Anti-regulation Discourses, Nuclear Safety, and the Role of STS

By William J. Kinsella

Despite the proliferation of issues marking the turbulent beginnings of the Trump presidency, many important questions have received little or no public attention. One question involves the future of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), whose stated mission, proclaimed on a banner at the top of the agency’s website, is “protecting people and the environment.” As anti-regulation discourses become increasingly normalized and budget priorities shift, actors in both government and the nuclear industry may soon be seeking changes that could impair that crucial mission. Perspectives from the field of science and technology studies (STS) may help anticipate and respond to the challenges ahead.

Following the 2011 disaster at Fukushima, critics pointed to regulatory laxity as a key factor in the meltdowns that followed the Tōhoko earthquake and tsunami. In Japan, those events are widely known as the “triple disaster” of “3-11.” For STS scholars, they demonstrate a convergence of environmental forces, technological vulnerabilities, and human failures. As we observe the sixth anniversary of Fukushima it is appropriate to ask: could such a thing happen in Trump’s America?

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Democracy Disrupted: Silicon Valley’s Unprecedented Opportunity to Innovate in the First 100 Days of Trump

By Margo Boenig-Liptsin

Silicon Valley, the model and symbol of technological innovation, is at a cross-roads. While the state of California mobilizes to defend its vision of the future against the Trump administration, Silicon Valley is confronting its own attitudes towards democracy in its self-proclaimed mission to implement “disruptive” innovations in society.

At stake in the conflict between Silicon Valley and Trump are two different ideas of what makes for a good — or “great,” to use President Trump’s own words — future. In Silicon Valley, the best is still ahead of us and the future holds limitless potential that can be unlocked through technological disruption. Although this future delegates tremendous power to technology, it nevertheless respects diversity, equality, and environment. By contrast, Trump’s vision of a great future is a return to a mythical American past. Trump’s ideal future is frightening because it goes against civil rights, openness of human movement, and finding ways of living together on one planet.

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