Where to dispose of Britain's nuclear waste

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 the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) though this was formerly the role of the company UK Nirex Ltd. The NDA have an extremely difficult task, so difficult that UK Nirex Ltd were 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 the NDA 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. The NDA have their own web site and have a useful section outlining what it is they actually do.

The Government have recently undertaken a new consultation exercise on the safe management of radioactive waste whose role it is to make recommendations on how to take forward new policies. The United Nations are also involved in similar issues related to public participation in environmental issues through the Aarhus Convention.

This web site 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 nation-wide 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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