The NEA began studying specific aspects of the issue of nuclear energy and civil society two decades ago, and in recent years several of the Agency's standing technical committees have launched activities that aim to analyse national and local experience and to communicate lessons learnt. With this experience and the wish to further the work of the Agency in this field, the NEA hosted a workshop on Stakeholder Involvement in Nuclear Decision Making on 17-19 January 2017 to share perspectives and document best practices and lessons learnt from nuclear and non-nuclear activities alike on how to best involve stakeholders in the decision-making process.
Additional NEA activities on this topic are briefly described below.
As the social dimension is playing an increasingly important role in the nuclear energy policies of member countries, the NEA Nuclear Development Committee (NDC) conducted studies in the early 2000s on society and nuclear energy, examining in particular public perception of the related risks and benefits. A number of workshops were held in this area, and two main reports were produced – Society and Nuclear Energy: Towards a Better Understanding (2002) and Society and Nuclear Energy: Case Histories of Practical Communication Experiences (2005).The 2002 Report covered nuclear-specific issues in stakeholder involvement, the decision-making process and communication issues, while the 2005 report details member countries' experiences in communication with stakeholders on nuclear energy projects and issues, and provides policy makers with insights into the challenges involved and examples of best practice. In 2010, the NDC published a report entitled Public Attitudes to Nuclear Power, which examined a number of quantitative and qualitative measures of and influences on the attitudes of members of the general public. The report uses results from the European Commission's Eurobarometer polls and other third-party polls and attempts to highlight for policy makers some key issues and concerns of stakeholders, as well as factors that correlate with or, in some cases, assuage those concerns. Above all, stakeholder involvement must be conducted in an open and transparent manner.
In the ensuing years, the NEA activities on stakeholder involvement have been more focused on other areas, particularly radioactive waste management, radiological protection, nuclear safety, and environmental law. In 2015, the NDC determined that it was an opportune time to conduct a workshop on stakeholder involvement collaboratively with the other NEA fields of expertise to take advantage of the wealth of information and lessons learnt through NEA activities over the years. This workshop will take place in January 2017 and is being organised with the newly-created Division of Human Aspects in Nuclear Safety (HANS). The co-ordination of the workshop across the NEA is intended to highlight the interconnected nature of the nuclear enterprise (e.g. reactors, waste, safety, etc.) and increase the impact of the NEA's work, as lessons learnt in one area are shared and applied in others.
For more than 25 years, the NEA Committee on Radiological Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) has explored stakeholder involvement as an area essential to radiological protection decision making. From this analytical work, issues that transcend geographic and cultural frontiers (such as consent, equity, control and responsibility for defining and imposing appropriate radiological protection measures and criteria) were highlighted.
As experience was gained, and as the CRPPH focused more on "soft social issues", this work focus progressively shifted from "scientific" aspects to "social" aspects. A major lesson learnt has been that radiological protection (RP) must adapt to meet the needs of society, and not the reverse. This was confirmed in studies on the Chernobyl accident which highlighted that radiation protection experts should be at the service of stakeholders and include them rather than just explain RP decisions to the public.
The CRPPH work dedicated to stakeholder involvement includes the three "Villigen Workshops" (1998, 2001 and 2003) during which the topics evolved significantly, from initially sending the message that stakeholders should be involved, to a message of how they should be involved. This showed that focusing on the acceptability and sustainability of a decision is a key. This means that it is essential to clearly understand the concerns of stakeholders, and to identify the common values of all parties to create a "natural decisional framework" in which an agreed solution can be identified. This requires, however, that decisions strike a balance between national policy and local stakeholder needs. It is also essential that, early in the process, stakeholders clearly understand how their input will be taken into account in the final decision, and who is, in fact, mandated to "make a decision".
The CRPPH then undertook to better understand the elements that are considered when making radiological protection decisions. The distinction was expressly made between "radiological protection science" and "social values", and to study these aspects the CRPPH organised workshops on "Science and Values in Radiological Protection" (2008, 2009, 2012, 2015 and future editions). They highlighted that radiological protection decisions are informed by science, but are driven by social values.
Radiation protection is not only a matter for science. It is a problem of philosophy, and morality, and the utmost wisdom.
As experience was gained, and as the CRPPH focused more on "soft social issues", the Committee increasingly noted the need to better interact with the public, particularly in emergency management situations, before, during and after an accident. As nuclear accidents are fortunately rare, this suggests integrating nuclear or radiological accident planning to other disaster-response programmes, such as for recovery from natural disasters. On the other hand, as nuclear accidents are unique in their radiological aspects and require a significant number of experts it is essential to identify diverse sources of experts in advance, e.g. hospitals, industry, university, etc. to be able to quickly mobilised them.
The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident increased the Committee's interest in this topic, particularly in the context of post-accident recovery. From CRPPH analyses, it resulted that early on in the recovery process the use of local knowledge as strategic input for decisions on, for example priority decontamination areas, can improve efficiency and build trust and engagement.
Between November 2011 and September 2015 the NEA participated in, in collaboration with the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), a series of 12 stakeholder dialogue meetings with individuals affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident who expressed their views on topics affecting their lives. A report summarising the lessons learnt from the discussions on recovery, protection of children, management of contaminated food, monitoring and self-help measures is expected to be issued in early 2017.
In the optic of keeping abreast of current practices, the CRPPH organised an innovative webinar (over three succeeding sessions) in 2016 on "Stakeholder Dialogue: Experience and Lessons for Young and Old Experts and Researchers". It allowed worldwide radiological protection professionals to connect and share their experiences on stakeholder dialogue and social media. It concluded that while social media cannot entirely replace traditional press releases, it does have an important place in regulatory and industry communication strategies.
Also in the year 2016, the CRPPH provided an in-depth study on social and political factors, protection of the environment, communication and education. It noted that effective communication of complex issues (such as radiological protection scientific issues, uncertainties, and protection options) to decision makers in general and to members of the public in particular, is essential during stakeholder dialogues and requires specific training. In addition, societal and political demands, and protection of the environment, should be explicitly demonstrated in radiological protection decisions. Therefore, comprehensive education and training will continue to be an essential element of the overall radiological protection system.
For this objective, active governmental stakeholder support is significant and can take the form of providing support for experts to address stakeholder questions, encouraging stakeholders to share experience by offering venues and trained experts, facilitating access to and understanding of data, and quickly establishing of health follow-up processes.
To conclude, the complexity of scientific and social questions encountered in radiological protection strongly suggests that interdisciplinary dialogue is, and will continue to be, an important element that will contribute to acceptable and sustainable radiological protection solutions. That is why the CRPHH current activities under construction focus on social media, evacuation and human capital.
Stakeholder Involvement in Risk Communication: Dialogues Towards a Shared Understanding of Radiological Risks, 24-26 September 2019, Paris, France
Workshop on Management of Non-Nuclear Waste, May 2017, Legnaro, Italy
Stakeholder Involvement in Nuclear Decision Making, 17-19 January 2017, Paris, France
Post-Accident Food Safety Science, 8-10 November 2016, Fukushima, Japan