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Making the decision-making basis for nuclear waste management transparent Summary of a pre-study report
The Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste, KASAM, which is an independent committee attached to the Swedish Ministry of Environment, studies issues related to nuclear waste management and the decommissioning of nuclear installations in order to advise the Government on these issues.
During 2005 and 2006 discussions were held between KASAM and the Ministry as well as between KASAM and a number of actors having an interest in the nuclear waste management area including SKB, responsible authorities, municipalities involved in site investigations by SKB, their respective county administrative boards and regional councils, as well as environmental groups about their views on the future work of KASAM. These discussions showed that there is a need for activities by KASAM leading to more transparency in the Swedish nuclear waste manage programme. Therefore KASAM decided to start a pre-study for a transparency programme and Kjell Andersson (Karinta-Konsult/Karita Research) was contracted to carry out the pre-study. The idea of the transparency programme is that it should increase the transparency, and thereby the quality, of the decision-making process and the document basis for the up-coming decisions related to the SKB license applications for a final repository for high level nuclear waste and an encapsulation plant for spent nuclear fuel, expected to be submitted to the government at the end of 2009 (SKB, 2006, in Swedish).
Earlier efforts towards transparency
The KASAM transparency programme builds on research and development that has taken place in Sweden since the beginning of the 1990s starting with the Dialogue Project of SKI and SSI (Andersson J, Andersson K & Wene, 1993), followed by the RISCOM Pilot study (Andersson, Espejo & Wene, 1998) and the RISCOM II project (Andersson et.al., 2003) coordinated by SKI. Also the Swedish municipalities Oskarshamn and Östhammar have used the ides of the RISCOM Model in organizing seminars and hearings, and the “Oskarshamn model” builds partially on RISCOM ideas. The RISCOM Model has also been used in other areas than nuclear waste management, such as the risk assessment of mobile telephone systems (Hedberg, 2006), siting of energy installations (Andersson, Johansson & Wene, 2006), and remediation of chemically contaminated sites (Andersson, Grundfelt & Wene, 2005).
The pre-study report proposes that KASAM uses the RISCOM Model to support the transparency programme. Recurrent elements in the programme would then be:
The transparency programme can combine the RISCOM Model with other approaches to citizen participation at occasions when this is deemed suitable. For example, focus groups, other forms of working groups and consensus conferences could be organized and linked to a “RISCOM hearing”. Therefore, the pre-study report contains an overview section about methods for public participation.
At this stage of the Swedish programme for nuclear waste management it is believed that KASAM can provide an arena for transparency which other stakeholders can trust not having hidden agendas or vested interested in the results.
During the pre-study a number of stakeholders were approached to give their views about the format and contents of the transparency programme. The consultations showed great expectations on the programme and a large number of issues were raised that could be included in transparency creating activities.
A typical activity will be relatively resource demanding, especially with respect to the time available for key stakeholders. Therefore, issues to be addressed must be critically prioritised. The pre-study report contains nine issues proposed for special efforts by KASAM:
A first event in this suggested series of activities within the transparency programme took place in March 2007, when KASAM arranged a hearing about deep bore holes as a possible alternative method for final disposal. Technical feasibility, long term safety and safety philosophy were among the topics addressed. The hearing will be reported in a KASAM report, to be published in 2007.
Realistically, at most two issues can be covered per year, therefore maximum five issues can be dealt with until SKB has submitted its licence application, however, in principle the transparency programme can continue also during the licensing process. The timing of the KASAM activities will be crucial considering the SKB programme, the review work of the authorities as well as the municipality involvement.
The transparency programme should prepare KASAM for its advisory role to the Swedish government but it should also be a resource for all stakeholders, the political decision makers and concerned citizens who wish to deepen their insight into the issues addressed. Besides contributing in a constructive way to the Swedish nuclear waste management programme, the KASAM transparency programme can contribute to the development of nuclear waste management in a wider context including research and development work that takes place in Europe about public participation and transparency, as well as to other sectors in society.