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Page 127 8 Improving Decision Making and Implementation This chapter provides suggestions for national decision makers and other authorities who are responsible for radioactive waste management programs. It presents a time frame for these programs and recognizes recent shifts in many national programs that emphasize the need for societal partnerships in decision making. Adaptive program management for dealing with unavoidable technical and societal uncertainties is recommended. The committee recognizes that decision making under uncertainty is not unique to radioactive waste management. Genetic engineering and climate change, for example, pose similar challenges. THE NEED FOR A CONSISTENT POLICY THAT ENDURES The time required to construct a repository, emplace waste, and then seal and close the repository is at least 50 years, even under the most optimistic plans that have been put forth for the U.S. and other national programs (see Chapter 4 ). Some national programs envision a period of at least a century before accomplishing geological disposition of high-level radioactive waste (HLW). 1 Measured against the frequency of changes in government leadership in democratic societies, the time necessary for implementing HLW policy is extremely long. For a policy to remain in place over this period it must have broad and enduring public support. 1 The term high-level waste (HLW) is used as a matter of convenience to include waste from nuclear fuel reprocessing and other materials such as spent nuclear fuels that are declared as waste and require similar disposition measures as reprocessing waste.
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Page 128 The challenge to the leadership of nations with nuclear programs is to establish and maintain this public support. If a nation chooses to store its HLW in surface facilities, it must maintain both the containment integrity and the restriction of access so that this waste is neither released into the environment nor diverted for purposes that pose danger to society. The development of a geological repository and the alternative of continuing surface storage both entail substantial costs, which must be met either by funds provided by users of nuclear technologies or by governments. After a geological repository is closed, costs are reduced to a low level, for example, for monitoring. Costs for active management for surface storage continue throughout the storage period. IMPROVING POLICY DECISIONS AND MANAGEMENT IMPLEMENTATION Leaders in the governments of democratic societies have to deal with many controversial issues in which local and provincial interests and attitudes must be balanced against national goals. One can observe in many areas of the world strong conflicts among nations and ethnic groups, whose roots in public attitudes go back many centuries. Progress in resolving these conflicts has often required arduous negotiation, innovative leadership from within each of the parties and from outside mediators, and patient efforts to make progress in small steps. Similar processes may be needed in the nuclear waste context of linked dread, distrust, and concerns about inequities (see Chapter 5 ). Progress will not come overnight, and continued controversy, criticism, and dissent should be expected. There is little experience with policy problems that require a deliberation process to be carried out on a time scale of a half-century. Knowledge is now accumulating on new methods for achieving public decisions (Renn et al., 1995). During the coming years, it will be a significant, ongoing challenge to alleviate pressures on waste managers to revert to a very short decision and evaluation cycle. The committee perceives that the political leaderships of various nations have reformulated nuclear waste programs to emphasize the need for societal choice. Concerted efforts are occurring to design, adapt, test, and carry out new procedures for, and approaches to, decision making. Two broad types of shift are especially apparent. The first type of shift seen today in many countries concerns the consideration given to needs, concerns, views, and judgments that lie outside the central waste management system. Examples include the following: Collaborative research with volunteer communities to obtain equitable implementation. For instance, a “volunteer principle,” in which one
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Page 129 begins the siting process by eliciting expressions of interest from communities over a wide region or in the entire country, has been tried in France, Sweden, Finland, Canada, and other countries (Richardson, 1998). The creation of oversight and peer review committees of plural composition. The use of varied consultation and deliberation formats. For instance, in the United Kingdom, hearings by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology were followed by a consensus conference (Tombs, 1999). The ethical evolution toward maintaining flexibility for future generations (see discussion in Chapter 5 ). The widespread adoption and elaboration of the concept of reversibility, often absent from early program concepts and introduced by public demand. For instance, the European Union's