The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established as a requirement of the Nuclear Waste Fuel Act to develop a long-term management strategy for used nuclear fuel in Canada. In current practice, once nuclear fuel products are removed from reactors, they are safely stored at licensed facilities located where fuel is produced. However, long-term planning requires the development of a safe and secure storage and transportation system for these products.
After the NWMO conducted a three-year collaborative study with over 1000 citizens, Adaptive Phase Management (APM) was identified as a suitable management framework, as it incorporated a high level of flexibility and adaptability into the decision-making process. In 2007, the federal government approved the APM approach and gave the NWMO the mandate to implement it. The NWMO’s next task was to engage citizens in designing a site selection process for “an informed and willing community” to host the management facilities in a deep geological repository. The goal was to ensure that the implementation of the APM accurately reflected their values, concerns and expectations at every step of the way.
To continue and strengthen its dialogue with Canadians, Ascentum collaborated with NWMO to design, implement and report on two daylong dialogues with members of its Citizens’ Panels (recruited from community-engaged opinion leaders). Ascentum also collaborated on the design of five Public Discussion Groups to engage a broader cross-section of citizens on this issue.
The two Citizens’ Panel Dialogues engaged over 60 participants, with representation from each of the four provinces involved in Canada’s nuclear fuel cycle. Additionally, each of the five Public Discussion Groups brought together 14 to 18 randomly recruited citizens from different cities across Canada.
The engagement process revealed a number of shared values and expectations between the Citizens’ Panel and Public Discussion Groups, even though their experience and degree of familiarity with the issue varied. Both groups generally agreed that the proposed guiding principles and the site selection process were fair and appropriate. Importantly, participants provided the NWMO with many valuable ideas for refining and strengthening these processes, and clarifying the reference documents.
Additionally, participants felt very positively about their dialogue experience. Feedback through written evaluations revealed that all participants either agreed or strongly agreed that they enjoyed participating in the meeting; and that the facilitators were effective in promoting reflection and constructive, respectful dialogue. The dialogues contributed to the final site selection process for the identification of a willing and informed host community. The dialogue reports can be found on the NWMO website http://www.nwmo.ca/
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