The licensing authority involves the public in the licensing procedure at an early stage. It may only refrain from doing so if the planned modification to the installation or its operation is not expected to have any adverse impacts on the general public and if there is no obligation to conduct an environmental impact assessment.
The purpose of public consultation is to give citizens the opportunity to directly assert their interests during the procedure. Detailed regulations are set forth in the Nuclear Licensing Procedure Ordinance (AtVfV).
Pursuant to the Nuclear Licensing Procedure Ordinance (AtVfV), the licensing authority must publish details of the project in its official gazette and in local daily newspapers. The announcement must include
- information as to where and when the relevant documents are displayed for the public to consult,
- a request for any objections to be raised in writing with the competent authority while the document is on display,
- notice of a public hearing, or an announcement that the date for a public hearing has yet to be set.
Various documents must be put on public display for a period of two months so that concerned citizens have an opportunity to peruse them.
These documents must include:
- the application,
- the safety report,
- a brief description, written in plain language, of the installation and the proposed modification,
- for projects for which an environmental impact assessment is required, details of residual radioactive materials and other environmental impacts,
- along with the documents specified in Section 3, paragraph 2 of the Nuclear Licensing Procedure Ordinance (AtVfV).
Objections may be made in writing or for transcript by the competent authorities.
After expiry of the deadline, a hearing is arranged to give the licensing authority the opportunity to discuss any objections submitted by the deadline with the applicant and the persons raising the objections, if this is likely to be significant for the assessment of compliance with the licensing criteria. The hearing also gives the persons who have raised the objections the opportunity to express their concerns.
The licensing authority gives due consideration to the objections when reaching its decision and this is reflected in its reasons for the licensing decision.
The public must also be involved when, in a licensing procedure, the Environmental Impact Assessment Act (UVPG) comes into play. The environmental impact assessment is an integral part of the licensing procedure for nuclear installations. In any project requiring an environmental impact assessment, additional documents must be appended to the application pursuant to Section 3, paragraph 2 of the Nuclear Licensing Procedure Ordinance (AtVfV):
- an overview of the main technical options considered by the applicant, including details of the primary reasons for their selection, insofar as this information may be of significance for the assessment of the permissibility of the project pursuant to Section 7 of the German Atomic Energy Act (AtG);
- information about any difficulties which have arisen in compiling the data necessary to conduct the environmental impact assessment, particularly if these difficulties were caused by lack of knowledge or assessment methods or by technical gaps.
The competent licensing and supervisory body conducts, in accordance with nuclear safety and radiation protection standards, a final assessment of the environmental impacts. This is one of the bases for the decision on the licensing of the project as regards effective environmental protection.