concerted action program, CNE (National Commission for Evaluation) in France, and KASAM (National Council for Nuclear Waste) in Sweden have collected input on reversibility. Sweden has pushed the concept of reversibility to the point of submitting the entire repository to a pilot evaluation period. The second type of shift involves clarification of institutional identity and the relative roles of stakeholders. Examples are the following: The sharing of decision power among nuclear authorities and national and local representations. For instance, France shifted emphasis from evaluating designated sites for repository suitability, to creating a “responsible, democratic, transparent” management process and placing HLW management choices in the hands of parliament (the 1991 Waste Act). Finland will seek parliamentary approval of a design concept and submit that concept to local examination as well. In Sweden, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) has promised to make site investigations only in communities where such investigations are accepted. The remodeling of implementing agencies to increase trust. For instance, in 1991 France recreated ANDRA (National Radioactive Waste Management Agency) as a new agency independent of the Atomic Energy Commissariat and other waste producers. The 1998 Seaborn Committee Report to the government of Canada recommended establishment of a new management agency “at arms length from the utilities and AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada, Limited), with the sole purpose of managing and coordinating the full range of activities relating to the long-term management of nuclear fuel wastes . . . subject to . . . policy direction from the federal government, and to regular public review, preferably by parliament” (CEAA, 1998, p. 3). Plans are being made in the United Kingdom to hold a public consultation to address options for waste management, including how to make Nirex an independent organization (Observer, 2000).
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Page 130 The substantial social and institutional experimentation in progress in many countries is likely to encourage more new initiatives. Advice given to decision makers in a previous National Research Council report remains relevant to these new initiatives (see Sidebar 8.1). Sidebar 8.1: Guidance from the 1996 National Research Council Report Understanding Risk The disposition of HLW and SNF is not only a problem of complex public perceptions and attitudes, but also a challenging technical task requiring sound scientific backing to assure the goals of safety and security. As described in Chapter 6 of this report, performance assessment to assure adequate safety is a highly technical exercise involving modeling of the geological setting and engineered barriers. A crucial aspect of performance assessment is the explicit assessment and communication of uncertainties. The societal decisions on disposition of HLW must be made in the face of these uncertainties. The 1996 National Research Council report Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society (NRC, 1996a) provides useful guidance for public policy situations in which policy must be guided by technical analysis of risks and uncertainties. Such analysis involves complex, value-laden judgments and a need for effective two-way dialogue between technical experts and interested and affected citizens. The guidance in that report suggests that nuclear waste programs should act as follows: Inform the interested and affected parties among the public. Facilitate responsible and accurate scientific summary information, especially new information indicating surprises, need for change, and increased cost. Disclose areas of uncertainty and disagreement among scientific experts. Maintain strict accountability. All steps within the decision-making process and implementation should be verified independently and presented publicly. Respect differences in values and cultures. Separate issues of value from questions of what is scientifically correct. A multiplicity of values and viewpoints is to be expected in democratic societies, and differences in national cultures may motivate different policies for different nations. Ethical and equitable behavior must prevail in discussion of policy alternatives, as well as in program activities. Seek flexibility and maintain choices. Avoid dependence on a single “solution.” Expect and encourage through research further evolution in scientific knowledge, in governmental policies, and in public concerns and attitudes. Most importantly in the current context, seek progress in stages, rather than seeking overall solutions. At each stage, deliberation about policy choices should frame the objectives for technical analysis, and the technical analysis should inform policy deliberations. This should be an iterative process, involving both the technical community and the interested and affected groups among the public. This iterative process of deliberation supported by technical analysis should be used to encourage consensus, and to gain agreement on the most important issues for further study, on rejection of alternatives that are clearly inferior, and in seeking compromises that most parties can support.
