Committee on Nuclear Regulatory Activities (CNRA)
Working Group on Public Communication of nuclear regulatory organisations (WGPC)

International Workshop on Crisis Communication: Facing the Challenges

Casa de América, Madrid, Spain
9-10 May 2012

Organised in collaboration with the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear


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General information

Objectives

The objective of the workshop was to bring together senior-level regulators and communicators from nuclear regulatory organisations (NRO), along with other communication stakeholders from civil society, in order to share best practices and to improve NRO crisis communications based on lessons learnt after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

The main purpose of the workshop was to develop a common understanding of stakeholders' expectations regarding crisis communication of regulators in nuclear activities; to share practices of implementing and developing crisis communication in nuclear regulatory activities and to share experience of how the development of crisis communication impacts the regulator.

In addition to sharing practices and experience, the workshop contributed to the identification of important issues and lessons learnt for NROs' communication with the public and proposed new directions for crisis communication policy and practices.

The results of the workshop were documented for NEA member countries to use in the context of their regulatory responsibilities and they continue to serve as a valuable reference.

Background

A first workshop was held in Paris, France in December 2000 which addressed the prerequisites for a nuclear regulator to develop and maintain public confidence in its activities. The main outcomes of this workshop were summarised as follows: public communication should be considered a key function; a necessary condition for being trustworthy is to be well known; efficient communication channels are needed; good communication is information transfer both in and out of an NRO; information must be easily available to the public; public communication is a joint effort by all regulatory body staff members; lessons can be learnt from other fields and lack of harmonisation between countries could destroy trust. This latter observation was one of the main reasons for the CNRA creating the WGPC.

The CNRA organised a second workshop with the WGPC in Ottawa, Canada in May 2004 which addressed possible ways for building, measuring and improving public confidence in regulators. Although it was found that cultural differences between the countries are large and that similar means for communication are not effective everywhere, a number of common principles were identified that can be recommended to all regulators. Among these were the following: to give high priority to building and maintaining public confidence; to use any appropriate and available means to make the regulator well known; to issue news releases promptly and be out in front of the public whenever the need for information arises; to produce messages which are understandable by the target audience; to make experts available to answer the questions; to measure the confidence of stakeholders in the NROs; to stay out of energy policy debates and issues; to be seen to be independent from the licensees and to be honest and transparent.

In May 2007 the CNRA organised a third workshop with the WGPC in Tokyo, Japan. During a session in Tokaimura, participants exchanged with local stakeholders, which addressed the transparency of nuclear regulatory activities. A common understanding of transparency and main stakeholder's expectations in the field of nuclear safety were identified during this workshop together with a number of conditions and practices aimed at improving the transparency of nuclear regulatory activities. These conditions and practices were of particular interest to all those working in the nuclear regulatory field. Their implementation might, however, have differed from one country to another depending on national context.

Workshop topics and format

The workshop was be composed of six sessions and two panels which included three to five interventions followed by discussions. The first day focussed on lessons learnt from past crisis communication while the second day focused on ongoing and future improvements for NRO crisis communication (see detail in annex 1).

After an opening session setting, the first topical session was devoted to identifying the key elements in NRO crisis communication and included the presentation of the recently developed WGPC Road Map for NRO crisis communication (pre-crisis, during-crisis, post-crisis phases). Current NRO strategies for crisis communication (including the use of social media) were then presented and supplemented by the views from a crisis communication expert.

The second topical session was devoted to lessons learnt in NRO communication from past crises: Successes and failures in NRO crisis communication after Fukushima, lessons for NRO crisis communication arising from other nuclear events with an international dimension, learning from crisis communication in another areas (e.g. natural disasters, food security, epidemics etc.).

The third topical session was arranged as a panel allowing exchange between NRO and stakeholders (elected representatives, industry, NGOs etc.) and looked at social expectations regarding NRO crisis communication in answering the following questions: What are the topics of main concern for the public in case of a nuclear event? What are the main NRO actions to make sure they address those concerns?

The fourth topical session was also be arranged as a panel with senior nuclear regulators and journalists and was devoted to understanding the respective roles in crisis: nuclear regulatory organisations and media. It included experiences from NRO and media and discussed major conflicting goals for NRO and media: Timeliness vs. reliability of information.

The fifth topical session highlighted the need for a global approach to NRO Crisis communication and discussed the implication of a foreign event for NROs in each other country, the development of NRO networking for crisis communication and the role for international organisations in crisis communication (e.g. IAEA, ENSREG).

The sixth topical session addressed improvements in NRO crisis communication with practical examples of improvement implemented by NRO for their crisis communication strategy (e.g. new communication organisation and procedures, training, the use of new tools, adequate resources, etc.).

The closing session summarised the findings and good practices from the workshop and pinpointed the direction for the future work of public communication for the NEA, such as additional guidance to CNRA for NRO crisis communication, considering its international dimension.

Last reviewed: 26 March 2014