Adjudicating Deep Time
Revisiting the United States’ High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository Project at Yucca Mountain
This paper draws upon perspectives on legal personhood, expert knowledge practices, and social relations influential in STS and anthropology to revisit the legal procedural framing of the United States’ now-defunct high-level nuclear waste repository project at Yucca Mountain. Specifically, it examines how this project reinvented both (a) conventional figures of legal personhood as what is called a ‘reasonably maximally exposed individual’ and (b) legal adjudication’s familiar ‘rule-facts-judge’ template as a frame for establishing the repository licensing regime’s delegation of roles, responsibilities, and duties in response to its unique regulatory horizons that extended millennia into the future. Unpacking the implications of these familiar legal figures being brought to bear on historically unprecedented ‘deep’ timescales, this paper concludes by offering alternative lines of inquiry for interdisciplinary analysis of nuclear energy and its associated waste products.