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Page 131 SITING: A CRUCIAL ASPECT OF SOCIETAL DECISION MAKING Accumulated experience throughout many countries and a growing body of social science research indicate pathways for improved siting strategies. A set of “siting guidelines” (Kunreuther et al., 1993) highlights the issues that a process of siting hazardous facilities should expect to encounter. These guidelines should not be regarded as an operational manual for siting or as any sort of “ultimate” answer to managing a siting process. The guidelines are intended simply as useful advice drawn from experience on siting hazardous facilities in a number of countries. The guidelines address three key features of any siting process. The first set relates to goals and objectives: instituting a wide participatory process, seeking consent that the status quo is not acceptable, and working to develop trust. The second set concerns appropriate outcomes: choosing the best solution to the problem, guaranteeing that stringent safety standards will be met, fully addressing negative aspects of the project, making the community better off, and using contingent agreements. The third set relates to appropriate process: using a volunteer system (even one of competitive bidding), aiming for geographic fairness in burden sharing, setting realistic planning schedules, and keeping a range of options open at all times (Lesbirel and Shaw, 2000). Goals and Objectives Very little progress can be made in the siting of any controversial or risky facility if the need for the facility is not apparent and agreed upon. In Germany, nomination of the Konrad mine as a disposal site was perceived not as a response to the need to manage low-level and decommissioning wastes, but rather as an outcome to the search for a follow-up use for the unprofitable iron mine. This perception became a handicap to subsequent licensing phases. Controversies over low-level radioactive waste facilities in a variety of countries, as another example, have forced dramatic reductions in waste generation so that not all the planned capacity was needed. Once a clear need for the facility can be demonstrated, then substantial efforts are needed in advance of the site selection process to establish widespread public understanding on three questions: (1) Is the status quo acceptable? (2) Is the proposed facility needed? (3) Have alternative approaches been duly considered and rejected for appropriate cause? If many segments of the public are unconvinced that disposition in a repository is superior to lengthy storage above ground, repository siting will face a serious added obstacle. A social consensus on facility need, in short, is a major asset on which to build. Experience from Canada underlines this point (Peelle, 1994). In successful voluntary siting experiences of haz-
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Page 132 ardous waste facilities in the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba, Canada, extensive discussions over the question of need were begun well in advance of initiating the siting process. Appropriate Outcomes A second major issue has been called the “siting paradox.” When an agency seeks permission to investigate the technical feasibility of a proposed site, it is usually necessary first to obtain the assent of the local community and its various councils and representatives that the site has been selected fairly and the project is provisionally acceptable. At this preliminary stage, however, there is generally no analysis available to the public showing that the project would be safe if it were to be approved. Communities do not know, at the outset of an expensive and disruptive site approval process, if they will host a safe facility or no facility at all. Consequently, the criteria for early approval of a potential site as a candidate for a feasibility investigation often will depend heavily on whether the site decision process is (1) clearly spelled out from the start and (2) fair and transparent to both politicians and the public. If there is public confidence that the agency in charge of the work is credible or trustworthy, the decision to accord provisional acceptance of a site for detailed study is likely to be facilitated. If not, other guarantees are needed that the decision process will be respected and that the accumulating weight of investment in the site will not lead to its being retained even if it is found to be technically inadequate (RWMAC-ACSNI, 1995). Appropriate Process Strategies of partnership, power sharing, collaboration, and negotiation allow a host community to proceed with a siting process that relies less on trust in some external authority than on the host community's own capabilities and evaluation. Specific mechanisms that may be helpful in such an approach include the following: community participation in all phases of the siting process, support for independent consultants, community review of facility design and safety systems, monitoring of facility performance, property value protection, and right to initiate appeals for facility shutdown if health and safety standards are violated. Such actions to empower local communities in both siting and facility development may be keys to greater siting success. Different means may be used to develop these recommended features. The Environmental Impact
