A public dialogue was held on reactor design (General Design Assessments) for new nuclear power stations. The dialogue involved an online survey and two rounds of workshops.
Problems and Purpose
The Environment Agency, ONR, and NRW commissioned a public dialogue that reviewed public involvement in reactor design assessments for new nuclear power stations. The dialogue had 5 objectives.
- Inform the Environment Agency (EA), Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) current and future public engagement, and EA and NRW’s consultation approach on General Design Assessments (GDA).
- Identify approaches that will address issues and barriers to sharing complex technical information on the GDA with members of the public.
- Develop and pilot materials on the GDA that are accessible to the public.
- Identify potential public engagement process options for the GDA.
- Help the nuclear regulators to pilot an effective public engagement and EA and NRW consultation approach, during the current assessment of Hitachi-GE’s UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR).
Background History and Context
The Government has outlined its commitment to a significant expansion in new nuclear in the UK stating that nuclear power, alongside renewable energy sources, will ensure that the UK has enough low-carbon electricity in the future.
In 2006, the Government asked the nuclear regulators – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency – to consider ‘pre-authorisation assessments’ of new nuclear power stations.
The nuclear regulators developed their generic design assessment (GDA) process in response to this request. GDA enables the regulators to begin assessing the acceptability of safety, security and environmental aspects of a nuclear power station design, at a generic level, before site- specific applications are made. It provides the regulators with early influence on the design of new nuclear power stations when it is most effective and efficient. It also helps to reduce project cost and time risks for developers as it enables regulatory concerns to be identified and addressed early.
The Environment Agency, ONR, and Natural Resource Wales (NRW), support their GDA process with dedicated communications and engagement activities. In the Stakeholder Engagement Plan (on the ONR website dated June 2014), the regulators have clearly set out their approach to engagement. This includes developing the website, producing communications materials for a range of stakeholders and communities, publishing documents and leaflets, managing events, engaging with key stakeholders, producing e-bulletins, advertising and managing proactive/reactive media relations.
A suggestion from an independent evaluation of engagement and consultation in the previous GDA was that the regulators should seek to make information more accessible to local residents and groups who are among the target audience for such consultations. In 2014, the nuclear regulators (Environment Agency, ONR and Natural Resources Wales (NRW)) sought to engage members of the public in a dialogue to explore how public engagement in GDA might be improved. 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Total cost of the project: £112,840
The project was commissioned by the Environment Agency, Office for Nuclear Regulation, and Natural Resources Wales. Sciencewise-ERC provided additional funding and support for the project (£56 000). The delivery contractor was 3KQ, the evaluator was Icarus.
The Environment Agency - The Environment Agency is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Natural Resources Wales - NRW is a Welsh Government Sponsored Body.
Office for Nuclear Regulation - ONR was established as a statutory Public Corporation on 1 April 2014.
3KQ - 3KQ deliver professional facilitation, convening and engagement services to help organisations work better with their stakeholders. 3KQ was the dialogue delivery contractor for the project.
Icarus - Specialising in the design, facilitation, delivery and evaluation of planning and decision making processes which draw people and organisations together, Icarus was the evaluation contractor for the project. 
Sciencewise-ERC - A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills funded programme to bring scientists, government and the public together to explore the impact of science and technology in our lives, Sciencewise-ERC helps Government departments and agencies commission and use public dialogue to inform policy making, involving science and technology issues. Its core aim is to develop the capacity of Government to carry out good dialogue, to gather and disseminate good practice, have successful two-way communications with the public and other stakeholders, and to embed the principles of good dialogue into internal Government processes.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
- Public Participants: 442 (401 online survey, 41 dialogue workshops)
- 6 stakeholders involved as part of the oversight group
- Representatives from each regulator attended the workshops 
An oversight group of six stakeholders were appointed to guide the dialogue and evaluation process. The members were Prof Andrew Blowers, Kirsty Gogan, Dr Colette Grundy, Alyn Jones, Dr John Idris Jones, Prof Lynda Warren. Full details of their background can be found in the project evaluation report .
