Consulting on nuclear with Citizen Space

So this was a fun one to research. Did you know that submarines powered by nuclear engines can operate for 25 years without ever needing to be refuelled? Well, now you do. However, when those 25 years are up you’re left with the issue of what exactly to do with a highly radioactive giant metal sea-tube.

The UK’s answer to this question has previously been…not excellent. Confidential documents from the MoD revealed that in 1989, the ‘plan’ for dealing with 22 out-of-service nuclear submarines was to seal them up, dump them in the ocean off the coast of Scotland, and then – and I quote – ‘hope that everybody [forgot] about them’.

Thankfully – THANKFULLY – this did not happen, and there are Processes In Place for dealing with radioactive waste. It’s not something that is widely discussed, however, and nuclear projects are consistently dogged with accusations of being secretive and dishonest.

It’s a contentious topic, and the public certainly have a right to know what happens to radioactive material or if a nuclear project has been proposed. Which is why it’s encouraging to see public consultations being held on such things, on Citizen Space to boot. Here are some examples:

HMNB Clyde Application Consultation – SEPA, UK

This consultation regards the Ministry of Defence’s license at Faslane to handle radioactive waste from decommissioned nuclear submarines. It’s very technical, which is unavoidable for this type of thing, but SEPA is demonstrating a commitment to getting the public involved by steering clear of dense PDFs and including plenty of background information.

WHY IT’S GOOD: They’ve included a timeline of the different stages of consultation, as well as a list of relevant organisations who they will contact regarding the issue, so it’s pretty transparent.

Sellafield Radioactive Substances Activities (RSA) Permit – Environment Agency, UK

The Environment Agency consulted on a revised permit for Sellafield Ltd, a multi-function nuclear site in Cumbria. Due to the changing nature of its activities, their permit needed adjusting to reflect the new types of activity.

WHY IT’S GOOD: the EA posted a list of issues and topics that were within its remit and a list of things over which it had no control, which gave respondents an expectation on what sort of action they could expect on the back of their feedback.

The EA published responses where consent was given, which, given the subject material, you’d expect a public body might wish to avoid. Responses were from a combination of stakeholders and the public.

Code of Practice for the Security of Radioactive material – Ministry of Health, NZ

In 2017, the Radiation Safety Act came into force across New Zealand. As a result, new codes of practice needed to be established to ensure that relevant industries were upholding safety obligations. This consultation was one of several consultations on such codes of practice.

WHY IT’S GOOD: The language is plain and concise, with minimal technical jargon, so that anyone with an interest can respond rather than respondents being limited to those that can understand industry terminology.

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