Nuclear Safety: A Much Needed Public Debate was the title of a seminar held in Brussels in December 2011 by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Attended by more than a hundred people, including many representatives of societal stakeholders, the debates focused on civil society and nuclear energy in a post-Fukushima world.
Like France, EU Member States have been reassessing the safety of their nuclear facilities against extreme situations going beyond their design basis. These “stress tests” have prompted concern among Europe’s citizens about the reliability of nuclear facilities and nuclear power’s place in the energy mix of the future. Mindful of these concerns, EESC held a seminar in December 2011 to discuss how to initiate a debate with civil society on nuclear energy in a post-Fukushima world.
Invited to react to the presentations of the various speakers, including some from IRSN, a panel of young citizens from various EU member countries stressed the difficult relationship Europe’s citizens have with nuclear energy. Among their comments, they noted the general public’s lack of awareness of the contents of nuclear safety “stress tests”, the need for a high level expertise capability independent from nuclear operators, the difficulty of being transparent without causing undue concern, and the poorly understood cost factors of nuclear energy. The seminar provided IRSN with the opportunity to reaffirm its impartiality, its commitment to making its knowledge available to the public for the purposes of democratic debate, and its attachment to the principles of pluralistic expertise, allowing various interests to be represented and to debate together.