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Inviting a Dialogue

Two-way interaction improves project planning and engages affected parties early, before opposition becomes entrenched. This interaction with key audiences provides access to suggestions and views of others. If approached respectfully, and meaningfully engaged with from the beginning, dialogues can avoid future obstructions.

Communication programmes that succeed accommodate changes suggested through stakeholder engagement. If suggestions or requests cannot be met, communicators should make sure to articulate why community feedback cannot be activated. They should also stay attuned to the timeliness of their interactions and responses. Stakeholder requests for information should be followed up on quickly, even if it is only possible to deliver a status update in the response.

Early education on nuclear science and technology can help audiences avoid fear driven reactions. Discussions about a nuclear project’s goals can build positive associations between the technology and quality of life. In this way, nuclear operators can partner with communities to pursue shared goals for improvements to environmental, economic and social conditions.

Published in 2014, the IAEA Publication “Communication and Stakeholder Involvement in Environmental Remediation Projects” offers an in-depth look at how good communication strategies can encourage cooperation and understanding between different interested parties. The same principles apply in the case of engagement throughout the entire lifecycle of a nuclear facility, from siting, through construction and operation, to closure and decommissioning. Other IAEA documents discuss these stages in more detail and can provide useful insights, such as the IAEA Publication “Stakeholder Involvement Throughout the Lifecycle of Nuclear Facilities.” Experience shows that successful communication at the end of a facility’s operational life depends on effective involvement of stakeholders from the very beginning.

Sustaining Two-way Communication

Communicators in the nuclear sector must take the initiative and begin regular and sustained interaction so as to build community awareness. Support can only begin to build when the public is aware of a project’s goals and implications. Initial outreach efforts that result only from stakeholder demands for information undermine the credibility of nuclear project leaders.

If rumours and misinformation already abound, a gap exists in the trust needed to build community support. Communicators can help establish and maintain their credibility in a variety of ways:

  • Early and frequent outreach allows project leaders to inform stakeholders in a proactive fashion
  • A strategy that eliminates surprises reduces the need to subsequently defend actions
  • By volunteering information, solutions to possible problems are identified early

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