Creating the legal framework for transparent communication with the public on nuclear safety-related issues

Communication actions undertaken by ASN in crisis situations
IAEA, June 2012


Who are we ?
ASN : an independent regulatory Authority
Our responsibilities:

Regulation Authorization Inspections and enforcement actions Information of the public


The French legal background Transparency is a primary value of ASN. It is one of the 4 fundamental basements of our Safety Authority (competence, independence, rigour and transparency). The law which created the Safety Authority in France was called “TSN” : “ Nuclear Transparency and Security Act ”of 13 June 2006. Article 2 gives a definition of Transparency: “Transparency in the nuclear field consists in the set of provisions adopted to ensure the public’s right to reliable and accessible information on nuclear security”.

The French legal background

ASN is responsible for the correct implementation of the requirements of the TSN Act, particularly those concerning transparency. ASN has a legal duty to inform (article 4): “ The nuclear safety Authority participates in informing the public in its areas of competence ”. Every single person has the right to get information from the licensees (article 19 of the TSN Act).


From public information to transparency
ASN strives to intensify its actions with regard to transparency, through active communication with the general public, the media, the institutional public and professionals. ASN presents its annual report before the Parliamentary Office for Evaluation of Scientific and Technologies Choices (OPESCT) (article 7 of the TSN Act) . The OPESCT was chaired by Mr Birraux in the previous legislature. ASN publishes on its website all follow-up letters of all inspections : Since 2002: publication of the follow-up letters of all inspections carried out in nuclear installations. Since 2008: publication of the follow-up letters of the radiotherapy inspections. Since April 2010: publication of the follow-up letters of inspections of small-scale nuclear facilities. ASN wishes to involve the public more closely in its decision-making process and to explain its decisions. It will thus promote public consultations via its website. Thirteen consultations were posted on line in 2010.


A full range of tools to keep in touch with the public

Press relations Website and presence on social media Exhibitions Publications Events, seminars, symposia, partnerships The general public The mass media The institutional public The professionals


Back to some interesting study cases Industrial accident at Centraco facility
September, 12, 2011 11:45 AM, Paris time (9:45 UTC) Serious accident with no radiological consequences « Panic effect »: school sheltering; media: « nuclear explosion in a NPP » Strong media coverage; political involvement ASN activated its emergency center: Limited technical issues Information requested (media, NROs) 2 press releases in French at 2 and 4 PM, just a few hours after the accident. 2 press releases in English at 4 and 5 PM to bilateral contacts, ENSREG, WENRA, HERCA, IAEA and ECURIE networks. Calls with IAEA, ENSREG, WENRA and others 7 NROs…

Industrial accident at Centraco facility

Events on nuclear facilities, even without radiological issues, are significant for the media. Quick release of information. Clear statement as practicable.


Fukushima accident
ASN considered its role was to:
“decrypt” and understand the technical and health issues of the accident; present and explain them to the French government and the Institutions (Parliament, local committees…)

Inform with openness, regularity and honesty:
We said « we don’t know » when we didn’t know.

Address the media concerns (seriousness; health impact).


ASN gave quickly its opinion concerning the seriousness of the accident: “between Three Mile Island and Chernobyl; damage to the core”.
Exemples : Accident majeur

7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

Tchernobyl (URSS), 1986 Mayak (URSS), 1957

Fukushima 2011

Accident grave Accident entraînant un risque à l’extérieur du site

Three Mile Island (USA), 1979 Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux (France), 1984 La Hague (France), 1981 Davis Besse (USA), 2002

Accident n’entraînant pas de risque important à l’extérieur du site Incident grave

Incident Anomalie Écart


Collect of informations
Through bilateral and multilateral relations

Contacts with Japanese authorities (NISA…) Exchange of information (no direct relation with japanese emergency center in order to avoid any additional burden) Contacts on a regular basis with foreign Authorities Regular bilateral links with European couterparts : phone calls, e-mails Audio conference with Safety Authorities of USA, UK, Canada Formal daily audio conference during the first weeks of the crisis Technical discussion about the status of NPP, recent events… Audio conference between ASN’s emergency centre and the French Embassy in Tokyo, our TSO (IRSN), CEA, French ministries concerned: Daily audio conferences during the first weeks of the crisis.


Relations with Mass media
ASN’s emergency organisation included the communication function since the very beginning of the crisis Communication team: 35 members (communication staff supported by staff of other departments) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the first month (communication was one of the top priorities fo the ASN) Mobilization of a team of ASN spokespersons (president, commissioners, director general, deputy director general, directors) every day during the 1st month to cope with the media pressure.


Relations with Mass media
More than 1 500 media requests. About 1 000 interviews with ASN spokespersons 39 press releases issued. 17 press conferences between March, 12 and April, 14:
Creation of a dedicated press center in ASN’s headquarters; A daily press conference at ASN’s headquarters between 16-25 March; Videos of the press conferences uploaded on Internet.


Relations with the general public
Creation of a dedicated web site (

Use of social media

• Implementation of a call center : 1,068 calls received by the 1st of April 2011.

Relations with institutions
First of all, regular meetings were organised with the french government for updating its knowledege of informations during the crisis. Special information meeting of the High Committee for transparency and information on nuclear safety (HCTISN) on March, 24. After the Fukushima accident, a parliamentary mission was asked to undertake a study of "nuclear security, the current position and the future of nuclear energy". ASN played a significant role and assisted this action. Many information meetings in the Local Information Committees.


Lessons learned 1/2

The main challenges for ASN
Dealing with a huge media pressure; Coping with a wide range of questions coming from many stakeholders; Need to appropriate, compile, complete and synthesize information; Maintaining our crisis organization over the long term (human resources’ limit).


Lessons learned 2/2
Feedback from the journalists and the public
The quick INES rating of level 6 was very appreciated. It has established the seriousness of the situation. Daily press briefing was really appreciated : ASN point of reference The availability and the specialization of the spokespersons have allowed most requests to be satisfied; Meeting rapidily the press demands have been highlighted by journalists; Positive relationships based on openness, rigour and “radiological education”.


ASN offers to its staff trainings in spoken and written communication. ASNs communication training plan tailored to the responsibilities of the people. Being able to provide clear and understandable information, stripped of any technical vocabulary, with a view to better responding to journalists’ demands and expressing clear views.

Emergency drills :
10 drills per year involving the licensees, the local and national public Authorities, ASN and its TSO. Testing the off-site emergency plans, the response organisation and procedures. About 4 drills per year with media pressure: interview of the spokesperson; press releases; activation of our crisis website and presence on social media


Think global when communicating
Before the crisis : Media trust is essential. Preparing communication and be prepared for matters you don’t expect. During the crisis : Adopt a position, give an opinion Providing quickly clear and understandable information for non experts. Professional relationships with media. Communication has become international. Communication should consider not only the public in the affected country but all other countries as well.

Creating the legal framework for transparent communication with the public on nuclear safety-related issues
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