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Enhancing transparency and public participation in nuclear waste management


The project represents a major effort in five countries to promote the development of a "European approach" to public participation and trustworthy decision processes in the area of nuclear waste management. It will use a methodology for integrating scientific, procedural and organisational aspects within a consistent framework for improved transparency. The project provides a "map" of values in performance assessment, a review of dialogue processes and hearing formats, a diagnosis of organisational structures and an understanding of the organisational impact on transparency. Possibilities and limitations of the Internet as a means for communication about social issues in the context of large industrial projects will also be highlighted. A series of workshops will give ample opportunities to communicate approaches, methods and results across the European Union.
Here we summarise the findings from the RISCOM II project under the three main headings of using the RISCOM Model,communicating performance assessment, and public participation.

Using the RISCOM Model:
The RISCOM Model can be used to support public events and decision processes for the sake of transparency. A hearing format thus developed was successful in many aspects such as a high level of involvement, the mental separation of levels of discussion and stretching without a too adversarial set-up. The methodology used for designing the hearings included active involvement of the hearing actors already at the preparatory stage - an element that contributed to the fairness of the entire process. The methodology is available for use in any situation where a new step in a country's radioactive waste management programme is to be taken to enhance transparency.
The Swedish and French experiences show that the model is an instrument that can analyse the prerequisites for transparency that are set by a country's organisational system. However, we recognise that this is an instrument that still needs much debate, testing and improvement. If the organisational structures are in a phase of transformation, as in the UK, the model may instead be used as a supportive tool of analysis of alterative outcomes of the transformation. We have also seen how the RISCOM Model can support the development of criteria for public participation processes. To enhance transparency, such processes should have the capacity to evaluate claims of fact, legitimacy and authenticity, and they need to have stretching capacity. Communicating performance assessment.
To incorporate the value judgements of stakeholders into performance assessment would include conducting performance assessment by starting from the issues of concern among stakeholders and communicating with them during the performance assessment work. Arrangements should then be made to make visible where values enter the performance assessment and how uncertainties are taken care of.
Performance assessment should not be communicated by information departments - the real experts need to engage themselves so that people can see that they are honest, open about uncertainties and address the concerns of ordinary people. If the authorities involve the citizens at the stage of developing the regulations, this would be a way to include their values into the framework of performance assessment. Successful citizen involvement requires that the experts are truly open-minded and willing to include issues of concern into their assessments. As a consequence they must be prepared to let go of some of their control over the process. It is essential that the performance assessment can keep its identity as a scientific and engineering enterprise. Engaging in public dialogue must not dilute the science and steer experts away (in focus or time-wise) too much from their core activity. Public participation.

There exist a number of approaches to public participation processes and also different sets of criteria for how to evaluate them. In RISCOM II, the UK group has developed one set of criteria in the context of testing a number dialogue processes. The exact weight and relative importance of different criteria will depend on the aim of the dialogue process. Different processes have different characteristics and they can all be "good" processes used in appropriate context. Developing a systematic framework for the description of public participation processes is thus not a straightforward task, and may still require research and development efforts. Evidence from the UK dialogue processes suggests that the actual use that is made of information within them is minimal. This suggests that care should be taken in targeting information resources where they will be most useful such as establishing the context of the dialogue process and its role within any related decision-making process. In applying the RISCOM model, NGO representatives have an important role to play in providing energy and competence to the "stretching" process. Their participation also enables their views to be taken into account early in the process. Even if the involvement by residents in dialogues about radioactive waste management is sometimes difficult to achieve, the NGO:s are not to be seen as the publics' representatives but as a recourse in the process to achieve transparency. A nuclear waste management programme must be resourced to allow for citizen participation and to encourage the disempowered to participate. Proper resourcing will encourage positive engagement, improve decision making and increase public confidence. In addition to money, resources can include training, expertise and other methods of empowerment.

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