Project Management Team
In addition, there was a project management team, consisting of members of the commissioning bodies, including the Project Lead Annabelle Lillycrop and three other members of the Environment Agency, members of the Office for Nuclear Regulation and Sciencewise. As well as contributions from PhD students from the University of Central Lancashire.
The survey targeted residents of England and Wales, the sample of 400 responses was selected to match as closely as possible quotas regarding geography, age and gender. The sample screened out obvious stakeholder groups that already have a stated position, such as nuclear industry/regulators/NGOs with a position on new build.
Round 1 Workshops
Participant recruitment was undertaken by a specialist company working to specifications regarding a mix of gender, age, social grade, and excluding those who work or who have family members working in the industry or pro or anti-nuclear campaign groups.
Round 2 Workshops
Those who expressed an interest in attending the round two workshops were invited to take part, and were selected to represent a mix of attendees (based on age and gender) from Cheltenham and Bangor. 
Methods and Tools Used
Online survey of public attitudes. A survey of 401 people in England and Wales informed the design of the local dialogue workshops, by building a picture of national attitudes to the regulation of nuclear power and the assessment of a new reactor design.
Round 1 dialogue workshops in two locations involved 41 members of the public (22 in Cheltenham on 17th January 2015 and 19 in Bangor on 31 January 2015). These workshops introduced the topic and context of GDA.
Round 2 dialogue workshop, with 18 participants from both locations, was held in Crewe on 21 March 2015. This workshop provided opportunities for deeper exploration of the key issues, sought responses to a range of communication and consultation materials and developed recommendations about future public engagement. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The dialogue project was divided into three elements: an online survey and two rounds of dialogue workshops.
The online survey aimed to inform the design of the local dialogue workshops, and build a picture of national attitudes. It used the software Survey Gizmo. It aimed to ascertain the following:
- Level of awareness of EA, ONR and NRW
- Attitudes towards nuclear power
- Level of awareness of new build and regulation
- Level of trust in regulators
- People’s interests (e.g safety, environment)
- Level of interest in being involved in GDA consultation
The key findings from the scoping survey of 401 residents in England and Wales are shown below.
Knowledge of EA, NRW and ONR: The EA was the most familiar organisation to respondents, with 66.6% saying they knew at least a little about the organisation. NRW and the ONR were substantially less familiar to respondents, with 18% in each case saying they knew at least a little about these organisations – shifting to 39% for NRW when considering Welsh respondents only.
Feelings about nuclear power in Britain today: Around half of the respondents said they had a clear view on nuclear power, with 38% expressing overall support and 14% expressing overall opposition. Just 7% said they either didn’t know or didn’t care, with the slight majority of respondents (41%) saying they were not sure whether they supported or opposed nuclear power.
Knowledge / feelings about new nuclear power: The number of respondents who said they were aware some new nuclear power stations were planned before starting the survey, and those who said they were unaware was fairly even: 48% said they were aware, compared to 52% unaware. A total of 46% of respondents said they either tended to agree or strongly agree with the idea of new nuclear power stations being built in the UK, compared to 21% either tending to disagree or strongly disagree. Around a third – 34% – said they neither agreed nor disagreed, or didn’t know.
Knowledge / trust of nuclear power regulation: Overall knowledge of nuclear power regulation among respondents was low, with 65% saying they knew virtually nothing or nothing at all, and 2% saying they didn’t know. Just under a quarter – 23% – said they knew a little, with 8% saying they knew a fair amount, and 2% a lot. A total of 39% of respondents said they largely or completely trusted the EA. This was followed by 29% for the ONR, and 22% for NRW (23% of Welsh respondents). This broadly correlates with the overall level of familiarity respondents said they had with each organisation. Respondents saying they partly trusted each organisation, or that they didn’t know, made up the largest proportion in each case: a total of 43.7% for the EA, 62.1% for NRW, and 54.2% for the ONR. This relatively high level of “undecided” respondents in each case implies that the nature of any future direct experience with each of these organisations has the potential to both positively and negatively impact the level of trust of a significant number of people.
