PIME 2006: ENS/Young Generation Nuclear (YGN) Report

During PIME 2006, which took place in Vienna, from 12-16 February, the ENS YGN group organised and moderated a workshop conference dedicated to the subject of how to communicate effectively to the next generation on the sensitive issue of waste management. The workshop theme was chosen because the issue of radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants remains a major obstacle to furthering the cause of nuclear new build in Europe. Five speakers gave interesting presentations on the subject. The themes discussed included an analysis of how local partnerships can help encourage the active participation of key stakeholders, initiatives aimed at involving schools to promote increased knowledge of the subject among young people of various ages, a review of how young people can contribute to a national debate on waste management, country-specific perspectives and a consideration of what the industry should do to promote its actions and record when it comes to waste management. Here is a YGN network summary of what happened at the workshop:

Pime 2006

The workshop started with Fanny Bazille, Head of Communications at the CEA’s) Nuclear Energy Division. In her presentation, which was titled ‘Why don’t young people mind energy?’ Fanny gave an overview of how young people have participated actively in the recent national debate on nuclear waste management in France. She reported that young people were very reluctant to participate in debates on a topic that was both scientific and political as these are areas which the younger generation do not like to engage in that much.

The national debate in France has highlighted a key issue – which is that the young generation is unlikely to participate in a debate where they feel that its viewpoint has no impact on the final decision and where participants act more like consumers or stakeholders than citizens. Fanny stated that personal responsibility and greatercitizenship is required if there is to be greater participation in important public debates.

Sini Gahmberg, Press Officer at TVO’s Olkiluoto plant, then gave a presentation on TVO’s collaborative work with local schools. She described the progressive educational programme that has been put in pace to offer to local school children aged between 13 – 16 years old the opportunity to learn more about nuclear energy. The programme has a strong practical element to support the theoretical teaching content, which enables students to play an active role in the learning process. Excursions were advocated as an essential part f the programme, with TVO members setting students homework assignments on their visits to nuclear facilities.


This collaboration, which involves schools located within a 50 km radius of the Olkiluoto site, has further developed, with TVO now also organising science and technology camps for students. These camps have been strongly supported by the parents. Overall, Sini’s presentation provided a very positive example for industrial companies to consider adopting and implementing.

Miranda Kirschel, Corporate Affairs Officer at Nuclear Industry Association in the UK then spoke to delegates about specific communications problems with regard to radioactive waste that the UK has experienced and their impact upon the British public’s perception of the new-build option. In her presentation, which was entitled “No time to waste,” Miranda underlined that the UK public considers the nuclear waste issue to be the greatest “disadvantage” of nuclear energy (57% of those questioned quoted radioactive waste as the most negative thing about nuclear energy). Various lessons have been learnt from previous public consultation processes and Miranda advocated informed and responsive behaviour and emphasis on the industry’s pride in its competence record constructive as ways of supporting communications on waste management. It was also emphasised how YGN is an important part of the waste communication matrix, with members networking with young politicians, coaching experts in effective communications and actively participating in nuclear debates.

Kajsa Engholm, of SKB, began her presentation by focussing on how the nuclear industry should communicate more with children and teenagers, as they represent the future. Like Sini Gahmberg, Kajsa too advocated strong collaboration between industry and local schools as the key to communicating more effectively with the younger generation and securing a better understanding of nuclear energy in the future. Among the initiatives that she suggested were creating an interactive website with a simple navigation format where young people can find information in a simple, easily-accessible and entertaining way. An interactive approach is essential to inform the next generation on nuclear waste and to encourage active learning on the subject.

Kajsa went on to outline SKB’s activities in this area. All costs associated with school children’s visits are met by SKB, which helps with school budgets and organises site visits. Prior to the visit a resource pack is issued to teachers to enable them to inform their classes about the forthcoming visit. Following the visit, a “teachers’ newsletter” is published and sent to teachers four times a year. This type of follow-up activity is extremely important as it keeps interest in SKB - and therefore the industry - alive and provides an update of how SKB’s activities are progressing.

The final presentation of the workshop was entitled “Local partnerships: A way to achieve a sustainable solution for LILW.” It was given by Laurent Wouters, and E. Hooft, of ONDRAF/NIRAS (Belgium’s national organisation responsible for managing radioactive waste and fissile materials). ONDRAS/NIRAF took the brave decision to involve stakeholders from the very beginning in a decision-making process that aimed to identify a solution for final LILW waste disposal. An open and transparent process based on close co-operation was developed to enable stakeholders to decide together on options for the long-term management of radioactive waste. Three municipalities with nuclear facilities on their territory created local partnerships, each supported by an annual budget, which enabled stakeholders to work independently to identify possible solutions. Ground-level communication was the key to successful cooperation, with concept designers liaising directly with local stakeholders and reworking the initial concept or proposal based on their discussions.

Laurent stressed that the main strength of such a collaborative and inclusive approach was that it encouraged a mutual decision-making process between stakeholders and the waste management organisations. It also enabled concept designers to gain a greater understanding of what local inhabitants expect a waste disposal project to bring to the local community. In essence, this approach places a project for the location of a waste repository within the social and cultural context of a specific area, which can only help the right long-term waste management decisions to be taken.

In conclusion, delegates who attended the YGN workshop on waste management were able to clearly recognise that waste management issues will continue to fundamentally affect the public’s perception of nuclear energy as a whole, and both conventional and innovative communication strategies will need to be adopted if greater awareness and understanding of the issue is to be achieved.

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