Stakeholder engagement promotes nuclear safety by the way an organisation actively involves people affected by the decisions they make or by influencing the implementation of its decisions.
It is a major challenge to obtain stakeholder confidence when accounting for socio-political situations, and it requires taking an integral approach and successful collaboration on public communication. Many relevant stakeholders need to be informed and engaged in making any decision regarding whether, when and how to implement nuclear safety measures, and radioactive waste management solutions.
As the social dimension plays an increasingly important role in the nuclear energy policies of member countries, the 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 (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 policymakers 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 public. The report uses results from the European Commission's Eurobarometer polls and other third-party polls and attempts to highlight for policymakers 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 took place in January 2017 and was organised by the Division of Radiological Protection and Human Aspects of Nuclear Safety (RP-HANS). The co-ordination of the workshop across the NEA was 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.
The Forum on Stakeholder Confidence (FSC) was established by the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) in 2000 and serves as a platform for understanding stakeholder dialogue and discussing methods to develop shared confidence, informed consent and approval of radioactive waste (RW) management solutions. The FSC also supports the Committee on Decommissioning of Nuclear Installations and Legacy Management (CDLM) as of 2019. A stakeholder is defined as any actor – institution, group or individual – with an interest or a role to play in the radioactive waste management process. The FSC provides a setting for direct stakeholder exchange in an atmosphere of mutual respect and learning.