Public involvement: Respondents felt that those members of the public living closest to a proposed nuclear reactor site were the most important to engage, with 79% saying it is very important (11% say it is quite important) that people who live within 25 miles of a proposed site have the opportunity to find out information and ask questions. This compares to 44% for people who live in England and Wales, further than 25 miles from a proposed site (though note that 43% of respondents still thought the involvement of these people was quite important). When considering people who live outside England and Wales, 47% of respondents still said they thought it was quite or very important these people had the opportunity to find out information and ask questions.
What would you want to know more about? The top three issues for respondents were safety (82%), radioactive waste management (78%), and the impact of radioactive discharges on people and the environment (76%). This was followed by security (64%), spent fuel management (59%) and ‘other environmental impacts’ (50%). Management arrangements received the least attention, with 32% of respondents saying they would be interested in knowing about this topic – however, it is worth bearing in mind this question was asked without further explanation of what management arrangements actually means in practice (for example learning from experience, having safety procedure in place, etc).
Future involvement: The most popular choice for future involvement was the presence of a website that explains the assessment process, with 47% of respondents selecting this option. Receiving a quarterly newsletter and responding to a consultation online were also relatively popular, with 28% and 26% of respondents selecting these options respectively. Around a sixth of respondents – 17% – said they would attend meetings to hear more and ask questions, and 9% said they would respond to a consultation in writing (hard copy). Around a quarter – 25% – said they wouldn’t really be interested in any further involvement.
The findings from the scoping survey were fed into the design of the public workshops. Specifically, they informed what questions should be asked in the workshops and with what emphasis, in order to ensure that the locally-based workshops were run in the context of the wider national picture.
Round 1 Workshops
The objectives of the round 1 workshops were to enable the public to:
- Understand the process by which nuclear power stations in the UK can be developed (and where the GDA process fits in).
- Understand the role and responsibilities of the regulators and how they work together.
- Ensure basic understanding of the UK ABWR design and factors that differentiate it from other designs.
- Consider the national public views emerging from the survey conducted.
- Review hopes/fears/concerns/perceptions of nuclear power and the regulatory system and indicate what issues could be usefully explored in the second workshop.
- Be clear about how they can get more information and ask questions about the GDA if they wish.
Following an introduction to the topic of Generic Design Assessment (GDA), participants spent some time in groups of two or three. They discussed questions they would like to ask about the topic or process of GDA. There were a number of questions about nuclear power more generally (especially potential impacts), as well as the GDA process. In Bangor, there tended to be a lot of focus on Wylfa power station, including jobs and local employment.
The regulators present at each workshop gave two presentations: one outlining the roles of the three regulators (EA, NRW, ONR) and one outlining the GDA process.
Participants worked in smaller groups at tables, discussing a range of communications materials. They talked about what they liked or didn’t like about each communication material, and how they might be improved.
Context matters: Many of the dialogue participants wanted broader and deeper information than was necessarily contained within the formal scope of the GDA process and dialogue. This information was important to participants in order to understand the place of the process in a wider context, and to answer questions such as ‘why am I being asked now (and not before)’, ‘why does it matter to me’, and ‘will my views actually make a difference’.
Make it relevant: Throughout the workshops, participants tended to find it easier to talk about scenarios in which a specific location or proposed site was involved, rather than a generic approach.
Tailor messages for different groups: Current GDA materials are written for a variety of audiences, but are not generally pitched at the general public. Therefore, these materials often seemed dense, technical, and unengaging to dialogue participants. They suggested a range of solutions for making future materials more appealing to the general public, with a particular focus on design, style, and visual imagery.
Trust and independence: Although the overall level of trust varied slightly between the two workshops, generally participants seemed to understand and accept the independent nature of the regulators.
Round 2 Workshop
This workshop was designed to provide opportunities for:
- Deeper exploration of issues only touched on lightly in Round 1, such as waste management and security.
- Discussion of responses to a range of communication and consultation materials to check they are accessible to the public.
- Development of recommendations about public engagement for the PMT to consider further, including the opportunity to reflect on how relevant people feel it is to be consulted at the generic GDA stage.
