Barriers to communication and cooperation in addressing community impacts of radioactive releases from research facilities [electronic resource].
- Washington, D.C : United States. Dept. of Energy. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, 1999.
Oak Ridge, Tenn. : Distributed by the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, U.S. Dept. of Energy.
- Physical Description:
- 82 Kilobytes : digital, PDF file
- Additional Creators:
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, United States. Department of Energy. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, and United States. Department of Energy. Office of Scientific and Technical Information
- Restrictions on Access:
- Free-to-read Unrestricted online access
- Two instances of research facilities responding to public scrutiny will be discussed. The first concerns emissions from a �tritium labeling facility� operated at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL); the second deals with releases of plutonium from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). There are many parallels between these two cases, both of which are still ongoing. In both, the national laboratory is the acknowledged source of low-level (by regulatory standards) radioactive contamination in the community. A major purpose of both investigations is to determine the degree of the contamination and the threat it poses to public health and the environment. The examining panel or committee is similarly constituted in the two cases, including representatives from all four categories of stakeholders: decision makers; scientists and other professionals doing the analysis/assessment; environmental activist or public interest groups; and �ordinary� citizens (nearly everyone else not in one or more of the first three camps). Both involved community participation from the beginning. The levels of outrage over the events triggering the assessment are comparable; though �discovered� or �appreciated� only a few years ago, the release of radiation in both cases occurred or began occurring more than a decade ago. The meetings have been conducted in a similar manner, with comparable frequency, often utilizing the services of professional facilitators. In both cases, the sharply contrasting perceptions of risk commonly seen between scientists and activists were present from the beginning, though the contrast was sharper and more problematical in the Berkeley case. Yet, the Livermore case seems to be progressing towards a satisfactory resolution, while the Berkeley case remains mired in ill-will, with few tangible results after two years of effort. We perceive a wide gap in negotiation skills (at the very least), and a considerable difference in willingness to compromise, between the environmental activist groups participating in the two cases. A degree of contentiousness existed from the start among the participants in the Berkeley case�particularly between the environmental activists and the scientists/regulators�that was not approached in the Livermore case, and which was and still is severe enough to stifle meaningful progress. The Berkeley activists are considerably more aggressive, we believe, in arguing their points of view, making demands about what should be done, and verbally assailing the scientists and government regulators. We offer the following comments on the barriers to communication and cooperation that distinguish the Berkeley and Livermore cases. In no particular order, they are (a) the presence of a higher degree of polarization between the Berkeley activists and the �establishment,� as represented by government scientists and regulators, (b) the absence, in the Berkeley case, of an activist leader with skills and effectiveness comparable to a well-known leader in Livermore, (c) frequent displays by several of the Berkeley activists of incivility, distrust, and disrespect for the regulators and scientists, (d) extraordinary difficulties in reaching consensus in the Tritium Issues Work Group meetings, perhaps because goals diverged among the factions, (e) a considerable degree of resentment by the Berkeley activists over the imbalance in conditions of participation, pitting well-paid, tax-supported professionals against �citizen volunteers,� (f) the brick wall that divides the perspectives of �no safe dose� and �levels below regulatory concern� when trying to reach conclusions about radiation dangers to the community, and (g) unwillingness to consider both sides of the risk-reward coin: benefits to the community and society at large of the tritium labeling activity, vs. the health risk from small quantities of tritium released to the environment.
- Report Numbers:
- E 1.99:ucrl-jc-132058
- Published through SciTech Connect.
Second International Symposium on Ionizing Radiation, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May-10-14, 1999.
Peterson, S; Harrach, R J.
- Funding Information:
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