1.1 Siting a GDF will involve a process of working with willing communities – but what constitutes a ‘community’ in this context has not yet been defined.
Do you have evidence, examples, experience about how ‘the community’ should best be defined, in the context of a community considering whether or not it wishes to host a geological disposal facility? Evidence could be drawn from the UK or from abroad, and from other examples of nationally significant infrastructure, however respondents should bear in mind that the eventual definition will need to be flexible enough to be applicable to different areas across the country that may wish to join the siting process.
It is of little wonder, I suggest, that defining a ‘community’ is proving problematic! Perhaps it is unfortunate that choosing such a parameter in the first place, and many years ago, has led DECC, NDA, RWM, other government departments … and the rest of us on a wild goose chase in attempt to define the undefinable in these particular (nuclear waste/GDF) circumstances.
Definition of a ‘Community’: The size of, or numbers in, a population cannot be the true basis for differentiating ‘a community’. Such a ‘community’ could be a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage; e.g. a neighbourhood. It could be as small as a village or hamlet… a civil parish, in fact. Or it could be much larger but actually more specific: such as a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: e.g. the community of Western Europe. Some would argue – with some justification – that a ‘nuclear waste’ ‘community’ comprises those citizens whose environment or lives have the potential to be affected by the nuclear waste – transport or construction routes, for example, or site access and egress corridors or radioactive actinide dispersal in the event of an incident. Clearly, nailing down an acceptable definition will not be easy! However, the sociological journals are replete with treatise, discourse and references to the concept of ‘community’. Before 1910 there was little social science literature concerning ‘a community’ and it was really only in 1915 that the first clear sociological definition emerged in describing rural ‘farming communities’. However, instead of attempting to define a ‘community’ by its geographical boundaries let me suggest that a less restrictive analysis might apply. Sociologically, it is generally agreed that ‘communities’ (howso’er they might be defined) exhibit three characteristics:
- Tolerance – an openness to others; curiosity; perhaps even respect, a willingness to listen and learn (Walzer 1997: 11).
- Reciprocity – Putnam (2000) describes generalized reciprocity thus: ‘I’ll do this for you now, without expecting anything immediately in return, and perhaps without even knowing you, confident that down the road you or someone else will return the favour’. In the short run there is altruism, in the long run self-interest.
- Trust – the confident expectation that people, institutions and things will act in a consistent, honest and appropriate way (or more accurately, ‘trustworthiness’ – reliability) is essential if communities are to flourish. Closely linked to norms of reciprocity and networks of civic engagement (Putnam 1993; Coleman 1990), social trust – trust in other people – allows people to cooperate and to develop. Trusting others does not entail us suspending our critical judgment – some people (and organisations) will be worthy of trust, some will not.
The MRWS process, which culminated in my Council rejecting Stage 4 on the 30th January 2013, demonstrated unequivocally that at least two of the above characteristics were significantly absent.
- Demonstrating tolerance, gaining trust, and statutorily delivering on reciprocity are all fundamental requisites needed of the NDA/RWM. They were NOT present during MRWS. In fact, the absence of trust in DECC, NDA, et al became a major stumbling block and their entreaties more and more incredulous.
However, trust and reciprocity can be engineered, over time. For example, in addition to the benefits that would come with such a long-lasting (GDF) engineering project, Sweden’s Forsmark’s Östhammar municipality will receive about 25% of a SEK2 billion ($240 million) financial package. The losing region, Oskarshamn, will take the rest of the package. This is a very far cry from the paltry £1m+ promised to any UK ‘community’ willing to accept a GDF. As we (Cumbria County Council) argued (unsuccessfully) at the time, a Sovereign Wealth Fund in perpetuity needs to be established … AND enshrined in statute.
Here in West Cumbria we have hosted the “intolerable risk” (Margaret Hodge) of Sellafield for nigh on 70years and, as a ‘community’, have received precious little in return. Here, in west Cumbria, 17% of our children live in child poverty whilst being neighbours of and living cheek by jowl to the highest paying employer in Cumbria. Eleven of our West Cumbrian ‘communities’ are categorised as being in the top 10% for deprivation in the UK. It surely begs the question of how far – geographically – the boundaries of an affected community should be drawn, not least because travel and construction routes to a GDF (or Sellafield) do and will stretch for many miles.
1.2 Please provide examples of where this approach has been used and how it contributed to effective community representation during the delivery of a major infrastructure project. Please also identify any barriers and challenges that should be taken into account.
[NB: While the precise layout and design of a GDF will depend on where it is sited, it would have both surface facilities (around 1 square kilometre) and underground facilities, linked by shafts and / or access tunnels. The underground facilities do not need to be located directly below the surface facilities, they could be separated by a distance of several kilometres.]
