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Lessons from the public debate on radioactive waste management

From April 17 to September 25, 2019, a national public debate allowed experts, associations and citizens to discuss and contribute to the development of the 5th edition of the National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste (PNGMDR) . This debate was the first of its kind. Here is the latest feedback on this democratic exercise and its lessons.

Allowing citizens to understand the challenges of the National Radioactive Materials and Waste Management Plan (PNGMDR), to be listened to and receive answer to their questions, and to participate in related decisions: this is the subject of the public debate organized last year . Prepared and chaired by a special commission appointed by the National Commission for Public Debate (CNDP), an independent authority, this national exchange thus gave voice to thousands of people in the country.


The public was present and informed

"3,400 participants, or between 100 and 200 people per meeting, were able to express themselves and listen to the various points of view and expertise shared," underlines Isabelle Harel-Dutirou, president of the special committee for public debate (CPDP). On a sensitive but fairly technical subject, it is significant, Having been able to hold this debate is already a satisfaction, because some public meetings during previous public debates had shown difficulties in holding a calm, contradictory and well-argued discussion. "

“Beyond the meetings, the debate was enriched by a very extensive documentary corpus - including 62 stakeholder's contributions. Online questions and answers also allowed an even wider audience to participate, " adds Aurélien Louis, Deputy Director of the Nuclear Industry at the Directorate General for Energy and Climate. 28,820 visits were recorded on the public debate website, 12,101 files were downloaded and 3,043 messages were published on the participatory platform. “In general, it should be remembered that France, by organizing this public debate, demonstrates its requirements for transparency and continues its progress in the management of radioactive materials and waste,” continues Christophe Kassiotis, director of waste, research facilities and of the cycle at the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN).

The preparation that preceded the organization of exchanges across France undoubtedly contributed to its smooth running. The special commission thus carried out a very beneficial controversy clarification exercise. "The idea is to provide participants with an overview of the various existing points of view of expertise so that everyone can debate on known bases," explains Isabelle Harel-Dutirou.


Everyone could have its word

For five months, a very large number of subjects were discussed. Often technical, but also ethical and societal, and sometimes controversial. And among them, some have gained more public attention and highlighted specific needs for the development of the next PNGMDR.

The question of health and environmental impacts of the storage, disposal and transport of radioactive materials and waste has been recurrent. The preferred management methods for radioactive waste according to their activity and their half-life were explained, as was the difference between a material and radioactive waste. For Andra, involved throughout the debate, it was an opportunity to listen to the concerns of the public and to speak out on these issues. “In addition to the publication of four stakeholder's contributions, we have had both an expert position in our field - radioactive waste management -, but also a listening and dialogue position to maintain the link with the all the stakeholders in the debate, ”explains Pierre-Marie Abadie, Andra's managing director.

Once the period of discussion was over, it was nevertheless necessary to provide answers to the questions raised. The decision published by the two contracting authorities in charge of the PNGMDR, the Ministry for the Ecological  Transition and the French Nuclear safety Authority (ASN), goes in this direction.

The PNGMDR in a nutshell

Published for the first time in May 2007, the National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste (PNGMDR) is a multi-year programming document managed jointly by the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) and the Ministry for Ecological and Inclusive Transition via its Directorate General for Energy and Climate (DGEC).

Consisting of around 200 pages, it is intended to be a management tool for managing radioactive materials and waste in a sustainable manner. It thus takes stock of existing management methods, identifies needs, then formulates proposals or sets objectives.

Today, the 5th edition of the plan is therefore being drafted and will for the first time be based on the discussions held upstream during the public debate.

Announcement of the guidelines of the next National Radioactive Materials and Waste Management Plan

ASN issues its opinion on the management of very low level waste

To go further Link to the ASN website contents on PNGMDR

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