The DECC commissioned a series of public and stakeholder workshops addressing the issue of radioactive waste management, with the purpose of gaining feedback to improve the selection process for the siting of geological disposal facility.
Problems and Purpose
The UK Government’s policy for the long term management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive waste is geological disposal. The Government's preferred approach to site selection for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) was based on principles of voluntarism and working in partnership with willing communities. Three local authorities expressed an interest in exploring the opportunity to host a GDF, however in January 2013, the decision was taken not to proceed with this site selection process. 
The Government undertook a public consultation on proposed changes to the siting process for a geological disposal facility between 12 September and 5 December 2013. To further understand public and stakeholder views on the proposed changes, DECC commissioned this project which involved a series of dialogue workshops that took place during November and December 2013. A total of 11 workshops (four with members of the public, three with stakeholders and three with specific stakeholder sectors) took place around England and Wales. The workshops were delivered by a consortium comprising engineering company, Jacobs; market researchers, Ipsos MORI; and facilitation and stakeholder engagement specialists, 3KQ.
The objectives for the public workshops were to:
- Explore and understand the general public’s awareness of geological disposal and the site selection process
- Obtain feedback on the proposals for improving the current site selection process for a geological disposal facility
- Enable the public’s views to be fed into the development of an improved GDF site selection process.
The objectives for the stakeholder and sector workshops were:
- To help DECC understand stakeholders' issues/questions/concerns about the current GDF site selection process
- To allow stakeholders to explore and understand the implications of the Government’s proposals for them and other stakeholders
- To obtain stakeholders’ feedback on the proposals for improving the current GDF site selection process
- To support stakeholders to compile their responses to the public consultation 
Background History and Context
Geological disposal involves placing radioactive wastes deep within a suitable rock formation where the rock acts as a barrier against the escape of radioactivity, as well as isolating the waste from effects at the surface. In 2008, the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) white paper was published which outlined a framework for implementing geological disposal. The white paper set out an approach to site selection for a geological disposal facility (GDF) based on the principles of voluntarism and partnership.
Interest in hosting a GDF was expressed by local authorities in west Cumbria but the process stalled when the two borough councils voted to continue with the process, but the County Council voted against (it had previously been agreed that there should be consent at both Borough and County level).
Following this decision, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) issued a Call for Evidence on how the MRWS process could be taken forward. DECC subsequently published a consultation document outlining potential revisions to the MRWS process .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Total budget: £440, 600 (Sciencewise co-funding £167, 440)
The project was commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) with support from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA- a non-departmental public body). Delivery contractors for the project were Ipsos MORI and 3KQ Ltd, with Icarus Collective Ltd acting as an evaluator for the project. The delivery and evaluator contractors were selected following an open call. Sciencewise-ERC supported the project. 
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is the lead department for radioactive waste management. DECC is being supported in the review of the MRWS siting process by the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the NDA which is a Non-Departmental Public Body.
Delivery and Evaluator Contractors
- 3KQ are leaders in the field of facilitation and stakeholder engagement.
- Ipsos MORI, part of the Ipsos Group, is a leading UK research company, specialising in social & political research and public dialogue on complex and sensitive issues.
- Icarus provides professional support, policy advice and direct delivery, and is the evaluation contractor for the dialogue .
Sciencewise-ERC is 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. 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
Total public participants involved: 63 across four locations
Total stakeholders involved: 162 in seven one-day stakeholder and sector workshops in different locations.
A total of 68 members of the public were recruited to the four public workshops. The workshops took place in Nottingham, East Midlands (pilot event); Penrith, Cumbria; Bridgewater, Somerset and London. The locations were chosen to ensure a number of different types of communities (industrial, rural, nuclear and non-nuclear) were involved. The workshops were delivered by Ipsos MORI with support and input from DECC and a range of additional expert contributors . At least two experts attended each public dialogue workshop. 