As we are aware Sweden (and Finland) has one of the most advanced research programmes for the disposal of nuclear waste.
On the 3rd June 2009 SKB President announced that Sweden’s permanent disposal site for used nuclear fuel will be at Forsmark. Unlike the UK perhaps, the competition to host the site was hard fought, with both communities (Laxemar and Forsmark) taking a keen interest – both municipalities already have nuclear facilities.
In response to the question: “Do you trust the authorities to solve the problem today in your neighbourhood, or do you want to wait for a better technology and leave the waste to future generations who did not actually benefit from the nuclear power?” A comprehensive poll showed that 88% of Osthammar residents were in favour of having the disposal site in their community. In another survey taken after Östhammar had applied for approval as the site for a permanent repository for nuclear waste, an opinion poll showed that some 77 percent of residents said they supported the idea. What did SKB do right that the MRWS process, after more than three years, got so spectacularly wrong?
Laârouchi Engström, the deputy CEO at SKB, says that it took the company decades to get Östhammar’s citizens to approve the plan for the permanent repository. “When SKB began studying potential sites in the late ’80s,” she says, “we were not welcomed anywhere. No one wanted to talk to us.” Laârouchi Engström and a few other SKB employees decided that these perceptions had to be changed. “We can’t force ourselves on a community,” she says. A dialogue had to be established, and Laârouchi Engström believes there were two conditions that needed to be met to achieve that:
- First, a community had to have the right GEOLOGICAL conditions to be considered at all.
- Second, the community had to cooperate with SKB of its own accord.
I entirely agree with her conclusions. Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Trust (and others) argued strongly for a NATIONAL geological screening survey to be undertaken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland BEFORE calling for volunteer ‘communities’. We are pleased that will now be undertaken. However, if such a survey is little more than a superficial or cursory analysis it will gain little credibility and clearly, in any event, the results and outcomes will need to be scrupulously analysed by an appropriate peer group.
Finally, Laârouchi Engström says: “It’s important not to talk to citizens like a nuclear engineer, but like a person. It’s important not to lecture them from a podium in a municipal building (cf MRWS!), but in their homes over coffee and cake and in places where people don’t feel intimidated or afraid to ask potentially embarrassing questions. The community determines how quickly we move forward. We don’t.”
It seems startlingly obvious that only an open, transparent procedure, with all of its consequences laid bare, will create one of the most important raw materials required: trust.
It is, perhaps, apposite to consider the words of David Leroy, a former Idaho Lieutenant Governor, who was appointed as U.S. Nuclear Waste Negotiator. As negotiator, Leroy communicates with governors of 58 jurisdictions and leaders of federally recognized Native American tribes to determine if any of those entities would be willing to host a repository.
“It’s obvious to me, particularly from historical experience, that financial benefits alone will not drive the acceptance of these facilities. When I begin to talk benefits, I have the broadest possible concept of what that term may include. I start with the concept that SAFETY must come first. After that, we’re interested in talking about choices of technology which the local citizens might be interested in so they can feel comfortable with the facilities. I then move to concepts of shared control in the operation or ownership of those facilities, and only later do I begin to talk about financial benefits or infrastructure benefits.”
1.3 Is this approach written up and available? This could be in the form of formal reports, research papers, and articles in periodicals or the press.
If not, could you provide a brief summary?
Gosh, where does one start? There are thousands of pages written about communities, nuclear waste, disposal, etc. – some of it propaganda (from both sides!), some a little esoteric, others more academic and scholarly, still others more reflective….
The long history surrounding the choice of the Yucca Mountain (and Forsmark) proposed facility, for example, and its fairly recent cessation of activity, is worth studying (there is much written!) and it has to be recognised, I believe, that if Yucca Mountain proposals truly turn out to be as safe as claimed by scientists, and its impact on tourism and infrastructure virtually nil, then the ‘community’ of Nevada will have foregone billions of dollars of benefits. More devastating than the loss of money might be the loss of the technological community that might be brought to Nevada with a proper structuring of benefits from Yucca Mountain. The Presidential ‘closure’ of the Yucca Mountain site is now being challenged.
I refer you to a (comprehensive) paper “The Economic Impact of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository on the Economy of Nevada”, Prepared by Riddel, Boyett,Schwer, at the Centre for Business and Economic Research, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, written in 2003. which states that:
“Current Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) operations provide relatively high wage employment to the Nevada economy and constitute an economically stable proportion of the total gross state product (GSP). If the YMP were discontinued, economic losses, relative to the current economy, would be substantial. In 2000, the YMP contributed $195.7 million to the Nevada economy and an additional $188.6 million in 2001. The YMP was responsible for 3,650 jobs in 2000. This translates into a real disposable income of roughly $131 million earned each year in the state of Nevada.”
