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Maintaining a Social Licence

Having a “social licence” refers to the situation in which a project has ongoing approval within the local community and among other stakeholders, and also has political and public acceptance. Absence of trust limits the availability of a social licence for governments, institutions and companies to proceed with their activities. Education about the project and confidence in scientific certainty can help reduce public concern.

It is widely accepted that the real and perceived risks surrounding ionizing radiation and nuclear applications have eroded stakeholder confidence. Often, people distrust the institutions assigned to design, operate and regulate these programmes. Environmental impact assessments and other tools help governments establish agreements with local communities to proceed with the construction and operation of nuclear facilities. These tools help non-scientists understand how scientific uncertainty is managed and how the possibility for exposure is reduced.

Confidence may be reflected in many ways. Public trust may reside in the people and organizations operating facilities or in the government and regulators with oversight of them. Confidence may also take root in the positive role the facility plays in the surrounding community, where its benefits are clear and citizens feel empowered as partners in the management of the programme.

Engagement aids transparency in many ways. First, it requires answering questions about target audiences in order to think strategically about communications. With knowledge of the audience, communicators can overcome the fact that information alone may not change public opinion significantly. Stakeholders recognize openness when institutions act, review and report quickly to them on the issues they care about. This helps create the bond of trust known as the social licence.

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