Stockholm; an eye opener

By RobertMeechan | footprints | August 19, 2013

May the 18th 2013 and I have managed to wrangle myself six weeks out of the office. I was finished my first placement at Rolls-Royce Submarines and was moving on to Babcock-Marine in Faslane. How did I get six weeks away from offices? First I was on annual leave for a couple of weeks; I went to the states, no biggie. Then there was Training zone two, not much to report here. Maybe the most interesting week of the six was the European Nuclear Young Generation Forum 2013: Stockholm (ENYGF). I and several of my colleagues were given the opportunity to go to Stockholm for a conference. ENYGF does sound like a bit of a jolly on paper, but it turned out to be one of the more interesting and insightful things I have been on. There was plenty on offer at the conference, with three main routes of topic to go down. There was freedom to choose which lectures/workshops you wanted to attend and the conference could really be tailored to what you best wanted to get out of it. This aspect added to the conversations that went on around the free time that you were given, and even lead to some heated debates. This made for a refreshing conference, people were not boring each other with what they had already heard, instead we were together reporting and discussing aspects that we found most interesting.

Before ENYGF I was little aware of the nuclear industry in Sweden and despite one effort to read up on it was still unaware of the Swedish nuclear sector. When I got there I was surprised by what I saw, so to prove it wasn’t just a jolly across the North Sea, I was asked to write 200 words on a topic, so I wrote 450.

Nuclear power and the public perception is seemingly an area that the Swedish nuclear industry has mastered. In some areas there is as much as a 85% positive feeling towards nuclear power and the industry that comes with it.

The success of stakeholder management in the local community by the Swedish industry can be seen in Oskarshamn. There were two sites recommended for a final repository for Sweden’s nuclear waste. These were Forsmark and Oskarshamn. When Forsmark was given the contract to build and host the final repository the local people to Oskarshamn were devastated to lose out on such an opportunity. This can be contrasted with the way in which the Cumbrian people responded to the building of a final repository for the UK’s spent nuclear fuel. So why are the Swedes so good at gaining a positive public profile?

One thing that is apparent is the transparency of the industry in Sweden. Forsmark has three reactors on site and attracts over 10,000 visitors annually over the summer months. Whilst I went to Forsmark we met the guy who is responsible for ensuring that the people that visit are entertained and leave with a solid knowledge of how the plants work and the effects that operating can have. This gives the visitors a positive and uplifting attitude towards what is kept strictly behind doors here in the UK. Forsmark also have an experiment going to see how the release of the coolant water in to the sea effects the environment. They used the blast rock created by the low level waste repository to build an in sea lake for the water to be collected in. This lake is 10oC warmer than the sea is. This open dedication to finding the effects of nuclear power seems to also give the public something less to worry about. It was pointed out at some point during the conference that the nuclear industry in Sweden doesn’t consider any public concern too small for them to be bothered with. On local to a new build was concerned that all the plant equipment that was being left near his residence put him more at risk from burglary. The company responsible took this seriously. In response to the complaint they hired security not only to guard their plant equipment but also to protect this gentleman and his possessions. This transparency in the industry along with their reliability to deliver is what the Swedes are using to engender trust in the communities that they operate in. This trust allows them to operate better and more efficiently with the Swedish public on board.

Other than the daytime activities, there was a dinner every night bar one. First we ate with an old warship that the swedes are strangely proud of. The ship sailed for a total of 20 minutes and never made it out of the Stockholm harbour in the 17th century; the ship now sits proud in its own building for all to view and dine by. There was also some magic, melon anyone? Second delight was an evening in the student union that was attached to the university hosting the event. We were wined and dined well here, an a cappella rock tribute band sang to us, Hans Blix talked to us, and we were flown to Rio to enjoy some Brazilian drumming and dancing. It somewhat made sense, but I presume that was why they wined us well. Finally we ate at an aquarium, this turned out to be a more normal dining experience to what it initially sounds. This was our final chance to meet with the other delegates on the conference. I’ll put it that the ENGYF people did a good job to ensure we were social with each other. I think I can safely say I “networked”.
I would say I doubt anyone was disappointed with their visit to Stockholm, I am looking forward to seeing the next conference in 2015.

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