This analysis refers to whole state of Nevada – which, in United States terms, is comparatively small (but MUCH larger than the ‘community’ of, say, West Cumbria) but, nonetheless, it can be referred to as the ‘community’ of Nevada perhaps, enjoying the munificence of the USA nuclear industry.
Call for Evidence Question 2: How to provide effective representation, governance and decision making
2.1 Do you have evidence, examples or experience of effective ways for the views of a local ‘community’ to be represented in formal discussions in the delivery of large infrastructure projects?
Respondents should bear in mind that the siting process for a GDF could take many decades, and representing a community will involve representing a diverse range of local views and opinions over a time period extending over many local and national electoral cycles. Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers and challenges.
As far as I am aware there have been no major (nationally significant) infrastructure projects in Cumbria for decades… if not much longer. In fact, much of our infrastructure is Victorian, including the coastal railway which is used to transport nuclear waste to and from Sellafield. Much of our highways network in West Cumbrian tends to be more scenic and aesthetic rather than economically practical. In effect, various bodies – including the County Council – are desperately attempting to engender a 21st century economy based, however, on largely Victorian infrastructure. Here in Cumbria we would be delighted (if not delightfully surprised) to be part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’!
However, one area of ‘infrastructure’ liaison that did seem to work well was when, in 2010, the county council, with BT, launched the ambition to disseminate and install fast Broadband throughout Cumbria – including many of its more rural and isolated areas. That exercise necessitated gathering interested representatives from a number of parish councils (or parish council clusters) to form a Cumbria-wide ‘Broadband Committee’. The expertise and experience so gathered proved to be invaluable and fast Broadband installation is continuing apace – well, at least as fast as BT and commercial and financial considerations will allow.
2.2 Do you have evidence, examples or experience of community representation bodies or structures that have worked well in the siting of large projects? What roles and responsibilities were necessary for the body/bodies to properly represent the community? Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers or challenges.
In Cumbria, there are few examples of ‘large (public) projects’ but such comparatively small projects – e.g. highway bypasses, West Cumberland hospital, new schools – as have been embarked on have included an emphasis on consultation rather than public participation. Any NSIP clearly requires participation – if not public decision making – rather than ‘mere’ consultation. The government’s decision to determine the validity of a proposed GDF, given its magnitude, as a NSIP is entirely
understandable. However, the manner in which it effectively eliminated the County Council, which represents a very large (geographic) community, from the decision making was, and remains, truly reprehensible and devious, and effectively constituted a considerable erosion of local democracy.
No MPs discussed the consequences of reducing a county council to that of simply a ‘consultee’ whose opinion may or may not be listened to; more than half the MPs did not even vote for the measure – so much for the importance of the ‘community’, however it may be defined or delineated. Clearly, such a parliamentary move must have been orchestrated by DECC and DECC ministers. And so we see, once again, that TRUST in DECC officials AND DECC government ministers is tarnished and consequently diminished. Democracy? What democracy? How is any ‘community’ to trust the word of ‘nuclear’ civil servants and associated (but transient) politicians. The county councils (wherever they are located) need to be part of the actual NSIP decision making in order to restore the trust between central and local government which was so casually and disrespectfully violated.
2.3 A community representation body (or bodies) will need to ensure that the developer is held to account in providing information to the community engaging in formal discussions. It will also hold the responsibility for deciding if and when to withdraw from these discussions.
Do you have evidence, examples or experience of governance and decision making approaches in relation to community involvement in large scale infrastructure projects that would be applicable to a community representation body for the siting of a GDF?
Is the ‘Community Representation Body’ truly composed of independent people – both specialist and non specialist – and who chose the representatives? Did a nation-wide call go out for volunteers or interested applicants to join this Board? And how were such members finally selected? The fundamental requirement of such a body is to engender confidence, respect and trust. If the CRWG has been assembled ‘by appointment’ that would constitute the first breach in a supposed mantra of impartiality and objectivity. In particular, however, such a CRWG clearly needs to consider:
- whose views are being heard and whose are not;
- what are the barriers to being heard and how they can they be overcome;
- how these barriers can be addressed in ways that will promote community cohesion, rather than increasing competition within and between communities
Community involvement needs to be promoted both directly via local structures of governance, and via the voluntary and community sectors, and this role needs to be fully recognised and supported, promoting social cohesion and community engagement and community cohesion and solidarity through strengthening civil society more generally.
2.4 Could you provide examples of where the approach set out above has been used and how it contributed to the successful delivery of a project? Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers or challenges.
The government is, quite rightly, placing increasing emphasis on involving community members in the decision making and program implementation process. But it would be perverse to involve the ‘communities’ and then dismiss their observations should they not accord with government or departmental aspirations. To reach community members and encourage participation, planners and public officials must rely on involvement from key community representatives, including volunteers – and not necessarily, politically elected representatives These individuals are often critical to the success of partnerships and can act as effective liaisons between public officials and community residents.