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Page 133 Assessment (EIA) requirement has been used, particularly in Scandinavia, as an opportunity to conduct social impact assessment (see Sidebar 8.2 ). The EIA process thereby becomes a means by which extra-technical aspects of risk can be discussed, documented, and taken into account (Äikäs, 1999). The five country examples that follow, showing the experience of different countries with siting, may be useful as illustrations. Sidebar 8.2: Environmental Impact Assessment: Encouraging Public Participation in Siting Decisions The Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (85/337/EEC, as amended by 97/11/EC of 3 March 1997) requires that facilities in the European Union designed for the storage or disposal of radioactive waste be assessed to determine their effects on the environment. 2 This assessment must be undertaken before development authorization is granted. Member states enjoy discretion in translating the Directive's provisions into national law and practice. The process of environmental impact assessment is defined as the identification, description, and assessment of the direct and indirect effects of a facility project on the following factors: human beings, fauna and flora; soil, water, air, climate and the landscape; material assets and the cultural heritage; and the interaction between these factors. (Art. 3) Information expected from the developer should include at a minimum: a description of the project comprising information on the site, design and size of the project; a description of the measures envisaged in order to avoid, reduce and, if possible, remedy significant adverse effects; the data required to identify and assess the main effects which the project is likely to have on the environment; an outline of the main alternatives studied by the developer and an indication of the main reasons for his choice, taking into account the environmental effects; and a non-technical summary of the above information. (Art. 5(3)) Of interest is Article 6, specifying that the request for development consent, with the information above, must be made available to the public; the public must be consulted before consent is granted. Member states may in particular: determine the public concerned; specify the places where the information can be consulted; specify the way in which the public may be informed, for 2 The committee's description of the European EIA Directive is based on O'Sullivan et al. (1999). That reference presents a study undertaken for the European Commission Directorate DGXI on the role, scope, and definition of EIA requirements for radioactive waste management facilities in member states and in adjacent countries of East and Central Europe. The study was managed by U.K. Nirex Ltd with participation by the University of Wales, ENRESA (Spanish National Waste Management Company), ONDRAF/NIRAS (Belgian National Agency for the Management of Radioactive Waste and Fissile Materials), and SKB (Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company).
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Page 134 example, by bill-posting within a certain radius, publication in local newspapers, organization of exhibitions with plans, drawings, tables, graphs, models; determine the manner in which the public is to be consulted, for example, by written submissions, by public enquiry; fix appropriate time limits for the various stages of the procedure in order to ensure that a decision is taken within a reasonable period. (Art. 6(3)) In practice, implementers may be charged with detailed development of certain of these provisions, such as designing and justifying a method for determining the “public concerned” or seeking effective methods of consultation. Other stakeholders (broadly defined) may also claim an active role and thereby become involved in concrete decision-making processes. Recent Scandinavian experience has inspired international interest in EIA as a potential “umbrella process” for stakeholder interactions (NEA, 2000b). The following table shows the EIA framework as it took shape in Oskarshamn, Sweden (Jensen et al., 1999). Phases in EIA Actors Activities Product Phase 1 Pre-study All stakeholders (implementer, regulators, county municipality, and the public) Meeting with EIA forum (a group of representatives from each stakeholder). Local meetings, hearings, etc. Advice on the Environmental Impact Statement Phase 2 a) Implementer's work b) Continued EIA Implementer All stakeholders Project work Seminars, hearings, etc. License application Understanding Phase 3 Final phase of EIA ⋍ First phase of licensing Regulator's interacting with municipality Review and decide Hearings Improved license application Designed to allow discussions among stakeholders, the framework allows them at the same time to maintain independence. A key ingredient is that the procedures are flexible enough to accommodate new needs as they appear during the process. EIA is described as a means of “stretching,” or ensuring that the implementer's environment is sufficiently demanding. The implementer must develop the capacity to respond in a satisfactory way to the hard questions posed by partners; in the process, the project ideally becomes more robust. Lidskog (1997) reviewed the evaluation of various EIA uses showing that the licensing applicant's perspective can dominate the EIA. He highlights the need to open the EIA to alternative definitions of conceivable impacts and their relevance. The challenge of creating effective dialogue among stakeholders is thus not eliminated by the EIA. However, stakeholders seeking dialogue can see their task facilitated and clarified by an EIA framework.
