Building Constructive Dialogues Between Regulators and Implementers During the Pre-Licensing Phase of Deep Geological Repository Development


Safe disposal of radioactive waste (RW), including spent fuel, must take into consideration long timescales as implied by radioactive waste management (RWM). The NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) supports NEA member countries in the development of safe, environmentally friendly, and economically efficient management of all types of radioactive waste. Stakeholder engagement is crucial throughout the development of long-term waste management solutions. Dialogue between all stakeholders at every stage of the RWM life cycle is necessary to build sustainable relationships and foster trust. In order to improve dialogue between regulators and implementers, the NEA RWMC established in March 2019 the Expert Group on Building Constructive Dialogues between Regulators and Implementers in Developing Disposal Solutions for Radioactive Waste (RIDD). The RIDD is tasked with examining how to more efficiently structure regulator-implementer (R-I) dialogue in the RWM decision-making process. During its first mandate (from March 2019 to March 2023), the Expert Group focused on regulator and implementer dialogue during the pre-licensing stage of deep geological repository (DGR) projects. Many member countries are at this stage in the licensing process. By reflecting on these experiences, member countries identified effective practices and shared lessons learnt.

In order to collect data on the R-I dialogue process in member countries, RIDD participants filled out a detailed questionnaire – the results of which were used to develop this report. These experiences were complemented by a limited number of in-depth interviews. To ensure transversality, the NEA Regulators’ Forum (RF) and the NEA Forum on Stakeholder Confidence (FSC) contributed to drafting the RIDD questionnaire and reviewing this report.

Through analysis of the questionnaire feedback and interviews, this report focusses on the following topics:
1. Roles and responsibilities of the regulator and implementer in the R-I dialogue
2. Goals and expectations regarding R-I dialogue
3. Implementation of R-I dialogue and types of dialogue
4. Conditions for an effective dialogue
5. Dialogue with the public

This report also explores other types of R-I dialogue in relation to RWM, including R-I dialogue on surface disposal facilities (SDF) and on decommissioning nuclear power plants. After assessing the differences in R-I dialogue regarding SDF and decommissioning from R-I dialogue on the pre-licensing phase of DGR development, the RIDD will use this information to extend analysis at a later stage, if deemed relevant. To this end, interviews were also conducted with responsible authorities in Belgium for their SDF, and in Italy and the United Kingdom for nuclear power plant decommissioning.