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Immediate impacts from Environment Agency dialogue on reactor design assessments of new nuclear power stations

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The final report of the evaluation of the public dialogue on 'Improving public involvement in reactor design assessments for new nuclear power stations', commissioned by the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and the Office for Nuclear Regulation (with Sciencewise support) was published in November 2015.

The report shows that there were "clear insights and recommendations emerging from the dialogue that will inform the nuclear regulators' current and future public engagement initiatives", as well as having potentially wider reaching impacts on the public involvement plans of others in the nuclear industry. The evaluation is also very positive about the way in which the project was designed, delivered, managed and run.
The evaluation found that "There is genuine commitment to take the dialogue learning and feed this into approaches and materials", and that the results were considered at a special Implementation Workshop held at the end of the dialogue, in August 2015. Specific initiatives already in development include:

•    "The development of new / improved public-facing content for the web and communications materials, including an infographic explaining the bigger picture to place GDA in context"; and

•    "Acknowledging the importance of face to face engagement for building trust, consideration is also being given to pre-consultation local community engagement around the proposed sites".

In relation to building trust in particular, the evaluation found that the project

"has contributed to emerging thinking and learning about the importance of building the relationship between those who consult and those who are consulted. Public dialogues are demonstrating that the investment in processes that support the building of  long term trust and mutual understanding (in this case between the public and nuclear regulators) have the potential to support more considered decision making in key areas, such as GDA. Trust cannot be adequately achieved by simply being open, responsive, transparent and providing good quality information ... It also requires an approach that is respectful of the public and engages in a way that recognises existing understanding, responds to their concerns and enables people to feel part of and understand their role within the decision making process.  One participant framed this neatly, commenting that “You can’t judge sincerity from a piece of paper”. In designing dialogue processes there is a need not just to consider how to share information effectively but also how it is possible to use the available budget and resources in a way that maximises the building of trust."

The evaluation also found that "There have been a wide range of benefits identified across the organisations involved.

•     In planning public engagement in future, the regulators recognised that there is a need to ‘design in the round’ considering not only the relevance and accessibility of the information and engagement questions but also approaches that will build public trust and confidence in what the regulators are doing and how the findings will be used.

•    The dialogue provided excellent opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of public participation to staff who do not have a communications or engagement background.

•    There was significant transferrable learning and benefits to other parts of the regulators’ businesses."

See related project page: New nuclear power stations – reviewing how to engage with members of the public in reactor design assessments (known as the Generic Design Assessment or GDA)