Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 29–48 | Cite as

The Strength of Ethical Matrixes as a Tool for Normative Analysis Related to Technological Choices: The Case of Geological Disposal for Radioactive Waste

  • Céline KermischEmail author
  • Christophe Depaus
Original Paper


The ethical matrix is a participatory tool designed to structure ethical reflection about the design, the introduction, the development or the use of technologies. Its collective implementation, in the context of participatory decision-making, has shown its potential usefulness. On the contrary, its implementation by a single researcher has not been thoroughly analyzed. The aim of this paper is precisely to assess the strength of ethical matrixes implemented by a single researcher as a tool for conceptual normative analysis related to technological choices. Therefore, the ethical matrix framework is applied to the management of high-level radioactive waste, more specifically to retrievable and non-retrievable geological disposal. The results of this analysis show that the usefulness of ethical matrixes is twofold and that they provide a valuable input for further decision-making. Indeed, by using ethical matrixes, implicit ethically relevant issues were revealed—namely issues of equity associated with health impacts and differences between close and remote future generations regarding ethical impacts. Moreover, the ethical matrix framework was helpful in synthesizing and comparing systematically the ethical impacts of the technologies under scrutiny, and hence in highlighting the potential ethical conflicts.


Ethical matrix Future generations Geological disposal Normative analysis Radioactive waste Retrievability 



This work has been supported by the Organisme National des Déchets Radioactifs et desmatières Fissiles enrichies–Nationale Instelling voor Radioactief Afval en verrijkte Splijtstoffen (ONDRAF/NIRAS, Belgium) and the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). The authors wish to express special thanks to two anonymous reviewers who provided very thoughtful input for our reflection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires en Bioéthique, Service de Métrologie NucléaireUniversité Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)BrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Organisme National des Déchets Radioactifs et des Matières Fissiles Enrichies (ONDRAF/NIRAS)BrusselsBelgium

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