«IAEA-TECDOC-1553 Low and Intermediate Level Waste Repositories: Socioeconomic Aspects and Public Involvement Proceedings of a workshop held in ...»
3. Overview of presented papers The papers presented at the workshop covered a wide spectrum of disposal programmes regarding repositories in planning, development and operational stages. A common message was to clearly identify the public interests and meet the material, psychological and social needs of local communities. The particular lectures provided mostly positive examples of
implemented approaches and included the following:
⎯ past experiences mostly underestimating the role of public opinion or keeping the radioactive waste disposal somehow secret and relevant lessons learnt;
⎯ formulation of public communication programmes and tactics employed to acquire a repository hosting agreement;
⎯ the description of new approaches to gain a public support for siting disposal facilities;
⎯ ways of cooperation between repository developers and local communities;
⎯ procedures applied to allow for the repository development in societies having right of veto on siting the facility;
⎯ identification of stakeholders and their interests;
⎯ multinational negotiations regarding the disposal facility sited close to state borders;
⎯ content, extent, forms and terms of information provided to public in different stages of a repository lifecycle;
⎯ ways of involving the public in decision making processes;
⎯ necessity to educate general public in waste safety and security matters;
⎯ positive effects of co-location of waste generating nuclear facilities and repositories.
Even if examples exist that an incentive for local community is not a prerequisite for receiving agreement with siting a disposal facility, most presenters considered some direct or indirect material support as an effective tool to reach this goal. However, the means, their level, timing and a way of implementation differ significantly in national programmes due to their particularities. A win-win approach and inclusion of non-nuclear matters were indicated as prospective ways for reaching public consensus when developing and operating repositories. Populistic political decisions not respecting long term duration of the repository lifecycle and, thus, resulting in setting excessive levels of incentives were mentioned as a sensitive issue: once promised the supporting programmes must be adhered no matter how costly they might be. The presentations provided enough challenges for discussion which is summarised in the following section.
The operation of disposal facilities has resulted in collecting data that, together with improvements to predictive modelling methods, allow for technical/economic optimization of repository designs. Provided that both operational and long term safety is assured, cost effective, durable and fully functional elements of repository constructions can be proposed.
Also, the tuning of repository infrastructures and of operational procedures is another result of the growing level of experience.
There are numbers of approaches applied and planned in searching stakeholder support for LILW disposal facilities, most of them being country specific, but hardly any guidance could be developed to generalize these approaches. However, sharing experiences in searching and promulgating technically/economically optimal and, at the same time, providing socially acceptable solutions of a disposal system seems to be an effective way to provide guidance for interested parties. The applied international practices, bringing both positive and negative results, may help in outlining and implementing or improving their national approaches when integrating non-technical aspects with technical ones. Other benefits of the information exchange are seen in becoming acquainted with experiences regarding the involvement of the public and debates over sociological, environmental and economic impacts of the disposal system on society.
The participants of the workshop held lengthy discussions concerning the need and level of incentives to the local and regional communities hosting or proposed as the siting location for radioactive waste management facilities. Incentive is defined as encouragement, motivation, stimulation, suggestion, or impetus. Incentive is not re-compensation, substitution, reimbursement, or indemnity. Incentives provide support to the community to balance any inconvenience associated with the waste disposal facility. Economic incentives can be direct such as grants, sponsorships, donations, and fees; indirect incentives include local contracts, purchasing local supplies and materials, hiring practices, infrastructure improvements, and payment of taxes.
Many developers accept that incentives have become part of waste disposal facility projects, and there have been many different types and magnitudes of incentive programmes. There were certain guidelines voiced by workshop participants related to incentive programmes as
⎯ Incentives should not be interpreted as compensation of risks.
⎯ Nuclear power plants provide contributions and support to local communities in which they are located.
⎯ It is preferable to keep incentives local or regional.
⎯ Some countries prohibit the use of direct incentives.
⎯ Sociological professionals should be engaged in the establishment of incentive programmes and levels of incentive, not just technical and financial personnel.
⎯ The level and magnitude of incentives should be considered over the expected life cycle of the facility.
⎯ Incentives can bring unintended consequences to local communities such as increased population near the facility.
The siting and development of waste management facilities adjacent to the primary waste generation facilities can provide some additional economic advantages to the incentive programmes of both facilities. The local and regional communities have accepted the industry producing the waste and have had the benefit of educational programmes and public involvement activities for the existing nuclear facility. The impacts and economics of transporting the radioactive waste can be minimized by co-location of the waste generation and disposal facilities.
The consensus of the participants was that incentives will continue to be part of radioactive waste management facility projects and, if applied, must be carefully considered as they may significantly increase the overall cost of the projects. There was no consensus on the amount or level of incentive or the timeframe for the incentive programme. Vice versa, there were no doubts that any supportive economical scheme must respect the national legislative background. However, involving local citizens through economical tools has not been found to be essential. Depending on the maturity of the society and in accordance with national practice, the experience of some countries indicate that the disposal facility can be implemented without any economical incentives, neither direct nor indirect.
