Nuclear Energy Agency Online Bulletin

November 2003

Radioactive waste management news

Forum on Stakeholder Confidence (FSC) workshop: Dealing with interests, values and knowledge in managing risk

The Forum on Stakeholder Confidence (FSC) held its fourth interactive workshop in Brussels, Belgium on 18-21 November 2003. The Belgian workshop considered stakeholder issues in the context of local partnerships for the long-term management of low-level, short-lived radioactive waste.

In 1998 the Belgian federal government opted for a final -- or potentially final -- land-based solution for the long-term management of short-lived, low-level radioactive waste. The solution had to be progressive, flexible and reversible. In doing so, the government entrusted several new tasks to the Belgian Agency for the Management of Radioactive Waste and Enriched Fissile Materials (usually referred to by its French/Dutch acronym ONDRAF/NIRAS). In particular, ONDRAF/NIRAS was asked to develop methods to integrate the long-term management project proposals at the local level. At the same time, potential sites for final disposal were restricted to the four existing Belgian nuclear sites and any local districts that expressed an interest in hosting such a site.

ONDRAF/NIRAS began developing in 1998 an entirely new work methodology with the aid of the Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen (UIA) and the Fondation Universitaire Luxembourgeoise (FUL). As it was understood that the best way to take the interests of all parties into account was to involve them in the project decision-making process, the idea of "local partnerships" was developed. This is intended to ensure that any party that could be directly affected by a collective decision on the siting of a waste repository has a say in that decision. Local partnerships are an innovative tool for integrating technical activities (the development of draft repository projects) and socio-economic planning (creating new development perspectives for the regions concerned) in the siting of radioactive waste management repositories.

ONDRAF/NIRAS formed partnerships with the municipality of Dessel in 1999, the municipality of Mol in 2000 and the towns of Fleurus and Farciennes in 2003. During the course of the FSC workshop delegates visited all of them. They heard local participants give detailed presentations of their work to find a repository concept that meets safety requirements and integrates both technical and societal concerns. At the formal workshop in Brussels, FSC delegates and a broad range of Belgian stakeholders met to hear scholarly presentations and local insights on dealing with different interests, values and knowledge. Small group discussions, with participants mixed by role and nationality, delved into the same questions. A highlight of the meeting was the closing panel discussion on building a relationship to a project, or "how to make a disposal project interesting, attractive and acceptable".

An executive summary of the Belgian workshop will be made available on the NEA website during the first quarter of 2004.

The workshop was held in co-operation with ONDRAF/NIRAS.

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E-mail contact: Claudio Pescatore (