In both workshops, the format included a mix of plenary discussion, presentations and group work at tables. Notes were taken throughout, supported by flipchart recording. Specific communication materials included:
- ‘Assessing new nuclear power station designs’ ONR/EA leaflet
- NRW website
- Hitachi-GE website
- ONR/EA joint website
- Quarterly update
- Consultation poster
- Consultation document
- Consultation document summary
- HSE EA (bilingual fold out document, old) 
Participants spent some time in two groups discussing the previous workshops, specifically anything that had stuck in their minds. Based on feedback from the previous workshops, the regulators had produced a diagram in an attempt to better explain the bigger picture surrounding the GDA process. The group spent some time discussing this. Overall there was a feeling the diagram was a good start in explaining the context of GDA. Most comments related to specific suggestions for improvements or things participants particularly liked or didn’t like with respect to the content or layout. The regulators spent some time responding to some of the questions raised by participants in the Round 1 workshops that were not answered in full at the time. Topics included nuclear waste, safety/health, waste disposal, long term impacts and security.
Participants were given a brief reminder of the consultation process for GDA and what was done last time, for example in terms of timing, publicity, and which organisations might be sent the consultation documents. Working in groups, participants discussed the previous consultation executive summary and consultation questions. They were initially asked to provide their overall first impressions, followed by more specific discussions around layout and language. Other topics for discussion included:
- What could be done differently to engage the public on GDA?
- How might lay members of the public wish to contribute?
- How can 'formal consultation' be combined with public engagement?
- What kind of response might be required to work with the public who wish to engage?
- What information, what methods and channels work best?
Key suggestions from the public included:
Keep it simple: use every day analogies to illustrate the process, such as the pressure cooker analogy to explain how a reactor works, which was used in the Round 1 Workshops.
Innovate: Make it engaging, humorous and interactive; consider using TV programmes or even poetry.
Use a range of methods: Have a range of different communications, akin to a multi-media campaign.
Tap into local resources: Tap into local enthusiasm by utilising those people who are engaged to encourage others to get involved. Target local interest groups that you think would have members who are interested. Use local publications and social media.
Drip feed information: Develop familiarity with the topic by drip feeding information and reusing common images or infographics.
Ensure accessibility and visibility of online information: Ensure online information is easy to find and navigate.
Be aware of context, history, and preconceptions: Some people have a fear of nuclear stations or radiation, and associate “nuclear” with weaponry. There could be a way of talking about this process as a positive way of safeguarding against the bad stuff happening – people should be told what went wrong in the past (e.g. at Chernobyl), and then informed about what is now being done to stop that happening again.
Reconsider the use of language: The name (GDA), abbreviations and language are currently not helpful. Write in a language people can understand – this includes material in English and Welsh. 
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The evaluation report identifies that the project’s objectives were largely achieved with clear insights and recommendations emerging from the dialogue that will inform the nuclear regulators’ current and future public engagement initiatives and process options. There was less progress on objective 3 which aspired to develop and pilot consultation materials with the public. 
In August 2015, at the end of the dialogue project, the results were considered at two implementation workshops where it was agreed, in detail, which of the dialogue results the project partners could implement and why, the features of a wider dissemination plan and what the project partners could put forward to developers. The full report can be found in the resources section of this case study. 
Specific initiatives to take the results forward included:
- The development of new and improved public-facing content for the regulators’ websites and communications materials, including an infographic explaining the bigger picture to place GDA in context
- Acknowledging the importance of face-to-face engagement for building trust, consideration is also being given to pre-consultation local community engagement in the vicinity of the proposed sites
The project also helped develop better understanding of how to build greater trust between the regulators and the public. The project has contributed to emerging thinking and learning about the importance of building the relationship between those who consult and those who are consulted. Public dialogues are demonstrating that the investment in processes that support the building of long-term trust and mutual understanding (in this case between the public and nuclear regulators) have the potential to support more considered decision-making in key areas, such as GDA. Trust cannot be adequately achieved by simply being open, responsive, transparent and providing good-quality information. It also requires an approach that is respectful of the public and engages in a way that recognises existing understanding, responds to their concerns, and enables them to feel part of and understand their role within the decision-making process.
