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«IAEA-TECDOC-1553 Low and Intermediate Level Waste Repositories: Socioeconomic Aspects and Public Involvement Proceedings of a workshop held in ...»

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The development leading to the policy decision was influenced by several factors, many of which are not only related to public consultation, but to the general organization and control of nuclear waste management in Finland. The final disposal plans were drawn up at a very early stage and in this context the significance of the Government’s decision on waste management strategy in 1983 cannot be over-emphasized. This has also created the necessary basis for various communication measures.

The nuclear waste management programme and the public approval of final disposal have also been supported by legislation. The legislation has incorporated the values of the society and the prevailing attitude to the existing nuclear waste management programme and has bound the state organizations to this programme. The 1987 Nuclear Energy Act, or rather the preamble of the Act, defines final disposal in Finnish bedrock as an alternative to the export of nuclear waste to another country. When the Nuclear Energy Act was amended in 1994, the central issue was the prohibition of the export and import of nuclear waste. The possibility of exporting nuclear waste was excluded, whereby the Parliament “officially” opted for final disposal as the Finnish nuclear waste management strategy.

4. LOCAL ACCEPTANCE When considering public acceptance in relation to decision making, the local level is emphasized. This comes from the fact that the municipality has a legal veto during the site selection process, which in turn has facilitated the gaining of local acceptance for final disposal. In this respect it has been important to include the existing nuclear power plant sites of Olkiluoto in Eurajoki and Hästholmen in Loviisa in the site selection programme.

In the municipalities included in the site characterization programme, Posiva’s information activities have included, among other things, presentations for specific groups, open houses, visits to the existing nuclear waste facilities and power plants, tabloids delivered by post to all the households in the area as well as ads in both local and national newspapers. In order to deepen the discussions with the municipalities, cooperation groups consisting of municipal representatives and Posiva staff members were established in each municipality during the site investigation phase. The public has had a personal opportunity to obtain additional information about the investigations and the final disposal project from Posiva’s local offices on each candidate site.

The environmental impact assessment procedure, which took place in all candidate municipalities in 1997-1999, was an important tool for communication. It also provided a means for local people to voice their concerns, and actually balanced the discussion bringing up not only the disadvantages but also the advantages of the project. Although participation remained limited, different views and opinions were presented on a broad spectrum during the assessment.

When the EIA procedure was completed, the results clearly indicated that worries related to safety of disposal and to image and living conditions of a municipality were considered smallest in Eurajoki. In addition, one of the conclusions of the EIA was that direct and indirect economic effects of the project would be relatively small for Eurajoki municipality compared to other candidate sites.

When considering the differences in public opinion in the candidate municipalities, some practical reasons for stronger support of final disposal in the nuclear municipalities can be observed. First, Finnish power plants and the adjacent final repositories for low and intermediate level waste have served well during their operation and have created trust among local people in nuclear installations. In addition, the employees of the power plants have played a role as advocates of nuclear technology at the local level. Second, the final disposal facility brings inland revenue and employment opportunities to the site municipality. Third, cooperation between the implementer and the municipality has worked out well in identifying the concerns and hopes of local people in regard to the final disposal facility.

Finally, it is the Municipality’s own will and vision of the future that counts in the acceptance.

For instance, referring to Eurajoki, the municipality hired a consultant to perform a competitiveness analysis to chart the municipality’s relative strengths and weaknesses compared with other municipalities. Following this, the municipality and local entrepreneur association performed a SWOT/ 4-field analysis charting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Then “the scenario of possibilities” and “the catastrophe scenario” were compared which resulted in the main strategy of Eurajoki 2000. This strategy included the so-called “Olkiluoto” vision with a spent fuel repository as a part of municipal infrastructure. All these scenarios and visions were openly discussed and accepted by the municipality council and finally led, after a win-win agreement made by the municipality and Posiva, to the approval for the repository.

Nationwide Acceptance

During the site investigation phase, Posiva and the final disposal project were well known in the candidate municipalities, while a great deal of work was required to improve the company’s national penetration and the general public's knowledge about the final disposal project. In order to raise the company’s profile and to increase the knowledge of nuclear waste at the national level, Posiva realized several advertisement campaigns would be needed before the deliberations on the policy decision took place in the Government and in the Parliament. The central theme throughout the successive campaigns was the justification of the significance of the policy decision. It was emphasized that it is better to proceed with the preparations for final disposal than to just continue the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel.

In this connection it was also considered important to get the message about retrievability through to people, which was actually introduced in the decision making at a quite late stage.

In fact, it was the EIA procedure that first introduced the term retrievability to the discussion.

In the spring of 1999, before Posiva submitted the application for the Policy decision, the Government decided upon the safety requirements for final disposal, including the clause of retrievability as a prerequisite for the concept. In practice, the spent nuclear fuel must be retrievable to above ground at any stage of final disposal. This ensures that the future generations can re-evaluate the sensibility of the final disposal solution. The argument of retrievability was later brought up by several MPs when the project was discussed in the Parliament.