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Page 135 Sweden In Sweden, local communities have veto power over decisions affecting local planning in general, especially facilities that have the potential to affect the environment. Situations are also foreseen in which the government can overrule the local veto on grounds of national interest. Facilities for radioactive waste disposal are mentioned in this context, and the circumstances under which the government would use this power have been much debated. On the basis of interaction with various segments of the public in the early feasibility studies for siting, the Swedish implementing organization, SKB, has clearly stated that it will make investigations and build a repository only in a community where there is local acceptance or tolerance for it, thereby respecting the spirit of the community veto power. As discussed in Chapter 5, local officials and members of the public have taken an increasingly active role in evaluating program plans and setting conditions. In addition, Sweden has set forth specific plans for a phased implementation procedure, with a part of the repository being backfilled, sealed, and monitored for decades before completing the rest. The Oskarshamn experience in Sweden shows how an EIA process can be carried out as a fruitful and effective exchange by all parties in understanding the risks to the public posed by a nuclear waste storage facility. Elected representatives of the community were extremely active in developing the technical competence to evaluate program proposals and in ensuring that the implementer would be informed of local views and needs. When Oskarshamn (already a nuclear site) was named as the preferred site for a HLW encapsulation plant by SKB in 1992, the municipality announced two main prerequisites. First, municipal participation in discussions and investigations was to be paid for by the Nuclear Waste Fund; second, the primary concerned parties (SKB and the licensing authorities SKI [Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate] and SSI [National Institute of Radiation Protection]) would accept the formation of a forum for environmental impact assessment. A local “reference group” is a standard feature in large or controversial Swedish siting discussions. In Oskarshamn: . . . it was felt that the natural reference group is the municipality council with 51 elected members. It was also decided that efforts should be made to engage the local population through public meetings, seminars and by engaging local study organisations. In 1995 SKB formally asked the municipality if it could accept a feasibility study for a deep repository. . . . The municipality took one year to [reply], in order first to find out more about the program and . . . to engage as many as possible in the debate and decision making process. (Ahagen et al., 1999, p. 372) As competence to evaluate the program was built up through six multipartite working groups that have remained active, the implementer's
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Page 136 competence itself was “stretched” to respond in a satisfactory way to the questions posed by the community. This non-adversarial but determined dynamic, led by elected officials, is considered by the partners involved as contributing directly to a more robust set of management options, and a more tightly knit and informed community. This strong public involvement assures that a final consent or veto decision will be made on adequate grounds. France Concerning siting efforts in France, three periods must be considered. Prior to 1990, all siting decisions were made by the government based on technical judgments on the merits of the site, and did not involve much participation of the public nor of local officials. Four sites were selected in this way and geological surveys at various levels were commenced. However, the implementer, ANDRA, experienced local opposition, and in some cases, violent demonstrations occurred. This led the French government, in 1989, to declare a moratorium on all site investigations. Parliament's science evaluation office (OPECST) was charged with investigating ways forward. Hearings by Christian Bataille, a member of parliament, resulted in the 1991 Waste Act, which specified that work would continue in parallel on a 15-year time scale on developing repository projects, studying waste treatment (including partitioning and transmutation), and clarifying further the issues associated with surface storage. Christian Bataille was named mediator and charged with identifying potential candidate local communities that would look favorably upon the prospect of hosting a siting study for an underground research laboratory, and with conducting discussions with local officials at various levels (commune, department, region) where siting could be considered feasible. He had access to geological expertise within the French Geological Survey, and thus could choose for in-depth discussions only those volunteers in areas that looked a priori favorable for a siting study. In 1994 with the agreement of the local communities, the mediator proposed four sites, out of an initial potential list of 30 sites, to the government. These sites were: La Chapelle-Baton, in the Vienne Département, in a granite formation overlain by a thick sedimentary cover; Marcoule, in the Gard Département, in a thick clay formation; and two sites subsequently merged into a single Eastern site at the boundary between the Départments of Meuse and Haute-Marne. This site, also in clay, was acceptable to both adjacent communities. The geological reconnaissance programs went smoothly, and in 1996 ANDRA prepared three EIAs that were submitted to the local communities through an interactive public enquiry, to the local assemblies, to several review bodies (including the Commission Nationale d'Evaluation,