A total of 162 participants were recruited to four stakeholder and three sector workshops. Invitations were issued to a range of stakeholder organisations with experience of or interest in the siting process for a GDF . The stakeholder workshops took place in Penrith, Cumbria; Exeter, Devon; Llandudno, Conwy and London. The three sector workshops took place in Warrington, Cheshire (for nuclear industry stakeholders), and London (one workshop for Local Authority stakeholders and one for those from Non-Governmental Organisations). The stakeholder workshops were delivered by 3KQ with support and input from DECC and a range of additional expert contributors. The sector workshops were delivered by DECC, with a lead facilitator from 3KQ .
Methods and Tools Used
The workshops were held over two days (consecutive Saturdays) and ran between 10am and 4pm. The basic model used within the workshops was of structured inputs in bite-sized chunks from DECC, followed by brief Q&A in plenary and group-work (two groups) concluding each session with headline feedback in plenary. The majority of the stimulus materials used over the two days were presentations compiled by DECC and Ipsos MORI.
The public workshops were conducted in line with the guiding principles for public dialogues on science and technology issues published by Sciencewise and delivered by Ipsos MORI with support and input from DECC staff and a range of additional expert contributors. The stakeholder workshops were delivered by 3KQ with support and input from DECC staff and a range of additional expert contributors. The sector workshops were delivered by DECC with the support of a lead facilitator from 3KQ.
A series of stimulus materials (presentations, handouts, videos and crib sheets) were used in the workshops. The majority of the materials used in the workshops were based on materials already in the public domain. The only new material generated for the workshops were a series of short “talking head” videos from the principle organisations involved in the GDF siting process: DECC, the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD), the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), the Office of the Nuclear Regulator (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) .
The stakeholder and sector workshops were held over a single day. Pre-event briefings on the day were offered as a means of enabling participants to familiarise themselves with the issues. The stakeholder workshops used structured inputs followed by facilitated discussion in small groups (three) that considered three prominent themes from the consultation document (decision making, technical issues and community related issues). The sector workshops adopted a chapter-by-chapter consideration of the consultation document with inputs from DECC followed by small groupwork (the number of groups varied according to the numbers at each event). This format was also adopted by 3KQ in the stakeholder workshops at Exeter and London .
Since the project is qualitative and not quantitative, these views cannot be considered to be fully representative of the wider general public. Further, the views expressed and the findings drawn from them do not represent a formal response by the communities to the consultation. Each participant was encouraged to complete and submit a formal response to the consultation as views expressed during the workshops were not being logged as formal responses 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
At each location, the workshops followed the same structure, with a mix of plenary presentations and discussions, as well as discussions in smaller groups, on both days.
The first day of the workshops was designed to give information and build understanding; it provided participants with the background information they needed to give informed opinions about the siting process for geological disposal of radioactive waste. The second day enabled consideration of the issues through discussion of the proposals set out by Government. The workshops were structured around the key themes set out in the consultation document compiled for use within the formal public consultation.
The dialogue covered a range of topics:
- Awareness of the wider MRWS process and the GDF siting process;
- Perceptions of the proposed revised GDF siting process;
- Overall attitudes to voluntarism;
- How to define a community in relation to GDF;
- Who the decision making body should be;
- The role of regulators in the siting process;
- Perceptions of a “demonstration of community support” and the right of withdrawal;
- Opinions on the proposed approach to community benefits;
- The approach to providing information about potential socio-economic and environmental effects; and,
- Information needs and preferred information channels.
Between the first and second days, participants were asked to complete a homework task (either interviewing friends or family about the issues involved or undertaking internet research on the topic) .
The first location, at Nottingham, was used to pilot the facilitation plan, the materials, and the roles of experts. A review meeting was held after each of the two pilot workshop days and changes were made to help the main stage events to run more smoothly.
The same facilitation plan, presentations and materials were used at each of the three remaining locations. At each location, there were two experienced facilitators from Ipsos MORI (with consistent teams across both days). They were supported by two note-takers who kept a record of the various discussions on the day. Due to time constraints, it was not possible for the same set of facilitators to attend all four locations, but at each location, the same two facilitators attended both workshops. In order to ensure a consistent approach at each location, an extensive briefing was given to the facilitators and note-takers before both workshops.
An event was also held specifically for members of the Women’s Institute. This was a one-day event, run directly by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) with no external facilitator input. 
