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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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local development. The working group on local development analyses socioeconomic issues and projects, formulates prioritization criteria and founding modalities. The more technical working groups evolve from general information through specific information on siting and the disposal concept towards a final disposal concept. The working groups report regularly to the executive committee. They are composed of both representatives of the organizations that founded the partnership, as well as individual citizens who expressed an interest to participate actively in this discussion forum. Since all these people participate on a voluntary basis, at least two full time project coordinators need to be employed by the partnership. These project coordinators take care of administrative, communication tasks, and support the working groups both logistically and scientifically.

It was considered important that the partnership should have its seat at the heart of the community concerned. A partnership is not a field office from ONDRAF/NIRAS, but an independent local organization in which ONDRAF/NIRAS participates as the only non-local partner among a multitude of local stakeholders. This location “on site” gives the partnership a “face”. A clearly visible presence in the community creates awareness among the citizens not participating and the premises of the partnership can serve as an open platform where citizens can come with their questions, remarks or concerns. On a practical level, it also facilitates the meeting of local participants in the discussions, for the simple reason that they do not have to travel too far. In order to allow the partnership to work independently, each partnership receives an annual budget from ONDRAF/NIRAS.

2.3 Mutual project development

Through dialogue, all interested parties are invited to express their interests, concerns, fears and values, to listen to the views of other parties and to come to terms on what this particular group of citizens, in this particular community, at this particular point in time defines as a common goal. In this way, ONDRAF/NIRAS, in its role of project developer, enters into direct dialogue with the local community, interested in hosting the project. Experts from ONDRAF/NIRAS are given a forum to explain what, in their view, a low level radioactive waste repository should look like and why they consider that to be a safe solution given the characteristics of the site in question. The members of the working groups can then question the ONDRAF/NIRAS experts directly and/or invite other experts, whose opinion they consider relevant. By entering into dialogue with the local community, the concept-designers have an opportunity to better explain their project to the local stakeholders. Questions and reactions from the public, however, may require them to be more creative and to rethink certain aspects of their initial concept for the project.

Maybe the most important and probably the most innovative aspect of the partnership approach, is that the partnership does not only decide (or at least advises to the community council) on the repository concept and where it should (or should not) be implanted. Through the partnership, the local community can decide on what they consider to be the necessary conditions (technically, environmentally, aesthetically, etc.) for such a repository.

Furthermore, within the partnership, an accompanying local project that seeks to bring added value to the community will be developed. Both the repository project and the accompanying local project are developed and discussed in depth within the partnership. All pieces of the puzzle (individual remarks, concerns and ideas -from brilliantly innovative to absurd and not to the point-; expert reports and interventions; interests of stakeholders; etc.) are brought together. When finally, all, or at least a majority of the parties involved come to an agreement on what their puzzle, their integrated project, should look like, this is presented to the municipal council.

Until the partnership has made its final proposal to the municipal council on whether, and under which conditions, a repository facility in the community would be acceptable, the partnership is the only body where decisions with regard to the potential repository are taken.

The final outcome of the discussions in the partnership should therefore be either a “thanks, but no thanks” (i.e. based on all the information gathered, the community decides against the repository project for technical, safety or other reasons) or an integrated project, carried by both local stakeholders and ONDRAF/NIRAS.

In the end, the municipal council decides. They have a municipal veto right to reject or accept the proposal. They can also add some specific conditions. They will decide whether to put the municipality forward as a potential host for a low level nuclear waste repository facility or not. Since the final word in this matter lies with the municipal council, it is also essential that council members are fully aware of the implications of their decision. To avoid the risk of conflicting interests between local politicians and the other members of the community, an active involvement of the representatives of the political arena is encouraged.

The federal government at last has to make a choice between surface disposal or deep disposal, and has to decide where the repository should be implemented.

2.4 Situation today The file of the long term management of low level and medium-level short lived waste (category-A waste) has moved into a crucial phase. On 5 November 2004, the STOLA-Dessel partnership has submitted its report to the municipal council. The MONA local partnership presented its findings to Mol municipal council on January 27, 2005. Both local partnerships considered the disposal of category A waste acceptable, provided all their conditions are met.

These conditions relate to various areas. The concerns of the local communities about the possible effects of a repository on health, safety and the environment are reflected in a number of concrete and strict conditions regarding the disposal concept. Furthermore, the local inhabitants expect a disposal project will bring social, cultural and economic added value, which will benefit the future development of the municipality. Finally, they demand continuous participation in monitoring the dossier and explicit appreciation for the contribution made by the municipality for solving this important social problem.

The municipal council of Dessel pronounced itself unanimously on this dossier on the 27th of January. The municipal council of Mol pronounced itself on the 25th of April. It is for the first time in the history of the file of the long term management of this type of waste that local communities declare their willingness to accommodate this waste permanently on their territory, admittedly under well-defined conditions. As the municipalities have pronounced on the conditions that they lay down for a possible repository on their territory, the concrete implementation of the local conditions will be discussed with all stakeholders in the next stage of the decision making process. As before, local participation constitutes a critical factor for success in these discussions. In the community of Dessel a new partnership STORA has already been founded on the 27th of April. This partnership will not only do the follow-up of the STOLA file, but also will discuss the management of all radioactive waste stored on the territory of Dessel.

