The guise of deliberation: a rhetorical criticism of arguments in the Yucca Mountain site authorization controversy
A contemporary controversy in the United States over nuclear waste concerns the 2001 decision to site a national high-level nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain in Nevada. This dissertation is a rhetorical criticism, specifically and argument evaluation, of the arguments of three important stakeholders: American Indian tribes, Nevadans, and the federal government. Through a close reading of DOE public hearing comments and the federal government's official site authorization documents, this dissertation finds that the process of the Yucca Mountain site authorization is a guise of deliberation in which American Indian arguments are ignored, Nevadan scientific arguments are disregarded, and the federal government employs rhetorical strategies which create a guise of reasonableness and deliberation to cover a primarily justificatory process. In particular, this case study finds that (1) American Indian arguers appeal to differing loci of values, use different forms of argument, and evaluate arguments using different standards than the federal government; (2) scientific argumentation from the public is constrained by conceptions of the relationship between science and the public, which demonstrates the need for a theory of public science that comes from below; and (3) the federal government rhetorically constructs an opposition to the site with American Indians as a third persona which is negated in the text. In addition to evaluating the arguments made by each of the stakeholders, this dissertation also informs our understanding of the process of public participation in the decision-making and the rhetorical manifestations and perpetuation of the phenomenon of radioactive colonization, offers implications for theories of American Indian argument forms and evaluation, offers a theory of public science, and provides suggestions for those involved in the controversy.
- Communications