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Conclusions & Recommendations


The recommendation groups reports bring forward a number of converging views among participants. This reflects the fact that beyond the differing interests of stakeholders, nuclear waste management is a common concern for all. This also reveals that despite a variety of experiences and contexts, despite some specific difficulties in local and national situations, there is a wide area of common questions. Around these common issues there is an opportunity to continue collaborative work in order to develop a better understanding of the underlying issues and a sharing of best practices.
COWAM discussions were focussed into five issues : the implementation of local democracy, the access of non-experts to expertise in the decision-making process, the influence of local people on the national nuclear waste management framework, sustainable development in regions hosting facilities, the quality of the decision-making process. However, there are obvious connections between these questions (as shown on Figure below). The key matter for COWAM is the implementation of local democracy : this is the place where local involvement takes place and where the conditions for its effectiveness need the most to be worked out. In the meantime, local democracy depends partly on the national framework set for nuclear waste management, and a major question pointed out in COWAM relates to the influence local democracy may have on the national policy framework. The quality of the decision-making process embraces what happens both at local and national levels. The access of local people to expertise is equally relevant at these two levels. Eventually the long term reliability and robustness of the decision-making process shows in the development of the hosting communities and in the extent of its sustainability. The scope of expertise and more generally the issues discussed at national and local levels are all important to prepare the long term perspective of nuclear waste management, taking into account the local development of hosting communities.

Issues about local participation, about the relation of the local authorities to the national players and national policy, about the criteria for site selection, the contribution of expertise in the local dialogue, or local development are significant in all the different parts of Europe, although each issue would be more emphasised or less important in each of the different countries, with respect to the institutional and cultural context. Based on local experience, the recommendations address the sensitive areas where most difficulties in nuclear waste management lie.
For each issue the recommendation groups were presented with a number of questions, and analysed lessons learnt and proposed recommendations.

The recommendation groups developed conclusions on the following five issues :

Local democracy

Local involvement is often only called for so that “acceptance” of a given project can be found in accordance with “good standards” of democracy. COWAM participants view local democracy as a necessary step not to address “acceptance” issues but to improve the governance of nuclear waste management. This includes the empowerment of local involved people and an active participation of the wider population. A local partnership embodied by a local organisation, involving the various categories of the community representatives and other local concerned actors is expected to play a major role in gathering and disseminating information, interacting with the available sources of expertise, dialoguing and informing the regional and national levels.

Full synthesis on local democracy

Expertise in the local decision-making process

Among the issues to be considered in nuclear waste management are the more technical ones, as for instance, the performance and safety assessment, the impact assessment, the details of the technical options, etc. Expertise on these issues often raises suspicion from the actors, not directly involved in assessment studies. Multidisciplinarity and pluralism of views and their integration in expertise are key elements in this perspective. Because knowledge does not just “objectively” exist but is interest bound, expertise independent of the applicant has to be built up to reach a pluralistic perspective. A specific role for expertise was also highlighted in supporting local democracy and local actors’ involvement in nuclear waste management.

Full synthesis on expertise

Influence of the local people on the national nuclear waste management framework.

Local communities aim primarily at discussing and influencing the impact of and conditions for the siting of a nuclear waste management facility on their land. However, because local people are directly affected by the decisions, they need to partake in the preparation of the national policy. The involvement of local people should begin as early as a national policy is being discussed even before the site selection process starts. Since nuclear waste management is a national issue looking for a local solution, cooperation is most requested between the different levels of governance. National and local players must work together to take a shared responsibility for their waste.

Full synthesis on influence of local actors on the national level

Regional development policy

The socio-economic dimension of the siting of a nuclear waste management facility in some countries is seen as an issue of compensation. It seems actually difficult to site a nuclear facility without considering the positive and negative impact it will have for the concerned territory. Nevertheless compensation appears as a narrow approach to the siting issue when it comes to local development. The integration and development of the site within a regional development policy which encompasses a prospective view on the future of the area is seen as a key factor to improve the governance of nuclear waste management in the short as well as in the longer term.

Full synthesis on regional development

The site selection process

Many approaches in the past appear to have failed either because they were based on technical criteria alone and didn’t consider economic, social and political aspects, or because they dealt with these aspects but without enough transparency. A preliminary discussion on site selection criteria - both at national and local level - should make clear how economic and political factors are included in the decision beside safety. The site selection process is questioned because of a lack of transparency, but also because some problems were not addressed or solved in the early phases of the decision-making process. The difficulties met in site selection point at the interaction between this phase and the earlier preparation of the national policy framework on the one hand, and the subsequent steps which are expected to take place after site selection on the other hand. Anchoring site selection in a wider and consistent step-wise process with clear defined steps will strengthen the robustness of nuclear waste management siting.

Full synthesis on site selection process


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