Another topic of considerable discussion at the workshop was public involvement. Positive public involvement results from education on the subjects of radioactive material uses, waste generation, and waste management, and from stakeholder participation in the standards setting and decision making processes during facility development.
The form and depth of education programmes are dependent on which stakeholder group is being addressed. The general public, politicians, regulatory authorities, regional leaders, business owners, host community leaders, professionals, educators, local and regional work force, non-government organizations, bordering country populations can all be stakeholders to a LILW disposal facility. Academic institutions will generally have better acceptance by stakeholders than developer organizations or regulatory authorities, and these institutions already understand and use appropriate educational methods and equipment. Use of mass media can also be helpful since they have established distributions, audiences, equipment, and broadcast systems in place. Regardless of the group or educational methods chosen, there must be specific information on the problem and a range of possible solutions.
In addition to information dissemination and education, public involvement must include opportunities for the public and the local and regional government entities to be a part of the decision making progress for the waste management facility. Facility location, site characterization, design concepts, performance objectives, monitoring methods, routes for delivery, community incentive programmes are all topics for stakeholder input and involvement.
A number of existing nuclear facilities, like nuclear power plants, have elaborated visitor information and training centres at the facility or in the local community. These centres host hundreds and even thousands of visitors annually to inform them about the nuclear industry and the disposal facility in particular. The community typically has access to the centre for local events unrelated to the nuclear industry.
The workshop provided a forum where experts from Member States shared their experiences in non-technical aspects of planning, licensing and operating LILW disposal facilities.
Participants presented approaches and practices applied in their countries, established new contacts and were able to take advantage of activities and experiences from abroad.
There were 25 interesting presentations made during the workshop and frank, open discussions of the issues identified. The written papers of the presentations discuss many successes in the development and operation of radioactive waste disposal facilities and along with them have been many positive and successful public involvement programmes. Yet with all the successes, there are many challenges ahead to continue operations of the current facilities, upgrade facilities that need improvement, and develop new facilities required for the proper disposition of LILW.
Public involvement plays a key role and the sophisticated and extensive public education systems that exist provide a vital service to gain public acceptance. There is a full range of compensation and benefit programmes used as incentives for hosting a LILW facility. Even if exemptions exist the experience in most countries indicate the direct/indirect incentives as a necessary part of gaining public acceptance. The countries, regions and local communities have their own established processes to make public decisions. Each organization developing a site must select and implement the methods that are acceptable within their framework of laws and regulations.
Waste management facilities are needed to protect the environment and improve public health for the long term future. One significant challenge is to inform the public on the relative hazards of radioactive waste compared to other hazards in our modern society and to get the acceptance of the appropriate members of the public for these necessary facilities. Over the entire life cycle of these facilities, the projects must be managed without expending a disproportionate share of the collective resources.
The workshop opened new opportunities to many participants for discussion and consultation on common issues associated with the development and operation of LILW disposal facilities.
More information and broader perspectives have been gained on the general topic of radioactive waste management around the world, and specific understandings of the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of these facilities were obtained. Considerations should be given by the IAEA to hosting periodic workshops on this topic to promote continued discussion of the successes and sharing of the failures to all Member States.
Present situation of the low level waste repository in Argentina and the necessity for developing a new site E. Maset, R. Andresik National Radioactive Waste Management Programme, National Atomic Energy Commission, Buenos Aires, Argentina Abstract Low and intermediate level wastes generated in Argentina have been managed by the National Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC) from 1971 onward in a site known as Ezeiza Radioactive Waste Management Area (EMA), which is part of the Ezeiza Atomic Center (EAC), located in the Province of Buenos Aires. In view of the design characteristics and the Operating License ruling the EMA final disposal facilities since 1995, only conditioned wastes considered low level wastes requiring isolation periods of up to 50 years were subjected to final disposal since then. The wastes that were disposed of before 1995 are considered historic wastes and the source term must be carefully evaluated. In addition the design of the disposal systems corresponds to the state of the art of the beginning of the 70’s decade, and the operation stage of most of these systems achieved thirty years by 2001. These facts combined with meteorological phenomena as more frequent heavy rains that modified the groundwater level, have induced to reassess the impact that such facilities could have on the environment and nearby population. The safety reassessment was initiated in 2001 and at the same time the operation of all disposal systems was suspended. Societal aspects were taken into account too, because since some years ago there is an important public concern in the local community towards this repository. This complex situation was evaluated by the NAEC and it was decided not to continue with the disposal of wastes in the EMA independently from the final results of the safety reassessment of the operation stage. It is necessary to implement a social communication programme to change the negative public perception on radioactive waste management in order to fulfil the objectives of the stewardship programme. It is very important to involve the local community near the EMA in the future decisions to be taken on this site because it will be the antecedent for the acceptance of new sites by other communities. Argentina requires a new location for siting of low level radioactive waste final disposal systems and a repository for intermediate level wastes. It is planned to build both facilities in the same site. It is currently mandatory to have a social and political consensus to obtain the corresponding agreements so it is very important to identify and involve stakeholders from the beginning of the project in order to improve the decision making process.