Discourses of Energy Systems Justice: Impressions from the Nuclear System

Kirsten Jenkins

Energy is moving up the global political agenda, with poverty, climate change and energy security bringing new awareness of the links between energy and social justice. Amidst these challenges, the new and emerging concept of energy justice has developed with an aim “to provide all individuals, across all areas, with safe, affordable and sustainable energy” (McCauley et al., 2013: 1). However, the full extent and diversity of justice implications within the energy system is currently neglected. Thus, borrowing from and advancing this framework, this research explores how energy justice is being articulated throughout the nuclear energy system, including at the stages of uranium mining, energy production and waste. Using results from semi-structured interviews with policy, industry and NGO actors, this paper presents early findings that demonstrate that justice claims vary extensively between actor, location and systems component as the result of differing priorities, desires, understandings, and formations of justice within each group and sector. In so doing, it exposes unspoken differences in constructions of energy ethics across actors and space, and illustrates that not all energy actors move within or share the values of the corporate domain. As a result, the paper argues that the current framework for energy justice is insufficient to explain justice manifestations. These results contribute to the theoretical concept of energy justice as, as well as informing justice in practice; presenting knowledge that is essential for an understanding of the ways in which energy justice is constructed, understood, and tackled across a range of scales.