Socio-technical risk governance through dyadic risk dialogue : copper corrosion as a safety challenge in the geological disposal of spent nuclear fuel
Published inWorking paper / Demonstrating Safety ;
The risk of corrosion in oxygen-free water has become an issue of scientific controversy possibly even threatening the realisation of the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel in Finland and Sweden. In Sweden there has been extensive discussion about the issue since 2007, but only recently has this debate increased in Finland although the similar disposal concept (KBS-3) is applied in both countries. In this report, we analyse how the implementer, Posiva (a Finnish nuclear waste company), and the regulator, STUK (the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority), have been engaged in a dialogue on the risk of copper corrosion. For over thirty years the implementer and regulator have been engaged in a series of negotiations on the advancement of research, planning and technical design related to SNF disposal. The aim here is to determine 1) how the implementer, Posiva Oy, has presented the issue of copper corrosion and copper corrosion related research, 2) how the regulator, STUK, has assessed and reacted to what Posiva has presented and 3) what the long-standing risk dialogue tells about the transformation of the Finnish regulatory culture and relationship of the parties. Moreover, the study discusses the importance of risk dialogue at different stages of the risk governance processes and how the risk dialogue transforms the roles of the parties. The insight into the risk dialogue between Posiva and STUK was gained by examining core documents regarding this interaction, namely the Research, Development and Technical Design (RTD) review process and the construction licence application (CLA) review process. From Posiva's side RTD programmes published in 2003, 2006 and 2009 and their successor, the Nuclear Waste Management (NWM) programme published in 2012 were studied. When examining STUK, we analysed the statements by the regulator to the Ministry of Employment and Economy (MEE) on the basis of Posiva’s reports. Posiva’s pre-licence construction application (pre-CLA) in autumn 2009 and STUK’s review of it were also included in the analysis. As the STUK’s review of Posiva’s construction licence application, submitted in 2012, is still under way, only Posiva’s application has been examined. Finnish nuclear waste risk governance is characterized by a strong role of central actors, STUK and Posiva with little or no opportunity for public participation. The Finnish regulatory culture is deemed flexible, development oriented and, as such, oriented towards gradual learning and refinement. The results of the risk dialogue study suggest that Posiva’s reporting evolved from merely presenting a situation, to more focused and extensive discussions. The investigation of the dialogue showed that STUK exercised its right to demand further information, while the implementer, Posiva, was compelled to comply with the requirements. Nevertheless, the organisations appeared to operate consensually, meaning that they both pursue the successful development of a safe repository for SNF, indicating rapprochement and transformation of clear-cut roles. However, the results show that under the normal steady flow of interaction, risk governance process is oriented towards mutual learning and improvement, but at the time of crucial decision-making extra tensions come into relationship. In the ideal cases the roles of implementer and regulator should be clear-cut, but the study of long-standing interaction indicates that the engagement in dialogue has transformed STUK’s role in the direction of development-orientation. Thus shifting STUK’s input to the advancement of the project gives it a sort of consultative role, while at the time of crucial decision-making the role of regulator is strengthened. ...
PublisherJyväskylän yliopisto, Tampereen yliopisto, Euroopan komissio
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