EURATOM Projects, radioactive waste management and public participation: What have we learnt so far? A synthesis of principles.
|Author||G.Ferraro, M.Martell, European Commission, Joint Research Centre|
|Classification||6.01.5.50/89 (WASTE - RADIOACTIVE WASTE GENERAL)|
From the publication:
EURATOM Projects, radioactive waste management and public participation: What have we learnt so far? A synthesis of principles. Gianluca Ferraro and Meritxell Martell 2015 European Commission, Joint Research Centre 1. INTRODUCTION For decades, radioactive waste management (RWM) has been considered as a technical topic which could be dealt with exclusively by national authorities and scientific experts. The emphasis has mostly been on technical solutions that are capable of guaranteeing safety. The increasing local opposition experienced by national governments and Waste Management Organizations (WMOs) during the siting of RWM facilities has shown the salience of public involvement and local support. This has pushed for more public participation in decision-making. RWM is a controversial topic because it manages a special type of waste (radioactive, indeed) that is characterized by potential risk and a long-term scale. For instance, the management of high-level waste (HLW) overpasses by far a real-life setting. Consequently, RWM is surrounded by a degree of scientific uncertainty. While scientific uncertainties may exist to some extent about the solution of the problem, strong disagreements characterize RWM on the basis of the personal values and beliefs which frame the definition of the problem. RW is the product of a contested activity, i.e. the production of electricity through the generation of nuclear power. Accepting the manageability of RW implicitly would mean accepting the solvability of RW and, thus, turning nuclear power generation into an industrial activity like any other (O'Connor & van den Hove 2001). Scientific uncertainties and the polarized socio-political context make RWM a "wicked" problem. Because of their complexity, wicked problems can only be tackled through the involvement of all interested actors (Bergmans et al. 2008). In RWM, thus, issue-framing and problem-solving cannot be addressed from a mere techno-scientific perspective. In the past, a lack of communication from the side of national RWM agencies towards the public, in general, and the targeted local communities, in particular, has determined the strong opposition of localities to national RWM plans and, more importantly, RWM facility siting. The evident policy failure has pushed many national governments to embrace a new, more participatory approach to policy-making, understood as the opening of RWM agencies and the related decision-making process to non-state actors. It is currently commonly acknowledged that public and local participation is pivotal for any RWM policy, programme and project, from laboratories to storage and disposal, for all types of RW (high-, medium- and low-level RW). More in general, public participation is believed to benefit public policy-making because it brings ideas (and knowledge), trust (for the government) and (more) democracy into the policy process (OECD 2001, 2008). In the light of these considerations, it becomes important to understand how we can build and maintain across time a fruitful relationship between the public and the host community, on the one hand, and the RWM system around a given facility, on the other hand.