EU Science Hub

E-TRACK Open Seminar: The role of public participation in radioactive waste management and other sectors - Lessons learnt from research and practice.

Oct 23 2014

The 'Energy – Transparency Centre of Knowledge' (E-TRACK) is a joint initiative agreed between the Directorate-General for Energy (DG ENER) and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission (EC) for the promotion of public participation in the implementation of energy policies. The objective of E-TRACK is to become a central point of reference for collecting and sharing information on practices of public participation in energy policy implementation across the EU. Public participation means the involvement of stakeholders in the decision-making processes that affect their interests or in which they are interested.

E-TRACK will conduct several projects on public participation in multiple energy sources. The first project of E-TRACK addresses public participation in the field of Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) and constitutes a pilot project for the whole E-TRACK initiative.

In the framework of the E-TRACK pilot project on public participation in RWM, an Open Seminar took place in Amsterdam on 23rd October 2014 with the following title: 'The role of public participation in radioactive waste management and other sectors - Lessons learnt from research and practice'. The Seminar brought together about 70 people who shared knowledge and experience of public participation in decision-making from both the radioactive waste management field and non-nuclear fields.

The Open Seminar produced some key messages about dialogue, flexibility, empowerment, mutual learning, trust and human capital. First, dialogue is an important tool but it is not an end in itself; after dialogue, a decision still has to be taken and this decision can only be robust if people have been involved. Second, flexibility is a pivotal element: it is important to be open to conflicting views and allow change; it would be naïve not to expect conflicting views around a delicate topic such as RWM. Third, funding and empowering the stakeholders are paramount. Fourth, models developed in one country cannot be transported to another country because of cultural, legal and administrative differences; yet, models and experiences from abroad can inspire, prevent similar mistakes and suggest possible solutions. Fifth, we cannot have public participation without trust; hence, the central question for RWM and the nuclear sector is “How can we rebuild trust once it has been lost?”. Finally, all RWM projects are long term and are likely to face a lack of knowledge about RWM in the future if we do not take actions; this possible shortage of competences in the future may also hinder public participation.