Stakeholder support and involvement are "essential to achieving accepted and sustainable decisions for nearly all aspects of nuclear energy", an OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) workshop has concluded. More than 130 experts from 26 countries came together to discuss international best practices at the workshop on 'stakeholder involvement in nuclear decision making', held at the NEA's headquarters in Paris this week.
The NEA said participants in the workshop compared their "vast array of experiences and to identify approaches that help contribute, or not, to stakeholder confidence"; discussed the laws, policies and programs underway in different countries; and sought to develop a "collective wisdom from which all may learn and benefit".
The opening remarks were delivered by Angel Gurría, OECD secretary general, William D. Magwood, IV, NEA director general, and Stephen G. Burns, chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Other featured speakers were Julien Aubert, French member of parliament, and Julian Gadano, Argentine undersecretary of nuclear energy. An additional 37 presentations were made by experts on legal frameworks, nuclear regulation, radiological protection, radioactive waste management, constructing new nuclear facilities, extending the operation of existing facilities, stakeholder involvement in nuclear and other sectors, and the dynamics of stakeholder involvement and the media.
During his opening remarks, Gurría noted that the quality of public involvement in the decision-making process may be as important as the quality of the scientific analysis or the engineering work needed to implement the decision, according to the NEA statement. He also stressed that "taking the shorter route and bypassing serious public engagement risks reaching decisions that will not stand the test of time as stakeholders continue to question the decision after it has been made. In the end, this path would cost much more, take much longer and also damage the credibility of decision makers in the process."
Magwood said that, "As we have learned through hard experience in many countries, experts cannot act alone to solve difficult problems. For the greatest challenges facing society today, they must, as a central component of their activities, ensure the broad and deep support of public stakeholders. This is important in all long term, complex undertakings, but for decisions concerning nuclear energy that employ large tracts of land, use significant quantities of resources, and sometimes generate public questions about safety, achieving a durable public consensus has become an absolute requirement."
In addition to sharing experiences and best practices, during the workshop participants debated such questions as: who among the members of the public and other stakeholders should be informed and how science should be used to address their concerns regarding the choices to be made; in what ways can the full array of viewpoints be put into a balanced perspective; and what roles can and should social media play in engaging with stakeholders.
The NEA assists its member countries in maintaining and further developing - through international co-operation - the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally sound and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It strives to provide authoritative assessments and to forge common understandings on key issues as input to government decisions on nuclear energy policy and to broader OECD analyses in areas such as energy and the sustainable development of low carbon economies.
Written and researched
by World Nuclear News