The final report of PaLoFF, the partnership in Fleurus and Farciennes, is as good as ready and will normally be submitted to both local councils in December 2005. We will know if the municipalities of Fleurus and Farciennes are willing to accept the disposal of low level and medium-level short lived waste and under what conditions.

Provided the current participation process is maintained and the discussions are extended to all stakeholders, ONDRAF/NIRAS is of the opinion that it should be possible to arrive at a sufficiently clear situation in 2006 or 2007, i.e. a situation in which the government can make a decision. This decision will mark the transition to a new stage in which the licence application files that are necessary to start the construction of the repository will actually be prepared. Numerous licenses and a safety report are required before construction of the repository can start. A repository can be operational in 2015-2020 at the earliest. The operational stage, i.e. filling the repository, will take about thirty years and will be followed by the final covering and closure of the repository, and a monitoring phase of a few hundred years. Only when all parties involved are in formal agreement with the municipality's conditions does the conditional candidature become definitive.

3. RECOMMENDATIONS Currently it is too early to evaluate the overall process, as final decisions have not been made.

However, one of the major lessons we learned so far is that only through close interaction we can fully understand what the local stakeholder needs are. Reversely, in this way they can understand our needs. Mutual learning and mutual understanding is what it is all about.

Respect, transparency, openness, and the ability to listen to each other are key elements. The partnership approach is an iterative process, the continuity of what was started, is vital.

ONDRAF/NIRAS is committed to continue this approach.

The present status of public acceptance of radioactive waste repositories in Brazil P.M. Fleming, R.P. Mourão Center of Nuclear Technology Development (CDTN/CNEN), Belo Horizonte, Brazil Abstract A synthesis of the Brazilian experience in public acceptance of the site for the construction of the permanent radioactive waste repository (Abadia de Goiás), emphasizing the positive and negative aspects of the adopted strategies and the current status of the qualification in stimulation techniques to the public acceptance of repositories, one of the tasks of the project BRA/04/055 (Assessing a Site for the Final Disposal of Low- and Medium-Level Radioactive Waste), are discussed and presented.


The Brazilian experience about public acceptance of repositories occurred in the decade of 1980, with the accident of Goiânia. The accident of Goiânia was published thoroughly in all communication media and it showed the lack of preparedness of the population, its lack of information and ignorance of the characteristics and destiny of the radioactive wastes generated by the accident. The major repercussion of the Goiânia accident was to bring to the attention of Brazilian society the negative aspects of radioactivity [1].

The accident of Goiânia was chronologically characterized into three phases. The first phase, the phase of fear, started with the identification of the accident and ended with the total cleanup of the city, covering the period of three months. The decontamination procedures started in this phase and the waste generated, consisting of 3500 m3 of materials weighing some 6000 tons, was temporarily stored next to Abadia de Goiás city, a town located at a distance of 23 km from Goiânia city [2].

The second phase, the phase of doubt or suspicion, covering the period of January 1988 to March 1991, was marked by the lack of decision of what to do with the waste stored in Abadia, and the consequent aggravation of the atmosphere of fear which hung over the city and the populations of the surrounding towns [2].

The acceptance phase, covering the period of March 1991 to July 1997, the period between the decision to build the repository and its inauguration, was characterized by the start of an intense process of exchange of information and consultation, involving CNEN and the population, in order to encourage the acceptance of the site and the construction of the final repository [2].

The strategy built public acceptance into the process and resolved to find a definitive solution for the storage of the radioactive waste generated by the accident. It addressed, in a absolutely transparent manner, the steps to be taken to answer the question of the Cs137 wastes, to all society sectors, including the mass media, the groups which form public opinion, to organized social groups, educational institutions, neighbourhood communities, associations, and so forth.


Some points of reference in the adopted strategy were established, looking for its easy understanding by the population and contributing positively in the public acceptance process.

The relevant points were:

⎯ The risk of the transport of the wastes stored in the temporary repository to another site.

⎯ The prestige of the state Governor and the manager of CNEN’s District in Goiânia who took the decision of selecting the definitive site.

⎯ The risk of keeping the wastes stored in the open air, liable to future leakage or any kind of accident, including sabotage.

⎯ The project was entirely national, and was considered important to bolster Brazilian competence, nationalism and self-esteem.

⎯ The building process would be initiated only after a complete evaluation and analysis of the studies and surveys necessary for the licensing procedures, both in the nuclear and environmental areas. This point showed that the commitment to adhere to the established rules was an important point in the opinion formation on the planned repository.

⎯ The environmental impact study had to be approved at the national, state and municipal levels and, in order to be implemented, the project had to undergo a public hearing, pointing a high degree of interaction between the society and its institutions.

⎯ All the documents (reports, studies, analyses, surveys) generated during the development of the project and the construction of the permanent repository would be made available to the public. Transparency was a key argument in the articulation of the acceptance of the implantation of the project.

The negative point registered was the wrong attitude adopted by CNEN during the doubt or suspicion period (from 1988 to 1991), when information was not release to the media and requests for data were denied in the name of "radiological safety and protection".

The public acceptance of repositories should not be understood as an isolated subject, but as a part of a great process involving the acceptance of nuclear energy, its uses and applications.

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