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Latest DECC call for evidence on radioactive waste disposal builds on dialogue results

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In July 2015, DECC launched a Call for Evidence 'Implementing geological disposal: Working with communities', following the publication in July 2014 of the White Paper 'Implementing Geological Disposal'.  The Sciencewise-supported public and stakeholder dialogue project fed directly into the drafting of the White Paper.

The aim of the recent Call is to draw together evidence and information on processes for working with communities in the siting of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). In particular, the Call asks questions on how to define a community; how to provide effective representation, governance and decision making; how to manage and disburse Community Investment; and how to deliver public support. It focuses on the work of the Community Representation Working Group (CRWG), set up under the White Paper.

Although the Call does not specifically identify the dialogue project as background, it does refer to the 'consultation' in 2013; DECC considered the dialogue a part of the overall consultation and took the evidence from the dialogue project alongside the consultation responses in developing the White Paper.

The formal evaluation of the dialogue project shows that much of the content of the White Paper on all the issues in this Call was based on the dialogue findings - especially affirmation of the principle of voluntarism, the challenge of defining 'community', the challenge of finding the right forms of governance to manage GDF, the need for a transparent and open process throughout, and affirmation of the need for tests of community support and right of withdrawal, and of the need for a community benefits package.

Of additional note in considering the influence of the dialogue on this new stage in the policy process are:

•    Professor Andy Blowers was one of the three external stakeholders on the Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) for the dialogue project; he is now a member of the CRWG.

•    The evaluation report shows that the dialogue process led to the choice, set out in the White Paper, to take a two year period to prepare to work with communities. The evaluation report states that "DECC noted the dialogue workshops were important in confirming for them that the development of the new siting process would be an ongoing conversation between Government and citizens ... One member of the SRG described this influence as 'profound', suggesting that the approach to decision making set out in the White Paper was 'fundamentally different' to that described in the [original] consultation document."  The current Call is part of that continuing work by DECC to deal with the most challenging aspects of the process - defining 'community', setting out governance arrangements, determining community benefits / investments.

The evaluation report took the view that "Arguably the strongest influence from the process has been among DECC personnel. Feedback from the DECC staff involved and from other partners in the process suggests that involvement in the project has helped the Geological Disposal Team to ... think that meaningful public dialogue can be undertaken on controversial issues and that the team is able to play an integral role within the dialogue. As a member of the SRG noted, this is highly significant in the context of the White Paper and the commitment to voluntarism."

See related project page: Review of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Siting process