Index > 2 Development of a strategy, implementation and execution program to remediate radioactively contaminated sites >

2.3.5 The selection of stakeholders

Stakeholders may be constituencies, organised groups or individuals with direct or indirect interest in the decision [CIRIA-2005]. This may be, for example, because they are potentially affected, because they have a view on what the outcome ought to be, or perhaps because they are representative in some way of a wider constituency.

The focus will mainly be on the local community, but other types of stakeholders also need to be involved if the external input to decision-making is not to be dominated by one perspective or set of interests. Stakeholders are much less likely to respond constructively in future if they feel unfairly excluded.

Internal or external stakeholders that have a reasonable degree of commonality of interest with the organisation involved are the most obvious category of stakeholder, and are sometimes referred to as ‘true stakeholders’. However, there are other classes of stakeholder that are affected by the decisions an organisation takes or that have a strong view on its conduct, even if their interests are very different.

Organisations require a ‘licence to operate’ from a wider range of stakeholders. This is obvious in the case of regulators, where authority has been delegated by society. The right of shareholders to regulate the direction of a business is also readily appreciated. In practice, organisations find that their ‘licence to operate’ can also be compromised or even withdrawn because they have lost the consent of the local community in which they operate, or they have lost the confidence of politicians and financiers.

Campaign groups often see themselves as having a ‘license to operate’ or watchdog role, but they are also often significant as opinion formers able to influence other stakeholders. Failure to inform a local community of the existence of other groups with experience of similar issues may undermine trust and may result in a waste of time later on. The media are sometimes considered to be stakeholders, but are more often considered separately with other opinion formers, on the basis that there is usually no strong commonality of interest. They may have considerable influence on other stakeholders, however, and may also be seen in turn as an indicator of a broader, unobserved, public mood.

A community cannot be treated as a single entity. Relationships between the site and the community are complex and all the different types of stakeholder described above are contained within it. The people who live around the site and the community groups, and local authorities that speak for them, have a wide range of inter-relationships and perspectives. In reality, there is no such a thing as ‘the community view’ and this has to be born in mind.

In practice, the stakeholders and stakeholder groups who should be considered include those whose support for the project will help it go ahead smoothly and those whose opposition will delay the project, obstruct it, or reduce its viability [CIRIA-2005]. The starting point is normally those who may be, or would think they may be, affected by the project, their representatives and local liaison groups. Beyond that, programmes may look to include people and groups influential in the area, those with an interest in a particular outcome and also stakeholders that have been involved in the issue in the past.

The full range of stakeholders does not need to be involved in every part of the project. The scale of involvement generally reflects the nature and the extent of the perceived potential impact, and the project’s importance as a precedent. The presumption in case of doubt should be for inclusion, but the level of consultation and involvement should be proportionate to the technical and societal significance of the decision. Strategies need to be capable of commanding consensus support within the community, and therefore should also be proportionate to the local community’s perception of the need for involvement.

Where there is significant potential off-site impact or interest in a contaminated land management decision, the views of a wider range of external stakeholders should always be sought before a preferred option is selected and submitted for regulatory approval. The emphasis for smaller projects may be on information provision and consultation may be limited to the local community. There will also be contamination issues that have little or no significance for stakeholders and where quick action is a priority, for instance clean-up of a small spillage. It may then be appropriate simply to include it in routine reports to local community groups.

In general, the degree to which external stakeholders are brought into the process and the balance between local, regional and national involvement depends on the potential impact and significance of the project.

An important issue in some projects will be the transport of radioactive wastes. This is likely to prove an emotive topic and accordingly needs to be handled with great care. Communities along the proposed transport route may need to be informed and invited to participate. Some would go further, and say that they should always be invited. Certainly, communities at the ‘receiving end’ should be involved if there is any significant change to existing arrangements.