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Recent trends and developments in dialogue on radioactive waste management: Experience from the UK

Galson Sciences Limited, 5, Grosvenor House, Melton Road, Oakham, LE15 6AX, UK.
Environment International (Impact Factor: 5.66). 01/2007; 32(8):1021-32. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2006.06.010
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This paper highlights some recent trends and developments in dialogue on radioactive waste management in the UK. In particular, it focuses on the use of dialogue around options for the management of risk, and describes techniques for stakeholder dialogue in the field of radioactive waste management. The paper summarises past and on-going experience in the UK, and provides an overview of some practical examples from decommissioning of the former reprocessing facility at Dounreay in Scotland. In common with developments and trend in other countries, the UK has moved to a position where there is now widespread recognition that radioactive waste management requires not only sound technical assessment of risk, but also public participation, consultation and stakeholder dialogue on proposed solutions and the associated risks. In fact, the shift of position has arguably been quite pronounced, with formal procedures to identify, clarify and integrate stakeholders' issues and concerns within the decision-making processes. Experience suggests that citizens are capable of engaging with complex technical issues such as radioactive waste. Indeed, the earlier in the decision-making process that public and stakeholder engagement (PSE) occurs--for example, on the consideration of options and alternatives--the greater the chance of reaching a successful outcome that properly reflects the values and opinions of stakeholders. In the UK, the assessment of alternative waste management options is increasingly being addressed through Best Practical Environmental Option (BPEO) studies. Responses to stakeholder engagement processes and experience of conducting BPEO studies emphasise that consultation must be open, transparent, deliberative and inclusive. However, while early consideration of generic approaches and option choices is necessary to generate a climate of openness and understanding, it remains essential to fully engage with local stakeholder and community groups to consider issues associated with proposed developments at a site-specific level. An interesting area where further attention may be warranted is the use in final decision-making of the results from participatory processes such as BPEO studies. Demonstrating clearly that participants' views have influenced decisions appears to be essential for retaining legitimacy and trust, confidence and goodwill.

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