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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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Fuelling local resistance to the conventional siting approach is the public’s perception that social issues such as perceived risks, inequities, stigma, loss of control, and lack of trust are not being adequately considered. The basic question has been how to overcome this resistance by means other than administrative constraint. First of all, proponents must build trust and confidence with communities. The creation of public confidence is the first step towards public acceptance. The recent past experience indicates that by using a fair, open and patient process, NIMBY can overcome. Voluntary acceptance must be adopted as the basic procedural principle for the process of siting the radioactive waste management facility.

Effective public interaction is two-way. It is not enough to provide the affected communities with all the necessary information. Attention must be paid to what they think of the issue and their opinion and preferences must be taken into account as much as possible for the sake of the project. The lay opinion represented by the local residents does matter since it must be remembered that they who will have to live with the wastes not the experts.

The local communities must be assured that there is a long term commitment to interaction.

Otherwise, they might fear that once the repository has been filled up, they will be left to themselves with the wastes.

The emphasis given to technical assessment of management options and their potential impacts must be counter-balanced by the legitimization of an active, joint decision making role for potentially affected residents. The residents must be regarded as full partners in the process.

The siting process should also ensure that the community accepting the facility is compensated in a way that offsets all costs, and that it leaves the community better off than it was previously. There must also be acknowledgement of the service that the community is providing.

These are the basic principles of a potentially more efficient siting process. However, universally applicable solutions do not exist to the siting problems since the circumstances differ from country to country and sometimes even within one country. Political culture, traditions, and general attitudes of people have a great influence on the extent to which these principles can be applied.

In Hungary there are four main priorities for the coming years in the field of the nuclear waste


⎯ safety upgrading 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 ⎯ to identify a site for a high–level waste repository.

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, the understanding of people‘s values is of paramount importance, and this should be articulated as early as possible.

The fundamental aim of all local public relations activities, 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 have learned during the 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 maximizing 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 basis for cooperation. But we never compromise the fundamental principle that safety is first. Consequently volunteerism is sought out after identifying potential suitable areas.

Currently we have two siting projects in progress where the basic approach for public involvement is the same. The key messages are conveyed differently according to the waste type. The two main stages, namely to build and then maintain confidence with the stakeholders, requires different PR strategy and tools.


[1] ORMAI, P., Changing of Hungarian Infrastructure in Radioactive Waste Management - A Step Forward -, WM Symposia ’99, Tucson, 1999.

ORMAI, P., FRIGYESI, F., BUDAY, G., TAKÁTS, F., BALLA, Z., [2] BENKOVICS, I., Current activities and future plans for geological disposal of radioactive waste in Hungary, Fourth World-wide Review of Geological Problems in Radioactive Waste Isolation, Berkley (USA), 2005, (in press).

Socioeconomic issues and public involvement practices for near surface disposal of low and intermediate level radioactive waste — Indian approach S.K. Munshi Nuclear Recycle Group, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, India Abstract Currently there are seven operating Near Surface Disposal Facilities (NSDFs) for low and intermediate level radioactive waste in India designed and constructed to address widely varying geological and climatic conditions. It is recognized that a broad range of socioeconomic and environmental issues arise during the repository life cycle. During the various stages of approval, committees representing a range of local community interests and the stakeholders (e.g. local government, schools, business, environmental groups, media etc) are involved. In view of the vastness of the country and the fact that nuclear reactors in India are located all over the country, the logistics for the safe transportation of radioactive waste dictates that the NSDFs are co-located with the reactor sites. In Indian context, the following aspects are considered for public acceptance: association, exhibitions, interaction with educational institutions, media relations, public awareness, printed information, and political influence. The reasons for the successful Indian experience are provided.


Due to growing energy requirements of the country, there is good acceptance of nuclear power in India. India has currently fifteen nuclear power reactors in operation, catering to a demand of 3310 MWe. Additionally seven power reactors are under various stages of construction. These reactor sites are located at different locations across the country.

Over the years, the safe management of radioactive waste including its disposal has been given utmost importance right from the inception of the nuclear power programme. This has helped in acceptance of our policies by the public at large. Currently there are seven operating Near Surface Disposal Facilities (NSDFs) for low and intermediate level radioactive waste in India designed and constructed to address widely varying geological and climatic conditions.

Apart from continuous monitoring and surveillance of these repositories, due care is taken to address the basic socioeconomic and public acceptance aspects related to them.

NSDFs have a number of technical and ethical arguments in their favour, subject to the fact that due attention is given towards their safe operations and also ensuring continued financial resources and documentation into the future. Also, it has to be ensured that thorough, simple and transparent information is provided to the public and good public relations are maintained.

