SEGMENTS OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC AS ACTIVE STAKEHOLDERS
Recent experience shows that nuclear projects may have more far-fetched impacts than it was deemed possible only a few years ago. It is clear that decommissioning projects fall into this category and there is already some experience of related decisions in Member States having involved an ample range of stakeholders. It is important for all concerned in decommissioning projects to understand the issues that may affect decisions, and therefore gain from the experiences already obtained in other countries. It is recognized, however, that all experiences may not be universally relevant and that some issues have a particular national character.
Although the term “stakeholders,” in the context of nuclear activities, is often used to designate the general public, it will not be the case for this paper (where specific segments of the public and public opinion groups are identified as stakeholders). This paper will use the general definition of stakeholders, which is “Individuals or organizations which may have an interest in the results of an environmental decision or be affected by that decision.”
Stakeholders are not only those living in the vicinity of a nuclear facility being decommissioned—they could be physically situated anywhere. In a world that is rapidly becoming a “global village,” impacts from a major decommissioning project can be felt thousands of kilometers away. Experience also shows that stakeholders may begin to interact with a project in the most unexpected ways. It is therefore important for the decision-makers to identify at an early stage of the project who the stakeholders might be and take action to prevent undesirable impacts at a later stage.
The general areas of potential impact include:
- Stop or slow the project;
- Provide or withhold funds;
- Divert project effort;
- Impact continuity;
- Drive unnecessary expenditure;
- Offer cost savings;
- Support the project initiatives;
- Bring new ideas/experiences to the project; and
- Assist with a new (post-decommission ing) use of the site.
The following are categories of potential or actual stakeholders that would be unwise to disregard in the management of a decommissioning project. However, the appearance and the involvement of these or other stakeholders are not necessarily evident a priori.
Researchers and Scientists
Basically, decommissioning is demolition. Like any other industrial process, decommissioning should be completed as early as possible and at the least cost (without compromising safety). One should observe that several decommissioning projects conducted in the 1980s and 1990s had a significant R&D component in that they were aimed at the development and optimization of new techniques. For example, the European Commission (EC) supported the development and demonstration of innovative technologies through its Framework Programmes (mainly FP3 and FP4). With its four pilot projects (AT1, France; BR3, Belgium; KRB-A, Germany; and WAGR, United Kingdom), these programs allowed for the demonstration and testing of the developed technologies in actual environment and scale. EC programs addressed firstly R&D of innovative, emerging technologies per se and later focused on the adaptation of these and conventional technologies to large-scale projects. In Japan, a great deal of experience and development was gained from the decommissioning of the JPDR (Japan Power Demonstration Reactor) and other research facilities at the Japan Atomic Research Energy Institute (JAERI).
At present, most people consider decommissioning to be a mature industry, or at least believe that currently available technology is capable in dealing with most problems and issues that may appear in this domain. Continuing R&D in decommissioning can, at times, result in “re-inventing the wheel.” However, a tendency remains in some research environments to tackle decommissioning as a research project. This is particularly evident in some research reactors where the former operators were recruited and conducted research for many years. It is often difficult for such groups to convert to the more “prosaic” realities of an industrial project. Similarly, external research groups (from universities and research institutes), that were active in supporting the facility’s operation, may find it difficult to diminish their professional expectations. Researchers can represent active stakeholders in decommissioning and may often contrast the selected decommissioning strategy.
Conversely, a decommissioning project allowing space to R&D is likely to enjoy support by those groups. This approach can be a necessity in countries or institutions that have little access to the decommissioning market (e.g. due to costs or political constraints) and are forced to develop their own techniques. This may also be the case for maintaining researchers’ jobs.
Shareholders are important stakeholders in decommissioning. It goes without saying that the costs of decommissioning are going to impact the payers. In turn, they will want to see the bill. This will certainly result in accurate cost estimates and efforts to minimize costs throughout the decommissioning process including selection of contractors, duration of activities, etc. In principle, it is possible that shareholders’ indications may go against the strategies selected by the technical management, for instance if preference is given to deferred dismantling- and diluted cash-flows- rather than immediate dismantling, even if normalized costs would show that the latter is financially preferable in the longer term.
Another category of business stakeholders are real estate owners. These people are likely to be affected by a facility’s shutdown and decommissioning in multiple ways. Positive impacts may include the release of areas formerly restrained by the presence of the nuclear facility. Following shutdown and decommissioning, such areas might be reused for profitable purposes. It is also possible that sites formerly used for the needs of a nuclear facility (e.g. houses or community buildings for the operations staff) may depreciate due to reduced demand.
Providers of local services are also typically impacted by a decommissioning project. Typical examples are catering companies, healthcare, schools and shops. These services are strongly dependent on the number and type of local residents and visitors, and whether decommissioning activities will import or decrease manpower.
Teachers, Students and Universities
There are a number of examples where this group of stakeholders bring very different views to many of the other groups. Particular aspects include long-term legacy waste/residual site issues, and how the money is being spent. With money being tight in the school system, some may have views on how much projects cost to achieve certain goals and consider that the money would be better spent in the schools, hospitals, or directly in the community.
The DOE EM Student Forum is a pilot program, formed in 2001, designed to provide essential feedback on communications materials and product development. It is comprised of a small group of students from the Advanced Technologies Academy High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.. By involving their families and school faculty members, the students are able to pass on their expertise and knowledge beyond the classroom walls. One might also argue that this approach means involving tomorrow’s stakeholders today.
The £2.2 million Decommissioning and Environmental Remediation Centre (DERC) was created in 2004 to capitalize on decommissioning spin-offs. Located at Janetstown near the Dounreay nuclear plant in northern Scotland, it was set up as a major education, training and research centre to pioneer nuclear decommissioning education in the UK. DERC was grant-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, run by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), and the premises are owned by private firm JGC Engineering and Technical Services. The centre itself was the subject of ongoing promotion, with high hopes in the area that it would be the first high-level decommissioning education centre, growing from the obvious experience of complex decommissioning at Dounreay, the now defunct UKAEA fast reactor and reprocessing site ( see Image 1).
In Germany, the University of Hannover, Institute for Material Science, has been instrumental in developing and testing dismantling tools at various decommissioning projects. A paper of 2005  bears witness to the Institute long-standing support to the decommissioning industry.
Visitors are generally attracted by decommissioning/environmental remediation sites due to the wide coverage of those activities by the media. They take their impressions home with them and may contribute to the success of such projects. In addition, tourists give substantial support to the local economy. If they are attracted to the landscape or other features, they may be instrumental in promoting the revitalisation of decommissioned sites. To create the conditions for such developments, it is imperative that decommissioning projects be equipped with information centres, including observation points, and visitors are given the chance to observe ongoing decommissioning activities.
At the Dounreay Visitor Centre, UK, it is reported that visitors came from most of the European countries, as well as Canada, America and Australia. In some six months in 2004, more than 8,000 visitors had visited the Centre. The Centre employs four staff on a rota basis, who were trained by the Scottish Tourist Board.
Decommissioning is a major change in a facility’s lifetime and will almost invariably impact the local communities and others. As such, it is likely that most decommissioning projects will have significant coverage by the media, particularly at the beginning of the project. In turn, media interest is likely to attract more attention by the stakeholders (see Image 2).
All worker issues move from production/R&D to a decommissioning project style approach, including: continuity of employment; early-out schemes; incentives to stay; support for alternative employment post decommissioning; and requirements for different working practices. As an example of this debate, at one time the trade union Amicus called for Sellafield permanent staff to be retrained to carry out the decommissioning work and plans to oppose the outsourcing of any core work.
One should note that there are groups interested in a number of, what some may feel are, unusual issues. For instance, the Trawsfynydd NPP decommissioning strategy was heavily affected by the stakeholders’ desire that the residual buildings minimize the visual impact over the long period of care and maintenance. To this end, the building height was reduced from 55 meters to 35 meters, and a curved roof was designed to blend into the surrounding landscape.
One example of greens’ interactions in decommissioning refers to the establishment of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in the UK. Basically the greens expressed the view that NDA’s constructive engagement would only be sustained if evidence of impact was provided. Perhaps the greatest challenge for the NDA is to live up to the high expectations which have been raised. If there is a major disconnect between what stakeholders expect and what the NDA is prepared to provide, then the potential is for failure and disappointment as opposed to progress and cooperation.
There is a variety of international treaty/legal obligations that may impact the course of decommissioning (i.e. article 37 EURATOM requirements, nuclear material movements/accountancy). Decommissioning is one nuclear activity in which general data should be reported to EURATOM countries before implementation. One example is the decommissioning of Niederaichbach NPP, Germany.
Other European Union requirements that may impact the course of decommissioning are those related to ‘fair competition’ (e.g. any bidding process). For example, the European Commission called into doubt a proposed BP 40 bn transfer of liabilities from BNFL to the NDA. The issue was later resolved.
By and large, international agreements to share information on decommissioning projects are managed through the aegis of international organizations. One NEA program that has been in place since 1985 is the International Co-operative Programme for the Exchange of Scientific and Technical Information Concerning Nuclear Installation Decommissioning Projects. Within the IAEA, a Co-ordinated Research Project (CRP) is a mechanism whereby institutions from several Member States join a partnership to exchange data on progress of and techniques used in specific decommissioning projects. Many achievements have been made with CRPs. Image 3 shows a detail of a cutting facility used at the CIEMAT decommissioning project in Spain and disclosed during an IAEA CRP.
Given the fact that the need for decommissioning and environmental restoration exists on all continents, cleanup and restoration operations will tend to be of an international nature in the near future.
There are three modes of international cooperation that can be utilized in this domain:
- Through bilateral arrangements between countries and/or organizations.
- Through cooperation on a regional level.
- Through the activities of international organizations.
The latter form of cooperation, with emphasis on information and technology exchange, including joint research, development and demonstration projects, has been very successful in the decommissioning area. CRPs are the typical mechanisms for implementing such a strategy. Cooperation of this nature has many benefits and is practical for several reasons. First, it makes good economic sense to share and learn from each other’s experiences and compare future strategies. The resulting benefit is that it prevents duplication of efforts. A second point worth mentioning is that projects initiated by any or all of the international organizations tend to be considered more credible and therefore generate more financial support. Third, joint projects create a support network and a system of formal and informal peer reviews. This external review process enhances and adds technical credibility and validity to national approaches and methodologies. And finally, cooperation and exchange of information are required and used by countries as a means of checking their own progress—a means of calibration.
Site Planners and Developers
In the coming decades, a large number of nuclear facilities will reach the end of their useful lives and require decommissioning. Many of these facilities will be decommissioned with the aim of either replacing them with new facilities that serve the same purpose, or the site may be reused for another completely different purpose. By recognizing and promoting the redevelopment potential of facilities and their sites at the design stage or earlier in their operating life, it is possible to enhance the prospects for worthwhile redevelopment. This may offset the costs of decommissioning and ensure that the best use is made of the material, land and human resources associated with each facility.
A range of involved parties can be typically considered:
- Owner senior managers: those responsible for the definition of policy and the sanctioning of projects.
- Owner property managers: many organisations have a manager responsible for property or ‘real estate’ and this person is often the most able to coordinate actions aimed at enhancing the long-term value of the site.
- Technical staff: decisions taken by plant operators often have consequences for the ease with which assets can be reconfigured or put to other uses. It is helpful for technical staff to be aware of these implications and to take account of them in their work where the potential consequences are significant.
- Local and other stakeholders: community leaders, environmentalists and other interested parties should be included early in the decision-making process to provide input on the ultimate fate of the site and the most acceptable approach to reuse. Financial and legal aspects will play an important role in site reuse considerations.
Other interest groups that may warrant a role in the redevelopment decisions include business development, environmental and conservation organizations, adjacent property owners, labor unions, and the unaffiliated interested citizen. Outreach to these groups and public participation opportunities are important elements of maintaining effective community relations. Quantify and stress the benefits of redevelopment to the community, such as elimination of blighted areas, revitalization of aging industrial sites, restoration of the tax base, creation or retention of jobs, reuse of infrastructure, avoidance of greenfield development costs, and preservation of open, undeveloped space.
Necessarily, some of the stakeholder groups will be at odds with each other and will have conflicting agendas. However, especially in the case of large facilities, redevelopment can often accommodate not only economically beneficial uses to replace lost jobs, but also recreational areas and wildlife habitats. When all of the interest groups are at the table, then all concerns can be heard and compromises in land and facility use negotiated without allowing such issues to rise to a level of public conflict.
The ethical basis for the selection of a decommissioning strategy is to be found in IAEA’s Principles of Radioactive Waste Management. Principles 4 and 5 refer directly to protection of and burden on future generations (see Table I), but are not prescriptive in nature. IAEA’s Member States are given the flexibility of evaluating how to implement these principles as reflected in derived safety guides. Consistent with more recent IAEA positions, it can be generally assumed that immediate dismantling is the preferred strategy, but the case-by-case strategy selection is left to national parties. It is possible that the ethics inherent to the selection of the decommissioning strategy may lead to the involvement of ethics-oriented stakeholders.
About the Author:
Dr. Michele Laraia is a chemical engineer by background. He obtained his degree at the University of Rome. From 1991 to 2011, Laraia worked at the IAEA, Waste Technology Section, as Unit Leader responsible for decontamination and decommissioning of nuclear installations, closeout of uranium mining and milling sites, and environmental restoration. His tasks included drafting and preparation of technical reports and other documents, organization of international conferences and seminars, and the management of technical cooperation projects with developing countries, either on a national or regional scale.
From 1975 to 1991, he worked at Italy’s Regulatory Body (ENEA/DISP) in the capacity of reviewer of radioactive waste management systems, and since 1982 as licensing manager of decommissioning projects. During the 1982-1991 period, under his management, seven small research reactors and other nuclear fuel cycle facilities were dismantled in Italy and their sites returned to other uses. In other plants, modifications to license conditions were implemented to achieve a safe storage state was granted to Gorigliano NPP.
Dr. Laira currently offers consultant services. To contact him, email: Michele.email@example.com.
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