Public Workshops Decisions/Conclusions
Five key principles appeared to underpin participants’ opinions of the revised GDF siting process and emerged throughout the discussions:
1) Awareness and education – This was a key requirement for nearly all participants; workshop participants felt they initially knew very little (if anything) about radioactive waste and the agreed policy of managing it. They felt that if voluntarism was to succeed then the wider public needed to understand the challenges of managing our radioactive waste, and what the impact of a GDF might be for a community.
2) Transparency and openness – Participants felt that it was important that Government was open and transparent about the need for a GDF, including what the potential risks could be from implementing it (or not). They wanted the siting process to be run in a similar vein with community representatives sharing the information on the potential impacts of a GDF and taking any decisions in the open.
3) Local – In all the discussions, participants referred back to the importance of ensuring the views of the “local community” and “local people” were heard, even though they generally struggled to define community in relation to a GDF.
4) Fairness – The participants frequently spoke of fairness and for most this meant ensuring that the process represented and involved everybody in the community. It was generally felt that the process should hear the views of those who opposed a GDF as well as those who supported the facility. Fairness also meant that the information which was presented to the community and its representatives needed to be balanced and impartial.
5) Efficiency – There was a clear call from participants for the process to be run as efficiently as possible. They were keen to find efficiencies which could lead to cost savings. In particular, this principle underpinned responses around the calls for screening and targeting resources on specific communities (if possible) as well as queries around the timeline.
The workshops began with presentations from DECC outlining the history of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process in the UK, the key messages from their review of the siting process, and a summary of the proposed revisions to the siting process. Participants were then divided into small groups to discuss the proposals and the consultation questions.
The workshops were structured around the proposals outlined in Chapters 2, 3 and 4 of the consultation document and the related consultation questions. These were
- Chapter 2 of Consultation Document: Decision Making and Roles
- Chapter 3 of Consultation Document: Technical Delivery
- Chapter 4 of Consultation Document: Communities
Discussions focused on questions of clarification to gain a better understanding of DECC's proposals, and developing participants' thoughts on how they/their organisation would respond to the consultation questions.
Issues that cut across more than one area of DECC's proposals, or that were felt by participants to be fundamental to the overall siting process were raised at all four workshops. These included:
- The need for more clarity on the definition of "community‟ as it impacts many aspects of the siting process
- The importance of education and information to inform members of the public, stakeholders and local authorities on all aspects of geological disposal and the siting process, both in advance of and throughout the process
- Challenges to the Government’s favoured approach of voluntarism and partnership, including a number of suggestions for alternative approaches that could be adopted either alongside voluntarism or as an alternative to it
- Issues of lack of trust in the Government and the NDA, including cynicism about the Government’s motives for making some of the proposed revisions to the siting process
- Views and perceptions of the history of the MRWS process in west Cumbria, including concerns that the question of whether the area is a reasonable prospect to host a GDF still has not been answered
- The potential for more than one GDF
Stakeholder Workshop Decisions/Conclusions
One of the key objectives of the national stakeholder workshops was to support stakeholders in compiling any responses they wished to make to the public consultation, and it was apparent that many of the participants wanted to use the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the GDF siting process and DECC's proposals for revising and improving it. For DECC and participants, this highlighted the importance of clear and accessible information, and the need for education for members of the public, stakeholders and local authorities both in advance of and throughout the siting process.
In relation to this, there was support for the proposed period of national awareness-raising, and for providing more clarity on the scale and scope of the community benefits package, and it was felt by some that these measures would provide more encouragement for communities to volunteer.
There was also support for providing more information on geology at an earlier stage in the process. It was, however, felt by some that providing broad descriptions of what is already known about regional geology will not be helpful if it does not identify which areas are more or less suitable, and confusion remained about whether the proposed local geological information would be any different to that already provided for west Cumbria.
A key theme at all of the workshops was the need for more clarity on the definition of community, and/or a better description of the process by which community(ies) would be defined as part of the process, particularly in relation to community benefits and the role of the communities in decision making.
Although much of the focus of the debate at the workshop in Penrith was on the history of the MRWS process in west Cumbria, references were also made to it at the other workshops, and there was scepticism about the motives behind some of the proposed revisions, particularly in relation to decision making. There was both support for and opposition to the proposal to designate district councils as the representative authority, and the Government’s reasons for removing county councils from decision making were questioned.
