The Politics of Highly Radioactive Waste Disposal Essay

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The Politics of Highly Radioactive Waste Disposal Nuclear waste disposal is a political problem, not a technical problem.1 — Dr. Edward Teller Highly radioactive waste disposal has become one of the most controversial aspects of nuclear technology. As the amount of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear reactors and high-level radioactive waste from defense-related processing plants has continued to mount, the issue has become increasingly contentious and politicized.2 The politicization of this issue is especially evident in the site selection process of a permanent national repository for the disposal of highly radioactive waste. Paradoxically, as the need for action has become more acute, the conflict generated by…show more content…
The following year, after environmental impact assessments were conducted by DOE, the list was narrowed to five potential locations (Richton Dome, Mississippi; Yucca Mountain, Nevada; Deaf Smith County, Texas; Davis Canyon, Utah; and, Hanford, Washington).5 Finally, in 1986, DOE narrowed the field to three sites: Yucca Mountain, Nevada; Deaf Smith County, Texas; and Hanford, Washington. The fact that each of these locations had a prior involvement with nuclear technology probably contributed to their selection since DOE likely concluded that any opposition to establishing a radioactive waste repository would be muted.6 The site selection process in the East was even more difficult. As Michael Kraft, Professor of Environmental Studies, points out: "Controversies similar to those in the West emerged during the second siting process in the East. In January 1986, DOE announced that 12 locations in seven states in the upper Midwest and East had been selected from its original list of 235 potential sites in seventeen states. Once again DOE defended its choices in terms of the official siting guidelines....That process led to a proposal to study further the final sites in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine, New Hampshire, Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina....Intense public opposition and fears of political repercussions in an election year led the Reagan White House in late May 1986 to

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