Technical and ethical arguments are debated over the long term safety of radioactive waste disposal. A variety of motivations influence social acceptability. Some of them are of ethical nature, while others concern public opinion, trends, economy, etc. A broad range of socioeconomic and environmental issues arise during the repository life cycle. The significance of these issues depends on considerations such as the existing land use, the location of the repository, the types and amounts of waste to be accepted, the specific repository technology selected, the number of workers employed and the proximity to populated areas. It is the role of decision-makers to consider all these issues, including ethics and public acceptability, and to arrive at a balanced appreciation. Environmental consciousness among the general public continues to evolve and will play an increasingly important role in technological decision making.

During the various stages of approval, committees representing a range of local community interests and the stakeholders (e.g. local government, schools, business, environmental groups, media etc) are involved in different stages of the repository life cycle. An important element in developing public acceptance is the level of public trust in the institutions involved in the NSDF development process, particularly in the development organization and the regulatory agencies.


NSDFs have an impact in the following areas:

⎯ Natural environment (e.g. ecologically sensitive areas);

⎯ The built environment (e.g. the transportation network);

⎯ Social conditions (e.g. the community character);

⎯ Economic conditions (e.g. employment and labour supply);

⎯ Land use (e.g. park and recreational lands).

Potential positive impacts include increased economic activity in the region. Development of nuclear reactors and waste disposal facility increases requirements for services. Due to the deployment of additional workers from outside the proposed site, it is necessary to develop additional infrastructure and services such as additional housing, educational and associated services. These aspects require attention in the development of the impact management programme. A continued close liaison between local authorities and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is maintained so that such factors are addressed satisfactorily. Impact management measures may be applied at different stages of the repository planning, siting and project approval phases.

The development of nuclear power stations and Near Surface Disposal Facility involves a number of sequential steps as discussed, occurring over a time frame of several decades. For many of these steps, explicit approvals are required from national authorities, including regulators, before proceeding to the next step. Selection of a preferred site for development is subjected to consent by the authorities responsible for land use planning. The approval of selected sites is usually subject to appropriate subsequent approvals being obtained from the authorities responsible for nuclear safety and environmental protection.

In view of the vastness of the country and the fact that nuclear reactors in India are located all over the country, the logistics for the safe transportation of radioactive waste dictates that the NSDFs are co-located with the reactor sites. This avoids transportation of radioactive waste over long distances through densely populated areas. Thus the concern for acquisition of additional land for repositories is addressed along with the reactors siting requirements. These sites are located far away from major towns and populated areas, thereby ensuring that the number of affected persons is minimal. The affected persons, after due rehabilitations and compensations, are able to lead better quality life due to improved infrastructure, employment and health care facilities. This factor greatly enhances the acceptability of the nuclear power programme in general and co-locating of NSDFs in particular.

2.1 Public Involvement In Indian context, the following aspects are considered for public acceptance.

2.2 Association Our communication activity is aimed mainly at establishing, maintaining and enhancing the confidence and the support of the local population. The objective of all these actions, events and programmes is to establish a long term relationship between the operators and the local communities. The basis of the partnership is the trust of the local community.

It is a practice of the DAE to provide employment at various levels to the families whose land has been acquired for siting of the nuclear complex. These people serve as a good link between DAE and the local community in promoting and providing the factual information pertaining to engineered safety features and safe practices adopted during the construction and operation of Near Surface Disposal Facilities.

2.3 Exhibitions

As a policy of DAE, different groups from various sections of the community (school teachers, students, village leaders etc) are provided broad overview on safe practices related to radioactive waste storage and disposal. Exhibition are held at reactor sites where, apart from exhibiting the advantages of nuclear power, emphasis is also given on the safe waste management practices and measures taken to ensure minimum impact on the environment. As a part of information, tours to the surrounding areas, are also undertaken to keep the public abreast with the programmes and policies of the DAE.

2.4 Interaction with educational institutions

Regular meetings and interactions are held with teachers and students as a target audience.

Elementary introduction to the nuclear waste management and disposal is discussed and debated. These target audiences, especially the teachers, are motivated to propagate this information to other students in their respective schools. Routine visits are also conducted for the students and the teachers to various disposal sites. Technical and financial support is given to the teachers for taking up topics on waste management as projects in their curriculum.

Essay competitions are also organized among the students to create awareness among the student community. The students from all over the country participate in these competitions, which are held in the national language- Hindi, English and all regional languages. The selected student candidates are invited to Mumbai, the headquarters of DAE, for oral presentation and these students also visit various nuclear research laboratories, isotopic application centres and NSDFs.

The DAE established the Board of Research in Nuclear Science (BRNS), which is an independent body to promote the research in nuclear sciences. Substantial project funding is provided towards assessing and evaluating the issues pertaining to waste management safety by national institutions and universities. Preference is given to the institutions located within the vicinity of reactors and repository sites for evaluation and study of environmental impacts.

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