In 1999 the Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) contracted the study group on processing the selection of final disposal sites for nuclear waste. "Arbeitskreis Auswahlverfahren Endlagerstandorte" (AkEnd) has to develop procedures and criteria for selecting repository sites for nuclear waste. The work of the AkEnd starting in the legislative period of 1999 is a first step in a long-term innovative selection process for waste sites.
Mission and objective of the affiliated ITAS-project ("Expert network on divergences in nuclear waste disposal plans", "Expertenkommunikation im Konfliktfeld der nuklearen Entsorgung")is the evaluation of the AkEnd's public relations activities by social scientific means.
This evaluation differentiates among substantial goal attainment, outreach to target groups, effectiveness, the survey of non-intended outcomes, and a general analysis of the efficiency of the program in reaching the declared objectives.
In addition, this evaluation distinguishes three goals: At first, there are goals stated by the commission of experts themselves, at second, there are goals set by the selection process of a repository site, and at third, there are goals related to the public relations activities of the AkEnd.
Among the many public relations activities of the AkEnd one has to accentuate three annual workshops for the interested public. Further on, and more often, several group discussions with stakeholders in towns and cities all over the country are carried out. These discussions are focussed on members of local parliaments, environmentalists, members of NGOs, and students.
The main research objectives of the ITAS evaluation are an empirical impact analysis of mass media and two representative surveys among the German population about the issue of final nuclear repository sites.
The main goal of the mass media survey is to analyse the depth and scope of the public resonance of the AkEnd's work; therefore, selected daily and weekly newspapers and other professional media are surveyed continuously and interpreted by applying contemporary quantitative and qualitative means of contents analysis.
The goal of the two representative population surveys is, first, to quantify the variation of attitudes about technical developments, about the disposal of nuclear waste, and about political participation, and, second, to measure the variation of the public exposure of the AkEnd as a commission of experts. Supplementing this goal, the project conducts also a representative telephone survey in three selected counties for receiving detailed data about attitudes close to potential future nuclear repository sites. These local attitudes will be compared with the national attitudes.
All in all, the general objective of the ITAS evaluation project is the continuous consulting of the AkEnd on present and future activities. The forthcoming project report will include important guidance for future plans in finding nuclear repository sites in Germany.