Exploring spatial decision making through online GIS

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Public participation & nuclear waste policy

The problem with radioactive waste disposal in the past has partly been one of lack of transparency in the siting process. The nuclear industry is seen as a secretive business and is therefore viewed with some suspicion by a nervous public. In today's climate of heightened awareness and interest in environmental and health matters, the need for increased public involvement in important decisions such as those pertaining to radioactive waste management is becoming more and more apparent.

At the moment the company charged with finding a solution to the radioactive waste disposal problem is UK Nirex Ltd. Nirex have an extremely difficult task and have so far been obstructed in their work by public and political opposition, which has resulted in three failed attempts to secure sites for a radioactive waste repository. If Nirex are to succeed in their quest for an acceptable nuclear waste repository package, they need to take both public opinion and geography into account and look closely at ways and means of emphasising these in their proposals. Nirex have their own website and produce a useful brochure outlining what it is they actually do.

The Government has recently undertaken a new consultation exercise on the safe management of radioactive waste that may lead to the establishment of a new organisation to take forward any new policies. The United Nations are also involved in similar issues related to public participation in environmental issues through the Aarhus Convention.

The website you are using at the moment looks closely at these problems by providing an Internet-based system via which you can express an opinion about the factors you feel important in addressing the problem through siting a radioactive waste repository. You can specify preferences for individual factors, view the results of a nationwide site search, and identify your own preferred locations.

Access to relevant information and the tools with which to use it will make public consultation and participation in the decision-making process surrounding problems of national or local importance more widespread. In return, the decision makers (government ministers, local authority planners, company directors, etc.) get a greater insight into the views of the participating electorate. In the end we should all be better informed and have better informed decision-making.


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