Follow-up research carried out to study the reception of the advertisements showed that although they were recognized well among the decision-makers, they had not reached the general public too well. The same conclusion can also be drawn from the results of the Finnish Energy Attitudes survey that has been performed annually since the early 1980s.

Although the attitudes towards final disposal have become more positive among the whole population just like in the power plant municipalities, the majority of Finns still seem to question final disposal. Almost half of the Finns consider geological disposal unsafe and one third have the opposite opinion. It must be emphasized, however, that poll results should not be relied on too strongly when examining public opinion. The result seems to depend to a large extent on how a certain question or statement is constructed in a poll.


In Finnish experience, local level acceptance plays a key role when selecting the site for spent fuel disposal. This is due to the fact that the municipality has a veto right in the decision making process and a possibility to stop the site selection process. In order to proceed with the final disposal preparations, local acceptance is required, but it cannot be created within a short period of time. Public consultation has a role of convincing people about the safety of waste disposal, but there are also other factors that build up confidence. In this respect the Government’s early commitment to final disposal has been the primary driver of the project.

Another milestone shifting Finnish society gradually towards final disposal was reached in 1994 when the amendment prohibiting the import and export of nuclear waste was ratified by the Parliament. Since then, it has been easier for local people to accept final disposal, partly because of the fact that other alternatives for waste management were practically ruled out. It is also important to see that the decision of the Eurajoki municipality reversing the earlier rejection of the final disposal facility took place just after the amendment was given.

Although sufficient acceptance for final disposal was gained in the power plant municipalities, in the two other candidate sites public opinion rejected the project. Yet, similar efforts were focused on public consultation in each of the municipalities. This only shows how difficult it is to gain approval for final disposal in municipalities that do not have any previous experience with nuclear installations.

At the national level public involvement appears to be much more problematic than in the municipalities. It became evident that people in general do not have very much interest in nuclear waste management as long as somebody will handle and accept the waste. In other words, without a relevant connection to either the benefits or drawbacks of the project, for example at the local level, people are not interested in the issue and their involvement will remain low.

Despite the fact that public opinion has become more favourable towards nuclear waste in Finland, the majority of people still seem to question the concept of geological disposal, hoping that the future will bring better solutions. This inevitably brings up the question of the level of consent that is needed in order to proceed with the decisions. In an issue as controversial as nuclear waste, it seems that there will always be dissension irrespective of the extent of public consultation. Consequently, much more emphasis should be placed on listening to people and valuing different opinions, in order to create proper dialogue between the implementer and the public. In the Finnish experience, listening to people was one of the lessons learnt and it actually introduced retrievability to decision making. This gives us an ideal of public consultation that aims not at gaining unrealistic consent but at creating diverse discussion with different views for the use by the decision-makers. After all, the necessary decisions can and must be made to advance the preparations for final disposal in spite of the obvious lack of public consent.

Past and recent activities in public communication on L/ILW disposal — Hungarian experience P. Ormai Public Agency for Radioactive Waste Management P. Szanto Noguchi Porter Novelli Hungary Abstract There are four main priorities for the coming years in the field of the nuclear waste management: safety upgrading of the near surface L/ILW repository; construction a new repository for L/ILW of NPP origin; expanding the interim storage capacity for spent fuel, and identifying a site for a high–level waste repository. In Hungary, the L/ILW siting rounds to date reflect a gradual realization of the realities of public acceptability problems. When implementing these programmes one of the prerequisites is to ensure transparency with adequate communication. Past experience has taught us that when developing siting strategy, understanding of people‘s values is paramount of importance, and should be articulated as early as possible. Regarding the local public relations activities, the fundamental aim of all actions, events and programmes has been to establish a long term relationship between the local communities that are willing to cooperate, and to continuously keep the local residents interested and confident in the development. The lessons we learnt during some previous abortive projects are: public support depends upon the continued provision of non-nuclear benefits for the community, and that a win-win situation should be offered with emphasis on maximising joint gains which leaves them better off. In short, our strategy has been: to turn NIMBY into FLIMBY (For as Long as it Improves My Back Yard). That is the base fore cooperation. But we never compromise the fundamental principle that is safety first.

Consequently volunteerism is searched for after identifying potential suitable areas. The paper spells out the approach to volunteerism and openness being followed in the new siting project.


What makes the problem of radioactive waste disposal so controversial is the fact that although it does not seem technically difficult to design and construct a scientifically correct, economically feasible, practically implementable and technically sound disposal facility, this is not the perception of the general public. In Central and East European countries most decisions regarding siting of nuclear facilities were in the past made by centralized executive bodies and rarely publicly identified. Moreover to add strength to the unsolved waste problem, anti-nuclear groups systematically seek to discredit waste management projects.

The paper presents the programme followed by Hungary for the disposal of nuclear waste, to come to a decision on the establishment of a site for disposal of low and intermediate-level radioactive waste (LILW). The paper spells out the approach to volunteerism and openness being followed in the new siting project. As the new LILW project has still been progressing, it is too early to tell if the approaches used and described in detail in this paper can solve the problem.

The author would like to state clearly that he is far from being an impartial bystander and firmly believes in the feasibility of the safe disposal of radioactive waste. The organization that the author represents also shares this view.

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