1st Edition

Intergenerational Democracy, Environmental Justice and the Case of Nuclear Waste

By Lee Towers, Matthew Cotton Copyright 2025
    200 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book explores the interplay between intergenerational justice and intra-generational justice using nuclear waste management as a consistent case to explore these themes.


    Lee Towers and Matthew Cotton examine the issue of intergenerational justice from a social scientific perspective, drawing on central case studies of nuclear waste management in Canada, Finland and the United Kingdom. They connect indigenous philosophies and notions of justice with the concept of intergenerational democracy, advocating for better inclusion of youth and elders in decision-making that effects their wellbeing. As such, the book’s primary objectives are fourfold:

    • To assess whether trade-offs between intergenerational and intragenerational justice are necessary, and if so, what these trade-offs are and how they might be resolved.

    • To critically assess dominant western liberal philosophical approaches that shape contemporary intergenerational justice thinking in policy and practice, and consider alternatives drawn from anthropology and indigenous philosophies.

    • To assess how far our current capitalist system can achieve substantive forms of justice.

    • To critically examine three nuclear waste management case studies and assess how far these achieve environmental and energy justice and how they exemplify tensions between inter and intragenerational justice.


    This short, accessible volume will be of great interest to students and scholars of energy, environmental justice and ethics.



                Defining Intergenerational Justice

                Three Features of Intergenerational Justice

                Children as Proxies of Future Generations

                Indigenous Societies and the World System  

                Humanity, Ethnoclass, Ability, Gender, and Sexuality

                Book Outline


    Part One – Intergenerational justice dilemmas


    Chapter 1: The philosophical challenge of intergenerational justice

                Philosophical challenges and concepts in intergenerational justice

                Can future people have rights? The non-identity problem

                What obligations do we hold to future generations? The problem of reciprocity

                The weighting of future obligations – the issue of social discounting

                Sufficientarianism, or is enough, enough?    

                Environmental Rights

                Ontological challenges



    Chapter 2: Alternative philosophical traditions

                Social Relations of the Gift

                Indigenous Perspectives on Justice and Time

                Defining the Human Across Deep Time

                The Over-determination of Man

                Conclusions – a new/old subjectivity for intergenerational justice

    Chapter 3: Mainstream Economics and Scarce Justice

                Generational Wealth Transfers

                Trading Justice

                The Economics of the Anthropocene



    Chapter 4: Abundant Justice and Democracy

                Intergenerational Dilemmas

                Children and Young People as Future Generational Proxies

                Intergenerational Democracy

                Media Framings of Youth Protestors

                Youth as Proxies

                The UN Convention on the Rights of Children

                The Intergenerational Capability Approach

                Future Studies, Decoloniality, and Backcasting

                Mainstream Future Studies

                Backcasting Decolonised?



    Part Two – Nuclear Waste and Intergenerational Democracy


    Chapter 5: Critical Nuclear Concepts

                Nuclear Landscapes & Communities



                Nuclear Colonialism  



    Chapter 6: Canada and the Nuclear Waste Management Organisation

                Context and Histories

                NWMO – Aims, Scope and Assumptions

                The Search for a GDF Site and Implementation



    Chapter 7: The World’s First GDF – Finland

                Context and History

                Aims, Scope and Assumptions of NWMOs in Finland


                TVO & Fortum            


                Shared Assumptions  

                Implementation of the Most Advanced GDF in the World

                Finland’s Search for a GDF

                Media Representations and Consumption

                Intragenerational and Intergeneration Justice and Finland’s GDF



    Chapter 8: The United Kingdom and Nuclear Power and Waste

                Context and history of nuclear technologies in the United Kingdom

                Period one – Economic and Military Securitisation

                Period 2. Nuclear energy expansion and the recognition of waste as an environmental      concern

                Period 3. The Deliberative Turn

                Period 4. Climate change securitisation  

                Current UK Nuclear Waste Policy

                Implementation of the GDF  

                Expanding Costs and Expanding Inventories

                Democratic Deficits and the Nuclear



    Conclusion: Justice for All

                Nuclear Waste Management and Justice

                Distributional Justice

                Procedural Justice

                The Justice of Recognition

                The Justice of Redress and Reparation

                Ghosts of Seppo and Western Science

                The Darkness of the Grave or the Womb?








    Lee Towers is a postdoctoral researcher working at Teesside University looking into aspects of intra and intergenerational justice and nuclear waste solutions. He holds a PhD in applied social sciences from Brighton University. This PhD explored energy justice with a focus on community energy organisations and their work on energy poverty and climate mitigation in the UK. Previous published work includes an examination of community energy work on reducing energy poverty in the UK privatised energy system and an exploration of the intergenerational aspects of the pandemic published by Brighton University. His current postdoctoral position is funded by the Nuclear Waste Services. 

    Matthew Cotton is Professor of Environmental Justice and Public Policy in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law at Teesside University. He holds a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of East Anglia. His research explores the social and ethical dimensions of technology development and environmental planning, and the effective involvement of stakeholders in questions of socio-economic and ecological justice. His previous published works on these topics include the monographs: Virtual Reality, Empathy and Ethics, Nuclear Waste Politics (Routledge), Ethics and Technology Assessment, and co-edited volumes: Governing Shale Gas (Routledge) and Engaging Environmental Justice. His research in the field of environmental justice is funded by Nuclear Waste Services, Research England, The Economic and Social Research Council, Euratom, The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and the National Institute for Public Health Research.