The Art of Being Ethical and Responsible: Print Media Debate on Final Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel in Finland and Sweden

Matti Kojo, Tuuli Vilhunen, Mika Kari, Tapio Litmanen, Markku Lehtonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


After decades of preparation, the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel has reached the construction stage in Finland, and the neighboring Sweden is likely to soon follow in the footsteps. These Nordic countries rely on a similar technical concept based on passive safety, advocated as a means of minimizing the burden to future generations. The scholarly literature on the ethics of nuclear waste management has thus far paid little attention to the views of the broader publics on the associated ethical challenges. This article helps to fill the gap through a longitudinal and comparative analysis of ethical discussion of the final disposal of SNF in news articles and letters to the editor in four leading Finnish and Swedish daily newspapers in 2008–2015. The study period included major milestones in the licensing processes of the respective two repository projects. The article examines the attention paid to intra- and intergenerational distributive and procedural justice, the changes in the ethical agenda over time, and the societal actor groups that receive attention in the media. The analysis reveals two distinct ethical media agendas: (1) the news article agenda that is dominated by framings of the main players (industry, politicians, authorities, and experts) and largely excludes future generations from the scope of justice, and (2) the agenda represented by the letters to the editor, which focuses on intergenerational justice concerns. Particularly, in the Finnish letters to the editor the value of the lives of distant future generations was discounted implicitly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-187
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Finland
  • Intergenerational justice
  • Media attention
  • Nuclear waste
  • Passive safety
  • Scope of justice
  • Sweden

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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