Communicating with the public and other interested parties

Regulatory bodies have the responsibility to inform the public and other interested parties, including governmental authorities and professional and scientific bodies, about radiation risks and regulatory issues. Through its Safety Standards and guidance documents, the IAEA helps Member States develop communication and consultation strategies that promote openness and transparency.

Members of the public usually have incomplete knowledge and a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to issues involving nuclear and radiation safety. This directly influences their perception of the radiation risk associated with nuclear energy, radioactive waste and the use of radiation sources. At the same time, the public, as well as other interested parties, expects to have fair and reasonable opportunities to provide their views and to influence regulatory decision-making processes.

As stipulated by various international conventions and treaties, interested parties have to be appropriately informed and involved. Communication and consultation are strategic instruments that support a regulatory body in performing its regulatory functions, enabling it to make informed decisions and to develop awareness for safety among interested parties, thereby promoting a culture of safety. It also helps the regulatory body to communicate more effectively in the case of a possible nuclear or radiological emergency.

A regulatory body should strive for a high level of transparency and openness. This allows it to build the public’s trust in its independence, competence, integrity and impartiality. The early involvement of interested parties provides insights into the potential for conflict situations and gives a better chance of solving problems at a time when a solution can be found more easily.

The regulatory body should communicate proactively with and initiate dialogue with the public, and should demonstrate a willingness to listen and respond to a broad variety of concerns. When necessary, it should ensure that interested parties are involved at the earliest opportunity, even, in certain situations, before formal regulatory activities have been launched, for example in review and assessment activities relating to radioactive waste management facilities.

The IAEA supports its Member States in building their capacities to develop and implement strategies for effective, open and transparent communication and consultation. The IAEA Safety Standards on Communication and Consultation with Interested Parties by the Regulatory Body and the IAEA Fundamental Safety Principles specifically outline the regulatory body’s responsibility in this area. The Safety Standards also provides practical recommendations on how to achieve an active dialogue with and participation of the public and other interested parties.

The Agency regularly organizes events to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, experiences and best practices on how to communicate with interested parties between IAEA Member States. It also holds training events and technical meetings for experts to enable Member States to face diverse communication challenges, including those related to public trust, risk perception, and the dissemination of safety and security information, as well as to enhance transparency, render communication more effective, and improve overall information distribution.

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