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Page 137 created by the Waste Act), and to the government. In France, local authorities do not have power of veto. The final decision came on December 8, 1998, when the government decided to go ahead with the sinking of a shaft and the building of an underground research laboratory at one of the three sites (the Eastern site, at the village of Bure), and to drop the two other sites. Work is now in progress at the Eastern site where, by February 2001, the shaft had reached a depth of 50 meters. The Marcoule site was abandoned because of local opposition, essentially from the wine growers, who argued that the siting of a waste facility would jeopardize the image of the local wine, Côtes du Rhône, independently of whether the site would be shown to be safe or not. The La Chapelle-Baton site was abandoned, not because of local opposition (on the contrary, local support existed at this site), but essentially because the Commission Nationale d'Evaluation expressed a number of scientific reservations about the intrinsic quality of the site. The government also decided that a new site in a granite formation was to be selected. The 1991 Waste Act specifies that at least two sites must be examined prior to 2006. At that time, the parliament will examine the outcome of the research program pursued from 1991 to 2006 on the geologic disposal option, and also on the separation-transmutation option and the surface storage option. Accordingly, the French Geological Survey and ANDRA carried out a survey of potential granitic sites in France, starting from existing literature and data without any local field work. From an initial list of about 200 potential sites, using various geologic criteria, the list was shortened to 15 new sites, distributed mostly over two areas, Brittany and Central France. This list was handed over to the government in October 1999 but was not released to the public. Rather than using a member of parliament to seek approval from potential local communities, the government appointed three high-ranking civil servants, none of whom had any prior links with the nuclear establishment, to conduct local discussion in some of the 15 selected areas. These officials prepared informative documents for their presentations in the local communities. The official visits to the 15 sites and their local communities were about to start when, in January 2000, the map showing all 15 sites leaked out of the government and was posted on the internet by an opposing non-governmental organization. The result was that all of the 15 selected sites were antagonized to find themselves selected without knowing it, and starting any kind of discussion subsequently proved very difficult for the three officials. They encountered strong local opposition and demonstrations, some of which were violent. The government decided to stop the process, and none of the proposed 15 sites was selected. It is presently unknown what the next move will be, since a second site must be identified if the terms of the 1991 law are to be fulfilled.
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Page 138 Canada Siting efforts for a low-level waste (LLW) facility in the Canadian province of Ontario were based on “voluntary participation of local communities in a collaborative, joint decision-making manner” (MEMR, 1990) including “structural and process guarantees that local participation [was] and remain[ed] voluntary” (Peele, 1994, p. 205). The process came close to completion but was ultimately unsuccessful, in part due to “uncertainty about government resolve to continue the process as designed” (Peelle, 1994, p. 205). For example, the federal government refused to accept the community agreement in principle negotiated by a task force and the community (Richardson, 1998). Comparative evaluation of a number of such efforts involving both LLW and hazardous waste indicated that it is “very difficult for large bureaucracies to surmount internal constraints and technically oriented norms and goals to meet requirements (of voluntary siting programs) for responsiveness and adequate implementation” (Peelle, 1994, p. 210). Belgium Between 1990 and 1993, the government agency responsible for waste management in Belgium, ONDRAF/NIRAS, conducted a survey of the Belgian territory to identify zones where a near-surface repository for low-level short-lived wastes might possibly be installed. The survey was based on technical and scientific criteria, of which the most important was geologically favorable conditions. Ninety-eight such zones were identified, and the results were made available in a report. However, that report was rejected unanimously by all municipalities concerned. Given the deadlock, the government decided that further studies should concentrate on the existing nuclear zones: power reactors, fuel cycle industries, and major research facilities. ONDRAF/NIRAS opted for a new approach that would involve local authorities, two universities, and local populations in site selection and planning of such a repository through the creation of local partnerships. Two such partnerships are already operational for the Mol-Dessel zone to consider technical, safety-related, social, economic, and environmental aspects. The final assessment and responsibility, primarily for aspects related to long-term safety, are the exclusive prerogative of ONDRAF/NIRAS. Conclusions of this exercise should be available no later than 2002. Finland Of all countries, Finland probably has had the most success in moving toward siting a deep repository with maximum community involve
