PIME 2006

Nuclear communicators converge on Vienna for PIME 2006

From 12 – 16 February, nuclear communicators from across Europe and beyond congregated at the IAEA’s (International Atomic Energy Agency) Vienna headquarters to take part in PIME 2006. This annual European Nuclear Society (ENS) conference for nuclear communicators was organized in co-operation with the IAEA, FORATOM and NEA/OECD. The conference was chaired by Frank Deconinck, President of ENS and Chairman of the Board of Governors of SCK-CEN, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, in Mol (see the profile of Frank Deconinck in the January 2006 edition of FLASH). PIME is a unique annual conference that has established itself as a not-to-be-missed fixture for nuclear communicators.

Pime 2006 speakers
Pime 2006 speakers
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Europe’s nuclear societies and national nuclear fora, environmentalists, industry leaders, IAEA staff members and journalists took part in PIME 2006.

On the agenda at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) were three days of dialogue, analysis and exchange of information and experiences on a broad range of nuclear hot topics, as well as technical tours to Austria and the Czech Republic. The conference pogramme centered on a series of presentations and questions followed by answers from the floor during the morning Plenary Sessions and on afternoon Plenary Workshops and Workshops.

Among the key speakers at PIME 2006 were Tomihiro Taniguchi, the Deputy Director General of the IAEA; Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA); Mikhail Balonov, the Scientific Secretary of the IAEA’s Chernobyl Forum and Conference, Bruno Comby, the well-known pro-nuclear environmentalist and Ute Blohm-Hieber, Head of the Nuclear Energy, Waste Management and Transport Unit of the European Commission’s DG TREN.

Whereas PIME 2005 took place against a backdrop of rising hope for the nuclear industry, this year’s conference occurred at a time when the global nuclear revival is well under way and has continued to gather pace, thanks partly to the increasingly accepted advantages that nuclear energy has with regard to security of supply and climate change issues. The current favourable climate for the industry has created an improved environment for communicating and greater opportunities for communicators to get their impact messages across to a wider audience. At the same time, the premium for effective, impact communications is also greater and delegates were keen to exchange experiences and learn new methods and tools that will help communicate more effectively and press home the advantage that the current nuclear renaissance has given them.

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Among the presentations made during PIME 2006 were those on the future global energy outlook and the role of nuclear in that future, Chernobyl and the true state of the accident, a King’s College London study about public perceptions of nuclear and risk, the advantages of nuclear energy from an environmentalist’s viewpoint, the power of positive branding and how the IAEA gets in messages out.

True to PIME tradition, a communications professional from another industry was invited to talk to Pimers about how his/her industry meets its communications challenges. Christine Gould, Policy Communications and Research Manager at Croplife International (the global federation that represents the plant sciences industry) explained how the biotechnology industry meets the communications challenges that it faces from, among others, NGOs, opposed decision-makers and sceptical members of the public.

Two new types of sessions were introduced alongside the more familiar PIME format: firstly, the IAEA organised and moderated a panel session entitled Meet the Media: What journalists think about nuclear communications. This highly interactive panel discussion was a kind of role-reversal session, with delegates able to put their questions to a panel of senior journalists from Agence France Presse, the BBC and Associated Press. Secondly, the 1976 Nobel Laureate for physics, Professor Burton Richter gave a special pre-recorded DVD-link presentation to PIME from his headquarters at the University of Stanford, in California. His presentation focused on the promises and problems of nuclear and gave a generally upbeat assessment of the current and future potential for nuclear energy.

The afternoon Workshops, a mixture of Plenary and break-out sessions, gave delegates the opportunity to take part in lively, interactive discussions, rather like focus groups, on issues including: how to communicate on Chernobyl, crisis communications, stakeholder communications, communicating waste for the next generation, best practices, exploiting the Internet and cross-border communicating with non-nuclear neighbours.

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Throughout PIME 2006 there was a poster exhibition in the lobby in front of the main conference room that featured exhibits from Russia, Japan, Slovenia and Hungary.

The PIME Award for Communications excellence this year was one by the Czech nuclear operating company, CEZ, for its campaign entitled the Temelin Olympic Games. The winning campaign involved excellent local community relations, stakeholder participation, celebrity advocacy from famous Czech sportsmen and Olympic gold medalists and a range of communications tools to help convey key messages about nuclear energy.

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PIME 2006 also included a programme of technical visits for delegates, which took place after the conference. This year, the choice was between either a half-day visit of the Austrian nuclear research laboratories at Seibersdorf and a day trip to the nuclear power plant (NPP) at Temelin, in the neighbouring Czech Republic. At the Seibersdorf laboratories, an hour from Vienna, research is carried out by a team of experienced scientists and fellowship trainees from around the world into how radiological techniques and analyses can help identify the presence of radioactive substances (especially at decommissioned sites or when an incident has occurred), improve crop yields and plant selection through biotechnology and develop new healthcare diagnostic and prophylactic techniques. Research is also carried out to promote environmental protection – especially with regard to enhancing the quality of soil and water.

At the Temelin NPP there are two VVER 1000MW reactors, which were built by Westinghouse and are run by the operating company CEZ. Together with the 4 units at the Dukovany NPP - the Czech Republic’s other operating plant - Temelin NPP accounts for 31% of the Czech Republic’s domestic electricity production. The country’s two NPPs also export electricity to Germany, Austria and Slovakia, thereby contributing to the Czech Republic’s economy.

For full details about PIME 2006 and copies of the speakers’ presentations, visit the following links on the ENS website:

PIME website



Next PIME 2007 will take place in Italy, from 11 – 14 February.

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