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Non-nuclear energy


Fission and radiation protection

Community Waste Management 2: Improving the Governance of Nuclear Waste Management and Disposal in Europe

Following on from the COWAM project initiated during the Fifth Framework Programme, COWAM-2 will carry out a collective and inclusive dialogue on ways to improve decision-making processes (DMPs) in radioactive waste management (RWM) at local and regional levels. It will take into account the national, cultural and historical contexts of individual European Member States. The unique characteristic of COWAM is its approach to this issue – taking note of the viewpoints coming from both local and regional communities currently or potentially concerned by RWM. COWAM- 2 will move on from the initial exploratory conclusions of the first COWAM project to broadly based, validated and practical recommendations for implementation.

Sustainable decisions, involving society

COWAM-2 will identify the actual conditions and prerequisites based on a more significant and well designed involvement of local stakeholders in improving the governance of radioactive waste management (RWM). These include better identification and understanding of societal expectations, needs and concerns as regards radioactive waste DMPs, in the context of previous and ongoing successful and unsuccessful experiences. Increasing societal awareness of and accountability for RWM at local, national and European levels can create the right conditions for improved dialogue between the various stakeholders.

Guidance will be developed (including key non-technical and technical dimensions) and best practices and benchmarking on practical and sustainable DMPs (recognised as fair and equitable by all stakeholders) will be described. The whole project should enable European societies to make actual progress in the governance of RWM, in order to reach practicable, accountable and sustainable decisions.

Structured dialogue, issue analysis, new strategies

The COWAM-2 project is split into five complementary activities. A structured dialogue on enhancing involvement at a local level will allow stakeholders to examine the issues they face in building a democratic local process. The Participatory Technology Assessment methodology will be tested to see if it can offer a consensual framework and a platform for deliberative co-decision among scientific and societal actors at the local level. A participatory stakeholders’ involvement mechanism will be defined to allow local players to ‘stretch’ those responsible for national decision-making. This could help provide practical recommendations for the design and realisation of a ‘robust’ DMP that can be perceived as sound, fair, equitable and sustainable by the various stakeholders.

Underlying these process aspects there is a need to identify, discuss and analyse the institutional, ethical, economic and legal considerations raised by the existence of a site for long-term waste storage or geological disposal. Three interrelated issues will be considered more specifically: responsibility and ownership; continuity of local dialogue and monitoring; and compensation and sustainable development to produce best practice in DMPs. Relevant outcomes from COWAM-2 will be integrated in national RWM strategies and a review of the experience of each participating country described in a common format. The results will be widely disseminated within and outside the COWAM network.

Wider societal involvement, mutual learning

A major difficulty in the past resulted from the fact that RWM was essentially carried out by public authorities and RWM implementers. Wider societal involvement only happened in the form of opposition to the proposed options and strategies. Therefore, a major objective for improving the governance of RWM is to create the conditions for society to be involved, in a shared political concern, in the development of sound national strategies for RWM. COWAM-2 will produce a societal framework in Europe of aware, accountable and empowered players and institutions sharing common views on RWM, beyond (but in dialogue with) the traditional circle of nuclear actors. By implication, COWAM-2 will enhance mutual learning between concerned stakeholders, will provide them with guidance, and disseminate the project’s conclusions to a wider concerned public.

Consensual decision-making, waste solutions

The involvement of stakeholders in the core COWAM activities is essential to the quality, legitimacy and robustness of their results. Stakeholders will contribute expertise on the issues they are directly concerned with, in conjunction with experts from the various fields concerned with RWM. Stakeholders will take part directly in all the working groups and explore the practical implementation of improved modes of governance. In return, this participation will provide them with opportunities for capacity building which will have a direct impact in their RWM-related activities at both local and national levels.

Stakeholders will participate in the overall project strategy by setting preliminary success criteria. They will also check and review the results, validating the outcomes of the project. This innovative process will ensure that the activities make progress within the overall COWAM-2 objectives and that they adequately address stakeholders’ practical and specific concerns. To summarise, the project should enable decision-making on RWM – a subject of vital importance to future energy and environmental policy.

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