to be constant and that theoretically sound models exist to study these issues. We find that decision-theoretic criteria based on subjective utility theory axioms and probabilistic updating rules are essential to Methuselah-span regulatory decision-making under risk and uncertainty. We show that reliable and accountable environmental stewardship can be achieved without arbitrarily relying solely on technological, physical and chemical knowledge while holding constant technology, health and social dimensions.