RSI STAFF CASE STUDY

Nuclear Power Reactor Licensing

The better informed they are, the more likely the public will support the right form of energy.

Mandate

RSI was tasked with providing scientific advice and content for a nuclear power reactor licensing process in an OECD country.

The nuclear safety commission in question regulates and licenses all nuclear reactors in the country, and requires a full scope of technical information for licensing processes. This commission also expects that these documents are written to be understood by members of the general public who may follow the licensing process and attend the public hearings.  This is important for the commission’s objective of ensuring that the licence application and approval process is fully transparent and accessible to the public.

Work

RSI advised on the preparation of key licensing documents for enhanced public comprehension and credibility in support of licensing hearings for two nuclear reactors. The goal was to provide comprehensible information on a complex and often contentious technology, presenting information on risks and safety provisions that is balanced and unbiased and thus credible to a public that has become concerned about risk claims and value-based opposition to the technology.

For one of the reactors, RSI evaluated communication materials in terms of risk communication best practices in the context of their licensing hearings. RSI advised on principles of communicating risk and risk management to a public that is concerned about risks from nuclear power reactors, particularly in light of claims made by critical intervenors.  The process involved workshops with the reactor’s staff on public attitudes to nuclear power and risk communication.

For the second reactor’s licensing process, RSI developed a strategy for the document to be presented to the licensing commission’s members. Working from the commission’s technical licence application document, RSI drafted the text for the commission, presenting the essential technical details required for that document by the regulator, in a form that is more comprehensible by the non-technical public, preparing additional background material to more fully explain some key technical aspects of the nuclear power process and selecting graphics that illustrated complex processes or concepts. The process involved working closely with technical and other issue experts to ensure accuracy of the text, and delivering the document organization, design and layout.

Outcomes

The value of this process was illustrated by a comment by one of the Commission members, who complimented OPG on the quality of their report, and drew specific attention to the explanatory text boxes that RSI created to describe the complex technology that is difficult for the non-expert public to understand.

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