The NEA Working Group on Public Communication of Nuclear Regulatory Organisations (WGPC) held its annual meeting on 4 November 2020 via video conference.
The WGPC provides a forum for public communication professionals from nuclear regulatory organisation communicators to exchange information, experiences and practices. WGPC members also exchange views regarding the policies of nuclear regulatory organisations in the field.
During the meeting, the group discussed the status of its ongoing task on building trust with stakeholders. The group is currently working on a report entitled “The Characteristics of a Trusted Regulator”, which will set out the organisational characteristics and attributes that can help build, engender and maintain trust between regulators and their stakeholders. The report will complement the previous NEA reports on “The Characteristics of an Effective Nuclear Regulator” (2014), and “The Safety Culture of an Effective Nuclear Regulatory Body” (2016).
The group is also working on establishing a Nuclear Risk Communication Training Course. Risk communication is an increasingly important priority for NEA member countries, as the acceptability and long-term sustainability of any regulatory and radiological protection decision may depend on the understanding of radiological risk by all the stakeholders involved. Recognising the importance of effective risk communication, the WGPC plans to address the issue by organising training courses for outreach officers, technical staff and inspectors working in regulatory bodies. Such training courses may be implemented by virtual mode depending on the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another key highlight of the meeting was the discussion of how regulators have continued communicating with their stakeholders and with the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. The WGPC surveyed its members in April and May on what impact the pandemic was having on both internal and external communication; the survey revealed an evolution in work methods. Regulators have maintained continuity in their communication with the public through more frequent use of social media. They have also developed new effective practices during this crisis, such as communicating about employees and inspectors and sharing personal messages from the head of the regulatory body. These new practices will continue to be implemented post-COVID-19.
Despite the success they have had with online communications, WGPC members underlined the continued importance of face-to-face interactions in both effective regulation and maintaining trust with stakeholders. They suggested implementing a hybrid communication strategy in a post-pandemic context, using both online and in-person channels.