|NucNet - The World's Nuclear News Agency|
What is NucNet?
Albert Einstein said that everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. He probably wasn’t thinking of NucNet at the time - but he might have been.
NucNet started up in January 1991. Its aim was both to increase the speed and volume of the world-wide nuclear information flow, and to communicate essential information in language that could be understood by the man in the street without compromising its scientific and technical accuracy.
At first, it was a purely European venture, which was intended to link up with similar networks in the Americas and Asia. As these did not materialise, NucNet has, over the last decade, gradually evolved into a truly global organisation.
NucNet has now established itself as the first and only global public communications venture in which all sections of the world’s nuclear community have joined forces to work together successfully and demonstrate transparency. In particular:
NucNet today has two specific roles:
NucNet has national member organisations in some 46 countries, including more than 30 with nuclear power programmes. The only such country that is not yet part of the network is mainland China. Each member organisation has the right to be represented on NucNet’s governing bodies, the Board and General Assembly.
The national members are mostly 'umbrella' organisations. (The exceptions are the UK and Germany, where the main nuclear organisations are directly represented.) About half are government institutions - atomic energy commissions or ministries, safety authorities, etc. The rest are mostly national nuclear societies, fora, utilities or research centres. The geographical break-down is as follows:
Other organisations that are not eligible for or do not wish for formal membership may receive NucNet services as subscribers. Subscriptions are arranged either by the national member organisation or directly by NucNet Central Office.
Information flow and distribution
NucNet was founded on the principle that all network members are obliged to provide information about their own organisations in return for receiving similar information from elsewhere. While this principle has been ‘watered down’ over the years, as the network has grown to include more subscribers and other indirect recipients, the underlying concept of a ‘free information exchange’ remains central.
In most member countries, all sources of nuclear information are directly linked to the network. NucNet receives its news input from some 350 information suppliers at nuclear plant sites, utilities, research centres, regulatory bodies, ministries, etc. NucNet attributes each item of news output to at least one of these trusted sources.
The original method of news distribution was by fax. NucNet’s current fax distribution list features more than 300 destinations, served several times per day. In parallel, NucNet has built up an e-mail service that now reaches some 350 recipients several times per day. Each recipient is free to choose the method of delivery.
Subscribers also have access to a searchable on-line database, containing all NucNet output for the past 10 years.
In addition, NucNet maintains a public Web site, including a special 'representative' news section that is up-dated on a regular basis.
News output and classification
News output is in easily comprehensible, non-technical English, aimed primarily at an audience of nuclear communications professionals and the general media. At the same time, a thorough internal review process ensures the accuracy and reliability of all output from a technical point of view. News input is mostly in English, although some is in French, German and Spanish.
Typical turn-around time for urgent news is one hour from the moment input is received. Other input is processed according to urgency on an on-going basis.There are four main output categories:
How NucNet is used
Central Office holds regular meetings with national correspondents and other news contacts world-wide, to discuss ways of broadening and improving both the service itself and the ways in which it is used. Analysis of actual news flows and feedback from members is also a standing item on the agenda of NucNet Board meetings. The picture that emerges of industry use world-wide shows NucNet news is:
The service is also provided directly, free of charge and in personalised form to over 70 key journalists at the main international news agencies, many national agencies and a large number of daily newspapers in countries across Europe and elsewhere. In translated form, NucNet's output reaches a much wider range of national news media world-wide. NucNet has established a reputation for delivering relevant, objective and reliable information - both positive and negative.
Central Office and Board members monitor media pick-up of the network's output and have witnessed a noticeable increase in direct quotes in recent years. However, NucNet’s real impact on media coverage of nuclear issues is more subtle, and cannot be measured purely in terms of direct quotes.
Central Office is often approached directly by members of the media for information on nuclear stories of public interest. Where appropriate, journalists are put into direct contact with NucNet's national correspondents.
NucNet's Central Office, in Berne, Switzerland, is managed under a service level agreement by ATAG Technical Organisations Ltd, a subsidiary of the international Ernst & Young network of auditing and business consultancy companies. NucNet is part of a larger department within ATAG that is specialised in nuclear issues, with a combined staffing level of about 20. It benefits considerably from the resulting synergies, in particular from the substantial in-house technical expertise of the Swiss Association for Atomic Energy, with which it shares offices and co-operates closely.
News items are compiled, written and edited by experienced professional journalists. Technical advice and quality assurance is provided by in-house engineers, scientists and translators.
NucNet has its roots in a feasibility study carried out by ENS in 1989-1990. It was established in late 1990 as an independent non-profit association under Swiss law. From 1991 to 2000, it was operated by ENS on behalf of the service provider under an agreement between ENS and NucNet, before entering a direct management contract with ATAG as of 1st January 2001. NucNet is completely structurally and financially independent of ENS and accountable to its own governing bodies.
Challenges for the future
Broadly speaking, NucNet will have to deal with three types of future challenge if it is to continue to develop and grow. Let us look at these one by one:
Challenges of industry transformation
When NucNet was set up, electricity market liberalisation had barely begun. Anyone associated with the industry is fully aware of the extent to which the landscape has changed in recent years, with wholesale - and ongoing - re-organisation not only of the utility sector, but of the industry as a whole.
This is truly transformational change - possibly the most fundamental upheaval ever in the electricity sector as a whole. For NucNet, as for the industry, it represents either a major threat or the basis of its future growth. The main implications are:
The challenges of internationalism
© copyright The World Nuclear Association 2001