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Evaluating public consultation in nuclear energy: the importance of problem structuring and scale

Margot Hurlbert (Department of Justice Studies and Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina, Regina, Canada)

International Journal of Energy Sector Management

ISSN: 1750-6220

Article publication date: 1 April 2014




This paper hypothesizes that in respect of developing nuclear energy, utilizing one process, on one occasion, and with only the development of nuclear energy as the “policy problem” on which consultations are based will not be successful; a more successful model occurs over the long term, utilizes an iterative process of engagement, and multiple framing of related energy issues (in addition to the development of nuclear energy). The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This paper reviews and analyzes the framing of issues and chosen mechanisms of public consultations employed by the Government of Saskatchewan in relation to the nuclear energy future for Saskatchewan. These mechanisms are reviewed based on the perceptions and comments made by members of the public within the consultations which were recorded, coded and analysed, as well as a series of semi-structured qualitative interviews with key personnel involved in the consultation process. The three mechanisms of public participation employed by the Government of Saskatchewan are analyzed and evaluated and a model developed to facilitate the analysis.


Alternative measures of successful participation are useful. The framing of issues, the time frame of analysis, and quality of communication flows are all determinative of success. The utilization of a combination of participatory mechanisms is also beneficial. An optimal strategy of public consultations respecting energy is developed based on interviews with key personnel in the policy field.

Research limitations/implications

This research is based only on the perceptions of participants expressed within the participatory processes and key personnel in the energy policy field of Saskatchewan.


This paper offers a model linking several policy considerations useful to future energy policy public consultations.



Funding for this research project has been made possible by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The author acknowledges the research contributions of Sam Hague.


Hurlbert, M. (2014), "Evaluating public consultation in nuclear energy: the importance of problem structuring and scale", International Journal of Energy Sector Management, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 56-75.



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