10th National Workshop of the «Forum on Stakeholder Confidence»

Can Switzerland learn something from knowing how Canada talks to the public about radioactive waste? The answer is yes – at least in the experience of the «Forum on Stakeholder Confidence».

All countries with nuclear power programmes have radioactive waste that they must dispose of safely. In 2000, the Radioactive Waste Management Committee of the NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency) established the «Forum on Stakeholder Confidence (FSC)» to foster learning about stakeholder dialogue and ways to develop shared confidence, informed consent and acceptance of radioactive waste management solutions. The aim of the workshops is to bring together national stakeholders in a neutral forum where they can learn from experience in different countries. The 10th national workshop was organised by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and held in Bern from 7th to 9th September.

During her welcome address, Doris Leuthard, Head of the Federal Department for the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, noted that the Sectoral Plan for Deep Geological Repositories contains clear guidance on the procedures to be followed. She is confident that Switzerland is well on track with its participatory approach. This is also reflected in the fact that the Federal Government, the Cantons and the local communities act as partners in the process. The Federal Councillor stressed clearly that safety has the highest priority in the site selection procedure.

Among the presenters was Andreas Gautschi, Head of Nagra’s Safety, Geology and Radioactive Materials Division. He provided a broad outline of the safety-based site selection process, the exploration programmes that have already been carried out and the investigations still planned for the siting regions. His technical presentation was lightened with a short anecdote about a journalist once explaining the ‘Nagra’ acronym as meaning ‘useless drilling at great expense’ (the play on words works only in German). He felt he could agree with this description if ‘useless‘ were to be replaced with ‘useful‘. The extensive investigations planned for Stage 3 of the Sectoral Plan process are both meaningful and useful in terms of clarifying safety, resulting ultimately in selection of the best possible sites in Switzerland.

The working groups of the national workshop addressed the following topics: How do we pass on knowledge and information on deep geological repositories to future generations? How do we involve young people in the process? And how do we achieve intergenerational fairness? Besides representatives of the Swiss programme, the workshop was attended by numerous international delegates and, for the first time, ten young people selected to represent their generation.

The following 19 countries are represented in the Forum on Stakeholder Confidence: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Poland, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the United States. The European Commission is also a member.

Photos: Stefan Jordi, Swiss Federal Office of Energy