Phase 1: Report on Discussion Sessions and Nation-wide Survey
The NWMO has committed to using a variety of methods to dialogue with Canadians in order to ensure that the study of nuclear waste management approaches reflects the values, concerns and expectations of Canadians at each step along the way.
As part of our early activities and efforts, we commissioned an independent research company, Navigator, to conduct a series of discussion sessions, followed by a nation-wide survey of Canadians. We asked the research company to explore with Canadians their early expectations concerning how the NWMO might best go about its work. The research company asked Canadians how the NWMO might best involve people in its study, what type of information people want and need to become involved, and the type of process people want the NWMO to use to complete its study.
First, we commissioned the research company, Navigator, to conduct 14 discussion sessions in five major regions of Canada, with the country's two linguistic groups, in provinces that produce electricity from nuclear energy and in provinces that don't, and in communities in which nuclear waste is currently stored. Fourteen discussion sessions were conducted in all; two discussion sessions in each of seven locations. Although the sessions only reflect the views of those who participated, and not the views of the community or of Canadians as a whole, the sessions did identify a range of needs and expectations which may be shared by many Canadians concerning the NWMO's work.
We invite you to read the research company's report on these discussion sessions. (See the link at the bottom of this page).
Next, the NWMO commissioned the same research company, Navigator, to take the insight learned from the discussion sessions and create a questionnaire which would explore the same issues with a scientifically selected cross-section of Canadians. The results of this study, a telephone survey of 1900 Canadians from coast to coast, is statistically representative of the perspective of Canadians on these questions (with a margin of error of +/- 2.25%, 19 times out of 20).
The 64 questions which were asked explored:
* Canadians’ perception of the issue
* Canadians’ perception of the NWMO and the job it has been tasked to do
* Canadians’ interest in this issue; the knowledge they currently have; and their interest in learning more
* Canadians’ preferences concerning how the study of management approaches is conducted: who should be involved in decision making; the appropriate role for the public and for scientists in this process
* Canadians’ likely personal involvement in the issue: who would like to be involved; how would Canadians like to be involved
* How best to reach those Canadians who are interested and/or would like to be involved in the study.
What Did Canadians Say
In this research, Canadians said:
* The management of used nuclear fuel is not, unprompted, an issue of concern; it is not an issue that Canadians tend to think about on a daily basis. However when the issue is raised for discussion, many Canadians (well more than half) say they consider the issue to be a very important one.
* Few Canadians feel they know a lot about used nuclear fuel, and how Canada currently manages this material. And, few are aware of the NWMO. Many Canadians indicate they are interested in learning more both about the management of used nuclear fuel, and about the NWMO and the study it is to conduct. Canadians also express an interest in learning more about how other countries manage used nuclear fuel.
* Most Canadians feel, when it is described to them, the NWMO’s mandate to study and recommend a long term management approach is an important one, and are supportive of it.
* Canadians feel the NWMO needs to ensure a broad range of individuals and groups become involved in the study of approaches to managing used nuclear fuel. According to Canadians, the study needs to include, first and foremost, Canadian and international engineers and scientists in the nuclear energy industry. It also needs to include: representatives of communities with nuclear power plants; environmental groups; an independent advisory council; as well as the general public. It is not acceptable to most Canadians for the NWMO to focus on engineers and scientists alone, nor is it acceptable for the NWMO to focus on the general public alone – both need to make an important contribution to the study.
* Canadians have suggested that the NWMO should use a variety of methods to both inform and involve Canadians – from the use of newspaper articles, and brochures which come to the door, to television programs which come to the home, web based activities and community meetings.
* Canadians tend to be split on the use of nuclear power for generating electricity. This is important contextual information for the NWMO as it begins to engage Canadians in a dialogue about long term management approaches.
We invite you to read the research company’s report “Report on Nation-Wide Survey”. (See the link at the bottom of this page.)
How is NWMO Responding
… Informing Canadians
In order to help inform Canadians about nuclear waste, and how nuclear waste is managed in Canada and abroad, NWMO has commissioned a number of fact sheets and background papers. Three fact sheets have recently been added to the web site, and more are planned. A total of 19 background papers describing various topics related to how nuclear waste is currently being managed in Canada, as well as internationally, are planned to be added to the web site this summer. These papers are to be written in plain language, and prepared by a range of individuals with specialized knowledge, either from universities or from organizations working in the field.
The NWMO understands from the research that creating information fact sheets and background papers is not sufficient to meet people’s basic information needs about the issue; the NWMO must also ensure that the information is easily accessible. Posting this information on the web site will ensure it is accessible to some, although not all Canadians. Making this same information available in printed form through NWMO’s toll-free number will also help accessibility, but is also not sufficient.
NWMO understands from this research that many Canadians prefer information come to their door through newspaper and/or brochure, or come in to their home via television. NWMO will be looking for ways to respond to this preference among many Canadians over the next few months as it plans the release of its First Discussion Document this Fall. NWMO understands the importance of, and challenge associated with, informing interested Canadians throughout the study.
… Ensuring the Knowledge of Scientists and Engineers, as well as that of others and the public
NWMO understands from the research that Canadians want a broad diversity of interests, knowledge areas and perspectives to be included and considered in the study. The NWMO understands the study needs to consider the knowledge of those who work in the nuclear waste area in Canada and abroad, as well as those who are currently living with nuclear waste in their community. It also needs to consider the perspective of organized environmental groups and others with specialized knowledge outside of the nuclear industry, those opposed to nuclear power, as well as the perspective of Canadians across the country.
Through its study plan, the NWMO will endeavour to reach out to and facilitate a dialogue among the diversity of interests, knowledge areas and perspectives which Canadians expect, and to ensure these meaningfully shape both the conduct of the study and its outcome. The Engagement Plan and Approach to the Analytical Framework documents posted on this website outline NWMO’s thinking on how it plans to facilitate such a dialogue as an integral part of the study process.
… Involving Canadians
NWMO understands from the research that there is no one best means for involving the public in the study. The research examined a number of possible types of approaches for involving citizens, from less active means to more active means; no one of them garnered a high level of interest among a majority of Canadians. From this, NWMO understands that a broad range of opportunities for involvement throughout the study are required and additional approaches which were not explored should also be identified and considered.
… NWMO Thinking Continues to Evolve
NWMO has learned important lessons from this research concerning the challenge it faces in conducting a study of used fuel management approaches which will be responsive to public expectations. The NWMO is approaching the study as an iterative process of learning and response, adjustment, and pressing forward. The NWMO continues to work to identify and implement in the study the range and type of activities which will best meet the needs of Canadians, and will continue to make adjustments along the way. The NWMO plans to launch a variety of activities to solicit input and direction from the public after the release of its First Discussion Document this Fall. This includes further public attitude research at the end of this year.
The NWMO welcomes your suggestions and comment at any point along the process.