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Dounreay director Norman Harrison travelled to Brussels at the invitation of the Nuclear Energy Agency's radioactive waste management committee, to discuss stakeholder involvement in decommissioning of nuclear sites.

A working party consisted of delegates from Brussels, USA, France, Canada, Italy, Sweden and Germany as well as Scotland.

During the day-long meeting Norman Harrison presented the UKAEA's process for public participation and involvement. He described how, in 2002, UKAEA launched a process of consulting stakeholders on projects where there was a significant potential off-site environmental impact and where more than one feasible option for managing the issue existed.

Dounreay's stakeholder list expanded from 250 to over 1000 with a well-focussed campaign to identify and attract anyone with an interest to register as a stakeholder.

Speaking at the workshop, he said: "Several years ago we realised that 'decide, announce and defend' was not the way forward - it was imperative that we brought stakeholders along with us to allow the site to progress with the decommissioning.

"We have carried out four public participation projects to date and each one has been a learning curve for us all. Indeed where there was a reluctance from project managers to get involved, but having now had some involvement, they clearly see the benefits that talking and listening to other people's views helps when it comes to making a final recommendation on a particular issue.

"UKAEA does not pretend to have all the answers - public participation and stakeholder engagement is not a exact science - it comes down to knowing your community. We have always said we will continually review our process to ensure that real improvements can be made.

"Indeed, we commissioned an independent review and while there were recommendations for improvement, it was pleasing to see recognition of the 'genuine commitment show by the UKAEA team' and acknowledged that 'UKAEA was in many ways leading the way in this area within the UK nuclear industry'."