This understanding fed through to recognition by the regulators that there was a need to ‘design in the round’. This considers the relevance and accessibility of the information and engagement questions, and the specific approaches to engagement that would build public trust and confidence in what the regulators were doing and how the findings would be used.
The dialogue project also provided excellent opportunities to demonstrate the benefits of public participation to the regulators’ staff who did not have a communications or engagement background and provided significant learning that was transferable to other parts of the regulators’ activities. In particular, the dialogue demonstrated to the regulators that constructive conversations and consultations could take place if key elements are put in place and work together.
It is expected that the dialogue results will continue to influence policy and planning over time. An active dissemination plan has been developed (called ‘Sharing the Findings’). Key findings have already been shared extensively at senior levels within the regulators’ organisations and with developers and reactor designers, other relevant areas of government, the Nuclear Communications and Engagement Liaison Group, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. [2, 1]
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The attached case study identifies the following lessons from the process. Further detail can be found in the evaluation report .
What Worked Well
The project’s objectives were largely achieved, with clear insights and recommendations emerging from the dialogue that will inform the nuclear regulators’ current and future public engagement initiatives and process options.
The strength of the governance of the whole project, through an effective PMT and Oversight Group, led to genuine shared commitment to taking the results of the dialogue forward into new approaches and materials for future engagement. The final Implementation Workshop in August 2015 was particularly valuable in ensuring the use of the dialogue results by a range of organisations.
The ability of the participants to engage with the topic exceeded expectations. The success of this engagement was largely due to careful process design, delivery and management which exhibited a number of key elements, including:
- An experienced and effective facilitation team - the facilitation overall was of a high standard and created a friendly and constructive atmosphere
- Carefully selected experts who were well briefed in terms of the style, tone and content of their input – participants fed back that they had enough information at the right level to contribute effectively and presentations were thorough, clear and pitched at the right level
- Very effective project management creating one team with commitment to the process
Specific techniques and approaches that worked well during the workshops were the use of analogies (e.g. like a kettle, as big as a bus) and the ‘degree of trust’ exercise. This exercise was run at the start and the end of the workshops, and was an excellent method of demonstrating the impact of the dialogue process on levels of trust. 
What Worked Less Well
A significant process challenge was in keeping participants focused on GDA consultation issues while communicating where GDA fitted into the wider nuclear policy and decision- making landscape. This was managed successfully in large part, but inviting any questions at the start was seen to be counterproductive by some of the participants and some members of the PMT.
The ‘talking heads’ video clips used to test the medium of talking heads videos did not work particularly well. The clips were not made specifically for the workshop, the people in the clips were not addressing those in the workshop and participants did not find this method of communication effective.
The recruitment process was generally good, enabling a broad sample of non-aligned members of the public to be selected for the workshops, However, there was some concern about the low number of Welsh speakers at the Bangor workshop in relation
to the percentage of Welsh speakers in the local population and some concerns about the geographical spread of participants for the Cheltenham workshop.
Recording workshop discussions was detailed, accurate and well done. The majority of recording was done by two scribes making notes on laptops in plenary and small group sessions. Although thorough, this way of working does have challenges in that participants cannot see what is being recorded, so do not necessarily have confidence that their point was captured. 
 Smith, S (2015) “Improving public involvement in reactor design assessments for new nuclear power stations: Evaluation Final Report”, Icarus, October 2015
 Sciencewise (2016) “Case Study: New Nuclear Power Stations- Improving public involvement in reactor design assessments”
 Sciencewise (2016) “New nuclear power stations- reviewing how to engage with members of the public in reactor design assessments (known as the Generic Design Assessment or GDA)” (ONLINE) Available at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20170110132523.../
 3KQ (2015) “New Nuclear Power Stations: Improving public involvement in reactor design assessments- Dialogue Report”, August 2015
 Sciencewise (2016) “Sciencewise public dialogue improving public involvement in the assessment of new nuclear power station designs: Implementing the findings (report of workshop held on 27th August 2015)”, March 2016