The Rationality and Politics of Analysis
The Windscale inquiry’s confused political status and procedure exacerbated the underlying conflict about defining what was at issue, a question ultimately about the proper exercise of political authority. Objectors regarded the inquiry as a forum for concerns ranging from international nuclear trade to energy policy, waste disposal, accident safety and radiation risks, as well as the pervasive institutional questions of accountability and trust. Parker either defined these as outside the inquiry’s remit or handed them on to the relevant authorities to determine for themselves at some later date.1 Whereas he took the authorities’ objectivity and trustworthiness for granted, objectors did not, expecting the inquiry itself to address such broader and pervasive concerns. Because they saw the authorities as part of the problem, and could not give them automatic trust on any aspect of THORP, objectors logically saw uncertainty (for example, there were no plant plans from which to calculate its radioactive discharge levels) as a risk, and thus good reason for delay until things were clarified. Stripped of all the dressing, Parker and other lawyers saw the whole thing as just another local planning inquiry in the context of a network of social authority whose trustworthiness could be taken for granted.