2.5 Is this approach written up and available? This could be in the form of formal reports, research papers, and articles in periodicals or the press.
Title: “Supporting effective community representation: Lessons from the Festival of Neighbourhoods”
Author: Amanda J. Johnson, Troy D. Glover & Felice C. Yuen
Publication: Published online: 26 Nov 2008
Date: If not, could you provide a brief summary?
I would refer you to the above treatise which, although slightly dated, remains germane to these deliberations.
Call for Evidence Question 3: How to manage and disburse Community Investment
3.1 Substantial investment will be made available to communities engaging in the siting process for a GDF (up to £1m per community initially, rising to £2.5m later in the process).
Do you have evidence, examples or experience of methods for disbursing community investment of this scale – including the body that manages the funding, how capacity can be built to disburse investment in the most productive way, and the ability of communities to influence investment within their geographic areas?
I have already mentioned a Sovereign Wealth Fund – on the lines of the oil investments and philanthropy disseminated in the Shetlands, Norway, Alaska, etc. Given the vast sums of money which will be expended before, during and after the construction of a GDF these proposed payments are simply derisory, bordering on contemptuous.
3.2 Please provide examples of where this approach has been used and how it contributed to the successful delivery community investment projects. Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers or challenges.
BBC Radio Scotland – The Shetland Dividend
3.3 Is this approach written up and available? This could be in the form of formal reports, research papers, and articles in periodicals or the press
If not, could you provide a brief summary?
Call for Evidence Question 4: How to deliver a test of public support
4.1 The policy set out in the 2014 White Paper is that a GDF will not be constructed unless there has been a positive test of local support for hosting a GDF at the site in question. This test of public support will be a direct community based decision, taken by the people in the local community.
Do you have evidence, examples or experience of how the views and opinions of a community can be most effectively sought? Responses could include the method by which a final public test of support should be taken, and methods to identify whose views should be sought in such a test (e.g. territorial, interest or population extent).
Clearly the MRWS polling during 2011/12 was fundamentally flawed. Of 62 (of 88) parish councils in West Cumbria which voted for or against continuing to Stage 4 of MRWS, 52 voted against, as did the Cumbria Association of local Councils (CALC), which represents over 200 parish councils in Cumbria. Unbiased education in and familiarity with a very complex subject is at the heart of community support (or not). Whether the ‘community’ will listen or imbibe is, perhaps, a moot point!
4.2 Could you provide examples of where this approach has been used? Please identify any innovative or best practice examples, as well as any barriers or challenges.
4.3 Is this approach written up and available? This could be in the form of formal reports, research papers, and articles in periodicals or the press.
If not, could you provide a brief summary?
Call for Evidence Question 5: Is there any other information or background research that you think would be useful to the CRWG?
I entreat you to please learn from those who have been before you… as I am sure you will, or are already doing so. In Cumbria there have three attempts, at least, to impose a GDF; all three have spectacularly failed – especially the long drawn-out and hyper-expensive NIREX studies and conclusions of 1996/97 which were vehemently opposed by the county council (and many others) and quite rightly dismissed by the Secretary of State on the recommendations of the planning inspector, after a six month planning enquiry. I would wish to point out that there were (and are) a number of reasons why the ‘community’ (my colleagues and I of Cumbria Count Council) rejected the proposal to go to Stage 4 of the recent MRWS project. Not necessarily in order of importance, these were:
1. No statutory, enshrined Right of Withdrawal
2. No guaranteed Sovereign Wealth Fund – in perpetuity.
3. Plethora of expert opinion against the complex geology – NOT effectively rebutted by NDA
4. No proposals for a Strategic Environmental Assessment
5. Allerdale area ruled out nem con by County council Cabinet.
6. Copeland too small without infringing designated and protected areas. Imperative to protect the Lake District national park (especially given potential World Heritage status)
7. Significant democratic deficit. Very little credible local support. No mandate to proceed.
8. Huge potential for planning blight/property/business/farm devaluation.
9. No commitment to improve Victorian infrastructure for such a colossal new-build.
10. The construction phase alone would irrevocably change the character of Cumbria
11. Received no commitment to invest in international standards of safe surface or sub/near surface storage. The ‘twin-track’ approach which we argued for…
12. The findings of the NAO and the comments by the Public Accounts Committee. (“Sellafield … presents an “intolerable risk”…to people and the environment…”)
13.The County Council’s total commitment to alternative, surface or sub/near surface further investment in Sellafield and West Cumbria.
Call for Evidence Question 6: Further Information
For some respondents we would like to follow up with additional questions. Are you happy to be contacted for further information if required?
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