Over the last several decades, societal expectations regarding major decisions have evolved continuously to incorporate more holistic, inclusive and sustainable decision-making processes. This is particularly the case for decisions related to nuclear activities such as new plant construction, decommissioning and waste disposal. There is a growing need to integrate many diverse aspects and stakeholder views to reach more balanced and “optimised” decisions.
These understandings were central to the NEA Stakeholder Involvement Workshop on Optimisation in Decision Making, which brought together leaders from regulation, government, industry, academia, international organisations and NGOs on 5-7 September 2023 in Paris.
The key objective of this event was to identify the basis for a framework to help guide decision makers in the nuclear sector to better engage all interested stakeholders, including the public and local communities, with the ultimate goal of reaching a sustainable, transparent and widely accepted decision-making process.
"Optimisation goes beyond simply informing the public on decision making, to engaging and becoming a partner with the public and all stakeholders when making decisions about the future of nuclear facilities," said NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV in his opening remarks.
“The public wants to be engaged; the public deserves to be engaged.”
Left to right: Nobuhiko Ban, Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA); Rumina Velshi, President and Chief Executive Office, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; David A. Wright, Commissioner of the U.S Nuclear Regulation Commission; Maria del Pilar Lucio Carrasco, Commissioner of the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council; NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV; Laure Tourjansky - Commissioner of the French Nuclear safety Authority; Thierry Schneider, Director of the Nuclear Protection Evaluation Centre; Haidy Tadros, Director General of the Directorate of Environmental and Radiation Protection and Assessment at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
The event was co-chaired by Haidy Tadros, Director General of the Directorate of Environmental and Radiation Protection and Assessment at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Thierry Schneider, Director of France’s Nuclear Protection Evaluation Centre.
In her role at the CNSC, Director General Tadros works to ensure that regulatory, technical and scientific information and data are shared and communicated with Indigenous nations and communities, the public and interested stakeholders. During her opening address, she emphasised the importance of including all communities in decision-making.
"It’s about learning something new from people who are not necessarily from your tent."
Haidy Tadros, Director General of the Directorate of Environmental and Radiation Protection and Assessment at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Workshop Chair delivering opening remarks.
Director General Tadros was joined for discussions by senior representatives from around the world including Nobuhiko Ban, Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, Japan; Rumina Velshi, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC); David A. Wright, Commissioner of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); Maria del Pilar Lucio Carrasco, Commissioner of the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council; Laure Tourjansky, Commissioner at France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN); and Thierry Schneider, Director of the Nuclear Protection Evaluation Centre (CEPN), France.
NGOs participated in the workshop in a substantive manner with Nadia Zeleznik, Chair of Nuclear Transparency Watch, providing remarks at the opening panel and stressing the importance of involving civil society in the decision-making process.
As countries aim to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, there is a need for decision-making processes that account for national and cultural contexts and the complex interplay between economic, environmental, health and societal aspects. The panel discussions and workshop activities brought in many different voices, including civil society representatives from Greenpeace, Nuclear Transparency Watch, Safecast (Japan), Save DniPro (Ukraine), Office for Nuclear Waste Review MKG (Sweden), ANCCLI (France), Nuclear Transparency project NTP (Canada), and NPO Fukushima Dialogue (Japan).
NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV and Commissioner of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, Nobuhiko Ban, taking part in a roundtable discussion.
NRC Commissioner David A. Wright said the nuclear sector is at a crossroads, and the NRC and its regulatory partners “must be ready to meet the moment.”
“As regulators we must be more than just technically capable… but meeting the moment means that as regulators we also have to be efficient, clear and reliable. Without stakeholder engagement we simply will not succeed in the decisions we make, even if we think we’re making the right decisions,” he added.
David A. Wright, Commissioner of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, addressing the workshop in Paris.
Jan Haverkamp, who represented Greenpeace Netherlands and the World Information Service on Energy (WISE) as senior nuclear energy and energy policy expert and co-founder and vice-chair of Nuclear Transparency Watch, delved into what he described as power imbalances in nuclear regulatory processes. He encouraged participants to take a comprehensive look at the interactions between decision makers and civil society.
Mr Haverkamp said that, from his perspective, these imbalances make it more difficult to understand a given situation and hinder the potential for collective learning and understanding among all stakeholders. He underscored the importance of achieving a power balance as a prerequisite for effective engagement with stakeholders.
Jan Haverkamp, Senior Expert Nuclear Energy at Greenpeace Netherlands and the World Information Service on Energy (WISE), addressing the workshop.
Indigenous community representatives from the Ya’thi Néné nation in northern Saskatchewan spoke of the critical and spiritual importance of the land and of their community’s traditions focused on the health and sustainability of that land. They spoke of past inequities in the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada but also of some recent relationship building that had taken place with exploration companies. Themes such as mutual respect and responsible capacity building for effective engagement between the partners resonated throughout their talks.
As part of the NEA’s commitment to advancing optimisation in decision making, a high-level NEA group on Stakeholder Engagement, Trust, Transparency, and Social Sciences has been formed, comprised of nine senior level policy officials.
One of the group’s delegates, CNSC President and CEO Rumina Velshi, delivered a keynote address about the importance of building strong relationships for the success of not only stakeholder engagement, but the nuclear sector as a whole.
CNSC President and CEO, Rumina Velshi, delivered a keynote address and announced that she will be part of the newly formed NEA High-level Group on Stakeholder Engagement, Trust, Transparency, and Social Sciences.
“More than any other industry, nuclear relies on building strong relationships and partnerships with increasingly diverse stakeholder groups such as NGOs, youth and indigenous communities. Everyone deserves to feel confident that nuclear facilities are operating safely and nuclear waste is disposed of in ways that protect many generations to come.”
Among the many findings from the workshop was that it should be possible to implement a “framework” nationally and adapt it to cultural contexts by embracing core ethical and procedural values that reinforce trust. The framework should include a flexible set of principles to help optimise societal benefits and the well-being of stakeholders by considering their input in decision making, increasing shared ownership of the process and resolving any tensions that might arise from poorly implemented stakeholder involvement and interactions. Another important conclusion was the need for equity in the balance of power for stakeholders, which should go beyond legal requirements and international and national regulations, serving as a kind of "social license to operate".
During the final panel discussion, the chairs or representatives of the NEA's standing technical committees emphasised the potential impact of the workshop findings on their work. All expressed a strong interest in continuing to learn and to establish guidance on the co-development of the decision-making process, with particular attention on the long-term involvement of rights holders and stakeholders and promoting citizen science where appropriate.
For more on the NEA’s work on stakeholder engagement, please visit the workshop webpage.