Engaging the Public in Developing a Nuclear Power Programme


Experts from 24 Member States attended the IAEA meeting on engaging the public in developing a nuclear power programme.

2013-09-10│ Engaging stakeholders successfully in a new or expanding nuclear power programme is an issue that many countries face. The IAEA is assisting Member States in addressing this challenge.

Some 50 experts from newcomer countries and those with existing nuclear power programmes met at the IAEA on 2-4 September 2013 and discussed effective strategies for fostering public acceptance in initiating or expanding a nuclear power programme. They also shared their experience and practical examples of what worked well, and what did not, at a national and local levels.

"Stakeholder involvement is a challenge because the amount of time, effort and competence it takes to fully engage the public and understand their concerns is often underestimated," said Ms Anne Starz, Head of the IAEA’s Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Group.

In plenary and breakout sessions, the participants, who came from 24 Member States, addressed the role of the government, regulator and owner/operator in stakeholder involvement; public acceptance vs. awareness and understanding; engagement and benefits to local communities for hosting an nuclear power plant; working with the largest constituency, i.e. people who are undecided; and communication with neighbouring countries and the international community.

Ambassador Hamad Alkaabi, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the IAEA, explained that based on the UAE experience, the stakeholders and the focus of communication change during the different phases of implementing of a new nuclear power programme. He highlighted the importance of aligning the stakeholder involvement strategy to the national policy of the UAE.

"Meeting and listening to your local constituency is a daily job," said Mr Claude Gatignol, Honorary Member of the French National Assembly and former representative of the Manche district, where a third nuclear power reactor is being built at the Flamanville site. "It is not only the operator’s responsibility. The national government and local authorities have a major role to play in communicating with local communities."

"We should try to bring together the nuclear sector with stakeholders such as local majors and associations of farmers and fishers more often so they can better understand each other’s perspective," said Ms Karen Daifuku, Senior Nuclear Project Manager at Électricité de France, who chaired the meeting. She also emphasized the importance of cross-border communication. "This topic had not really been addressed before. Our discussions showed that neighbouring countries are stakeholders that need special attention."

Although stakeholder engagement may take many forms and vary according to national culture and situation, participants identified many common issues. "I thought the situation in my country was unique," said Mr Adam Kordas from the Ministry of Economy in Poland. "But having heard about the many experiences from other countries, I realize that we face the same challenges and may have the same solutions for engaging effectively with stakeholders."

The meeting also contributed to developing content for an IAEA technical document that will provide operational guidance on stakeholder engagement and public information for new nuclear power programmes. It will include a model stakeholder involvement programme, including strategy and implementation plan, and provide many examples from Member States.

The presentations of the IAEA Technical Meeting on Engaging the Public and Local Communities in the Development of a Nuclear Power Programme, held in Vienna on 2-4 September 2013, are available on the meeting webpage.