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Page 139 ment and public confidence. From studies at a number of potential sites, the choice was narrowed to two sites that already have nuclear facilities, with an emphasis on demonstrating that the geological conditions at these sites were no less suitable than at others. The EIA process was seized on as a means for in-depth consideration of public concerns and needs. Thereafter, competition even broke out between the two communities seeking to host the Finnish spent fuel repository. The balance achieved in Finland between geological and societal criteria for site choice deserves further study. Summary The examples above present convergent evidence that public involvement, starting early and lasting throughout the process, may be an essential factor in bringing efforts forward. Evaluation of siting activities on the above-mentioned siting guidelines suggests that the more involved the public is in the process, the more likely that they will accept a facility if it meets other concerns. . . . A participatory procedure by definition satisfies the factors that appear to be most important in increasing the chance that a facility will be successfully sited. (Kunreuther et al., 1993, pp. 313–314) This orientation is shared by the World Health Organization (Sloan, 1993) in guidance favoring a voluntary process, including early community involvement in decision making, as the first choice for site selection. That recommendation is based on three key points: (1) equity, (2) economic efficiency, and (3) the likelihood of successfully completing the process. Finally, the National Research Council (NRC), in its report Understanding Risk (NRC, 1996a) argues that an essential aspect of risk characterization, along with appropriate incorporation of science, is broad participation by the interested and affected parties. Its discussion of siting efforts focuses on deliberation, including public involvement. Following Fiorino (1990), the NRC presents “three compelling rationales for broad participation in risk decisions” (p. 23), classified as normative, substantive, and instrumental: The normative rationale derives from the principle that government should obtain the consent of the governed. Related to this principle is the idea that citizens have rights to participate meaningfully in public decision making and to be informed about the bases for government decisions. . . . The substantive rationale is that relevant wisdom is not limited to scientific specialists and public officials and that participation by diverse groups and individuals will provide essential information and insights about a risk situation. . . . Nonspecialists may also help
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Page 140 design decision processes that allow for explicit examination, consideration, and weighing of social, ethical, and political values that cannot be addressed solely by analytic techniques, but also require broadly participatory deliberation. The instrumental rationale for broad public participation is that it may decrease conflict and increase acceptance of or trust in decisions by government agencies. (NRC, 1996a, pp. 23–24) LEARNING WHILE DOING—AND KEEPING OPTIONS OPEN Radioactive waste management, as originally conceived in many countries, was construed as a technical and logistical task—financing, scheduling, and engineering a technical disposition system or searching for and selecting a technically qualified repository site. Thus far, technological solutions largely have been predicated on the minimization of error and improving the science and engineering involved. Because the time scales over which a repository must perform satisfactorily preclude learning by trial and error, managers often have seen their sole responsibility as designing and operating a repository that is, as far as possible, error-free and predictable. Research on “high-reliability” organizations indicates, however, that such sociotechnical systems evolve over a considerable period of time, typically with numerous early failures and reversals (LaPorte, 1999). The management approach should not be one of command and control, but rather one that emphasizes learning and keeping options open. One promising approach described in the environmental management literature is adaptive management, which is “living with the unexpected” (Holling, 1978). This approach applies the concept of experimentation to the design and implementation of environmental policies or sociotechnical projects (Cook et al., 1990; Lee, 1993). The approach is aimed at coping with uncertainty; learning from, and responding rapidly to, errors and surprises; and progressively identifying and investigating promising new alternatives. On the political side, it seeks to keep conflicts within reasonable bounds by promoting openness and flexibility to adapt. Additional research is needed to identify appropriate institutional structures and management processes to facilitate learning while doing and keeping options open for HLW programs. A management system for HLW disposition will begin by openly addressing knowledge gaps and uncertainties. Suggesting that the managers of the waste disposition system know everything they need to know in doing something the first time is counterproductive. Openly acknowledging limitations in the facts and theories supporting models of the system will contribute to a readiness to restructure the problem if necessary. A more attentive and elaborate developmental approach to the repository program, staged in stepwise fashion, will give managers time to