Support was, however, expressed for a formal test of community support before the representative authority loses the Right of Withdrawal, although views differed on how and when the test (or tests) should be carried out and who should be asked. There were also concerns about the potential for voluntarism to be overridden by the NSIP planning regime.
Challenges were also made to the Government’s favoured approach of voluntarism and partnership, and several suggestions were made for alternative approaches that could be adopted either alongside voluntarism or as an alternative to it.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The evaluation report concludes that the engagement project was largely successful in achieving the agreed objectives. Both series of workshops enabled DECC to explore and understand the awareness, concerns and questions of the public and stakeholders with regard to the proposed changes to the site selection process, and generated feedback for DECC on how that process might be improved. The workshops allowed stakeholders to gain improved understanding of the Government’s proposals and supported them in compiling responses to the formal consultation (an average of 88% across the stakeholder and sector workshops indicated that participation had helped them in making a response) and generated a positive belief among participants that their opinions would be taken into account by Government in the drafting of the new policy (63% of public participants and an average of 58% across the sector and stakeholder workshops gave this view).
The report is positive regarding the influence brought about by the engagement project. There is good evidence that the content generated by the dialogue workshops has supported the development of the revised process set out in the 2014 White Paper. This has occurred in a number of ways. Firstly, there is a strong correlation between the reported findings of the workshops and the content of the White Paper. Secondly, involvement in the project affirmed DECC’s decision to continue to regard the siting process as an ongoing conversation between themselves, stakeholders and communities. Thirdly, the style and content of the White Paper - one which is understandable to lay people, is visually appealing and avoids recourse to lengthy scientific documents - was influenced by the dialogue workshops, and in particular, by DECC’s confidence that they can talk to the public about the issues in an understandable way, and that members of the public can engage constructively with those issues when given good information and opportunities.
The report also concludes that the process has exerted an influence on those involved in the project. This is particularly true for members of the public, 52% of whom reported that their views had been significantly affected as a result of their involvement, and for DECC, who identified that the project has helped to underline a meaningful role for public dialogue within controversial issues such as the management of nuclear waste. There are also indications that some NGO participants have begun to re- think their approach to engagement with Government, and are considering a more collaborative working relationship. Each of these findings is significant within the context of a policy that remains committed to voluntarism as a key approach to decision making.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The Evaluation Report identifies the following lessons from the public and stakeholder meetings.
- Conducting a pilot of the proposed workshop format was valuable and would be advisable in future dialogue projects. The review of the pilot event was useful in making adjustments that improved the quality of later workshops.
- Established market research recruitment practice, which including the use of incentive payments, was effective in obtaining an appropriate representative sample of members of the public.
- DECC were keen to understand participants’ existing levels of knowledge and understanding of the issues through dialogue, meaning participants were not expected to undertake advance preparation prior to the workshops. Advance preparation may have added value, though may also have discouraged attendance and comprised DECC’s wish to begin where people were at. It is likely that advance preparation would need to be included in the scope of any incentive payments if included in future dialogue processes. Similarly, participation in follow up evaluation activities (levels were low in this project) may benefit from inclusion within the scope of incentive payments.
- The delivery model used (two full Saturdays, one week apart plus a homework task between the days) was effective in ensuring retention and in enabling engagement with the subject material. Levels of engagement were good across the workshops, with over 80% of participants across the workshops reporting that they were fully able to contribute.
- Likewise, dialogue model used (structured bite-sized inputs, brief Q&A in plenary, group-work, feedback in plenary) was effective in generating good quality dialogue. This was aided by a) clear objectives and structure b) clear and audience-appropriate input materials c) neutral presentation of the inputs d) access to an appropriate range of informed experts and e) a friendly and approachable style from the facilitators and experts.
- Focusing the dialogue activity on the consultation document was a constructive means of encouraging debate and ensured that the vast majority of discussion was relevant.
- The use of a homework task for participants between Day 1 and Day 2 was effective in maintaining interest between the two days and in re-connecting the group with the subject matter at the outset of Day 2.
- Levels of engagement and contributions generated by the facilitators were high across the public workshops.
