This is the portal of COWAM Network activities.

The reports of the COWAM 2 project are now available directly here.

COWAM is both a network and a cooperative research programme running from the year 2000 with support from the European Commission.

In 2000-2003 the first COWAM project created a European network on radioactive waste governance. The first interest of the initiative was to establish connections between territories concerned by radioactive waste in Europe. Local actors have long been isolated in these issues. The COWAM seminars were a novel opportunity to exchange views, issues and good practices among local communities, all facing similar concerns. Local communities have a genuine interest in governance because they consider not only the issue of radioactive waste management as a technical problem, but as a key challenge for the development of their territories and the life equilibrium of the population. The network also included experts, implementers and regulators in order to elaborate a common understanding of the issues at stake, and to propose as far as possible a joint analysis by the major stakeholders commonly concerned by the quality of RWM decision-making processes. The practical outcome of this first project was to come up with a research framing of radioactive waste governance.

The plural COWAM network identified four strategic dimensions in the governance of radioactive waste management:
  • - the implementation of local democracy
  • - the influence of local actors on the national decision-making process
  • - the quality of decision making
  • - long term governance.

The second COWAM project (2004-2006) built a research partnership between stakeholders and research contractors on each of these four key issues, and supported continued networking efforts. With this partnership, stakeholders have had the opportunity to frame and feed the production of knowledge so that it better addresses the questions they identified as the most relevant to improve the robustness of decision-making processes in radioactive waste management.

  • - The “local democracy” group shared knowledge about local committee building, as a best practice to structure local democracy on nuclear related issues in Europe.
  • - The group on “influence of local actors on the national decision-making process” clarified effective mechanisms for local players to influence national decision-making processes
  • - The group on “quality of the decision-making process” worked out recommendations for designing and implementing a robust decision-making process or judging an existing decision-making process.
  • - The purpose of the “long term governance” group was to identify, discuss and analyse the institutional, ethical, economic and legal considerations raised by the existence of a site for longterm waste storage or deep geological disposal.

Alongside these transversal products, country-bound National Insight papers agreed by the range of participating stakeholders were published by COWAM 2.

The essential question raised by institutional decision-makers as well as by local communities concerns the implementation of these good practices and principles of decision-making. Significant steps were already taken in some countries during the COWAM 2 project. There is a need for a continuous and enlarged support to these efforts in Europe. The question is all the more relevant and pressing that having reviewed their past difficulties, many countries are now entering a new phase in RWM and attempting to implement innovative and inclusive governance approaches.

In this respect, the objectives of COWAM IN PRACTICE (CIP – 2007/2009) are to:
  • - Contribute to make actual progress in the governance of radioactive waste management (RWM)
  • - Follow up and analyse 5 national processes of RWM governance : Spain, United Kingdom, Romania, Slovenia and France
  • - Support stakeholders, particularly local communities, directly in their engagement
  • - Capture the learning from that experience for the EU 27

The originality of this project lies in a cooperative research approach, successfully experimented in the COWAM 2 project: with a direct participation of stakeholders in the research groups and in the Steering Committee, the architecture of the project is purposely designed for the stakeholders to effectively influence and feed the project throughout its progress.

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