“Information, dialog, co-creation” – Participation in the search for a waste repository

Data kept under lock and key, non-transparent decisions and public protests: for a long time, politics surrounding German nuclear waste did not exactly cover itself with glory.

Decades after the protests around Gorleben, the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Disposal (BASE) is tasked with building a bridge between decision-makers and the public. With this self-image, BASE is organizing the current search for a final waste repository. It is a challenge for society as a whole, driven by communication and participation.

But how is participation supposed to work? Even more so in times of a pandemic? The digital interaction option from teambits fulfills this purpose, among others, on a new participation portal.

Transparency in the search for a waste repository. Lessons from the past

The “Act on the Search and Selection of a Site for a Repository for High-Level Radioactive Waste” (Site Selection Act – StandAG) states that the process should be participatory, science-based, transparent, self-questioning and learning (StandAG §1, para. 2).

Participation is a central, long-term process in the newly launched search for a repository for radioactive waste. Digital media have gained in importance with the Corona pandemic. The participation portal is organized as a purely digital format. This makes it possible to implement public participation as defined by law. For the translation of this major event into the digital space, as well as the digital support of public participation in general, BASE has contracted teambits.

The current status of the search procedure is about a deeper understanding of the status of the work of the Bundesgesellschaft für Endlagerung (BGE). The BGE has identified the first sub-areas. Citizens, scientists, social groups and representatives from municipalities discuss the interim results at the conference on subareas.

Participation portal for on-site, hybrid, or virtual events

From February 5 to 7, 2021, the first consultation meeting of the Subareas Conference took place. Citizens, scientists and representatives of municipalities and social organizations met in a virtual room. Their task was to discuss the interim report on sub-areas of the BGE.

Participation portal repository search - requests to speak

Participation portal waste repository search – teambits collects requests to speak in the speech list during the presentations, they are discussed afterwards

The portal organizes participation at the conference via the teambits web-based interaction app. This is quite simple: Participants use teambits on their own laptops or PCs via link. This is how people can participate in upcoming events – on-site, hybrid and virtual, with or without a livestream.

Interested citizens and the expert public collect voices, arguments and feedback on the platform of the Expert Conference Subareas until the last date in August. They ask questions, discuss, sort content, prioritize and map their findings and views in digital votes. The results are reliable and fast. They are presented textually and graphically.

The teambits participation platform implements the cooperation and interaction of the stakeholders involved in the selection process for the repository. “Participation, dialog, co-design” is the pioneering motto and teambits is the appropriate digital instrument.

Participation is a key word in the search for a waste repository

“The site selection process is now an opportunity to shoulder this mammoth societal task together” writes the National Monitoring Body (NBG) for a Fair Process on its public participation website.

The NBG is the independent body that accompanies and reflects on the specialist conference subareas in an intermediary capacity. The topic of participation is not new to it: From the first workshops in 2019, the monitoring body draws the conclusion: “Whoever invites openly to dialogue, gets many ideas back!”

Participation as an opportunity – right up our alley

Participation is an opportunity. In fact, public involvement is a prerequisite for a successful search for a repository for high-level radioactive waste. After all, the affected region will only accept the site that is finally determined if the selection process was comprehensible and all objections were heard.

Decisions made with participation are based on consensus. They have a more sustainable effect and are less conflictual. This conviction also underlies the development of teambits.

Further information

This video of the BASE explains the involvement of citizens in the selection process.

Further information on public participation in the search for a repository can be found here.