- The levels of resource dedicated to the public workshops were sufficient (Lead Facilitator, Support Facilitator, recorders, experts). Value may have been added through a more visible recording process (e.g. a flipchart ‘wall record’) and by having a ‘floating’ facilitator able to provide support and input as required to colleagues.
Overall assessment of the stakeholder and sector workshops was broadly positive, though the workshops experienced some challenges relating to: recruitment (a longer notice period may have encouraged wider and higher levels of participation); timing (the workshops occurred towards the end of the consultation period); resourcing (two of the sector workshops lacked table facilitators and note- takers, resulting in some impacts on the quality of discussion and recording) and group dynamics (particularly at the sector event for NGOs). The key learning points identified in the report arising from the stakeholder and sector workshops are:
- Participants indicated that participation in workshops was valuable in encouraging and informing responses to the consultation.
- Recruitment processes need to afford potential participants sufficient notice to enable good levels of participation and a broad balance of representation from stakeholders.
- When aligning a dialogue process with a formal consultation, the timing of dialogue activity should allow a reasonable time following involvement for participants to respond to the consultation.
- It is important to select dates of workshops carefully to avoid other events that have a likely impact on the attendance of key people and organisations, as was the case with one workshop in this project.
- The two dialogue models used within the stakeholder and sector workshops were largely effective in generating constructive dialogue. Levels of engagement and contribution from participants were reasonable across all events (75% of participants at the stakeholder workshops and 66% of those at the sector workshops reported being fully able to contribute).
- Undertaking advance preparation (reading the consultation document) aided participation. The use of pre-event briefings to enable participants to familiarise themselves with the subject matter provided an alternative means of advance preparation.
- A clear structure (based on the consultation document), good quality input materials, access to experts and energetic and encouraging facilitation generated good levels of engagement.
- Attention needs to be paid to ensure resource / staffing levels within workshops are adequate to create good dialogue and accurately capture the key points and comments that are being made.
- The use of simultaneous translation within the Llandudno workshop added value to the process and was appreciated by participants.
- Ongoing reviews of the events between DECC and the delivery contractors were useful in making adjustments that improved the quality of later workshops, though last minute changes to the choice of format within dialogue workshops should be considered with care (the choice to change approach for the London stakeholder workshop was reported as resulting in a repetitive format).
- A consideration of the needs of some stakeholder groups may have enabled a structure designed to make better use of the existing knowledge of participants, while delivering the same objectives. This applies particularly to the sector events where participants were largely experts in their field.
- An underlying lack of trust in Government and the GDF site selection process among some stakeholders resulted in a more combative workshop with the NGO sector. There may be merit when designing future dialogue work with this sector in working more collaboratively to create a process that both Government (or the GDF developer) and the sector believe has value.
The report identifies three factors as impacting on DECC’s management of the engagement project: a range of internal staff changes at DECC in the early life of the project; an initial choice to route all communications through the lead delivery contractor (Jacobs) and the need to make reductions to the scope of the project (delivery of fewer workshops than were originally planned). These factors resulted in difficulties in the early management of the project (September and October 2013), particularly in respect of communications, co-ordination and coherence. The report notes that changes in personnel, improved communications routes and the clarification of the scope of the project resulted in much improved management of the project after this early period.
The report concludes that the project, as delivered following the reduction in scope, represented good value for money, providing good quality resources and activities, with high levels of commitment from the delivery teams involved. However, it is likely that, had the issues noted above not occurred, the project would have been delivered more efficiently and consequently value for money would be greater. 
 Sciencewise (2014) “Case Study: Disposal of Radioactive Waste”
 Icarus (2015) “Evaluation of the engagement events during the geological disposal facility siting review consultation” January 2015
 Ipsos MORI (2014) “A report on the findings from the public dialogue workshops on the revised Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) Siting Process”
 Sciencewise “Review of the Manaing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Siting Process” [ONLINE] Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20170110132515.../http://www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk/cms/review-of-the-managing-radioactive-waste-safely-mrws-siting-process/
 3KQ (2014) “Report from the National Stakeholder Consultation Workshops on DECC’s Review of the Siting Process for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF)”, February 2014