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.
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