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Page 141 learn whether or not the predictions and expectations they rely upon are reasonable. Such a more deliberate repository development program will operate under flexible deadlines and continual program reinvention to secure success. Schedule-driven deadlines, as the Rethinking High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal (NRC, 1990) report argues (see Sidebar 8.3 ), serve only to increase the probability of error and to undermine the integrity of science used in support of assessment. Sidebar 8.3 Guidance from the 1990 National Research Council Rethinking High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Report In its 1990 report, the Board on Radioactive Waste Management of the National Research Council summarized the issues constraining the choice of management systems and approaches for geological disposal projects (NRC, 1990): . . . [T]here are certain irreducible uncertainties about future risk [from HLW]. An essential part of any successful management plan is how to operate with large residual uncertainties, and how to maintain full public accountability as information about the risks changes with experience. This is not an impossible task: public policy is made every day under these conditions, and private firms undertake all sorts of activities in the face of uncertainty. (p. 15) Those involved in HLW management must also avoid the trap of promising to reduce uncertainties to levels that are unattainable. . . . When unforeseen events occur, for example, the public can raise questions about the validity of the technical approach, as well as the competence of the risk analysis that was used to justify it. Conversely, when foreseen events occur, they lead to questions about why they were not prevented. The technical credibility of the project team suffers in either case, but it probably suffers more when the organization has understated the risk or uncertainty. (p. 17) It is a practical consequence of the complexity of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) disposal, together with the fact that no one has ever operated a repository, that performance assessment is, in the end, a matter of technical judgment. The traditional approach in such cases, where an important social decision hinges on uncertain scientific data and projections, is to inform the political decision through a consensus of the appropriate technical community. Such consensus is difficult to reach in this case, however, given the political controversy, conflicting value systems, and overlapping technical specialties involved in assessing repository performance. (pp. 13–14) [A] “perfect knowledge” approach is unrealistic given the inherent uncertainties of this unprecedented undertaking [HLW management], and it runs the risk of encountering “show-stopping” problems and delays that could lead to a further deterioration of public and scientific trust. (p. 2) The primary goal of the program is to provide safe disposal; a secondary goal is to provide it without any gross unfairness. As a result, the mechanisms of negotiation, persuasion, and compensation are fundamental parts of any program to manage and dispose of radioactive waste—not mere procedural hoops through which program managers must jump. (p. 6)
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Page 142 Redundancy in analysis, design, and operations is an important element in a flexible management strategy. The practice, for example, of having independent planning and evaluation groups inside and outside the organization working on the same question can prevent an insulated “in-group” from ignoring information and independent judgments by well-qualified outsiders. A single, overly centralized locus for dynamic modeling is particularly important to avoid; redundancy is especially desirable for understanding and communicating the changing information on risks and uncertainties. Multiple learning centers—well-funded research units under independent organizations, including the host area for the repository, that engage in basic research, data collection, and monitoring—can contribute to a more flexible waste management organization with a greater capacity to overcome mistakes while building confidence among interested and affected parties. Alternative repository sites and/ or alternative plans for staging and timing of emplacement, as well as monitoring, are needed. Societal discussion should be engaged on resource allocation for components of a waste management program. Many elements of such a management strategy probably can be undertaken without significant additional net cost and arguably could contribute to net efficiency in terms of confidence building.
Representative terms from entire chapter: