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Unpublished Paper
Wasting Away: America’s Dysfunctional System of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal
ExpressO (2013)
  • Jacob Berman, New York University
This paper argues that the current system for disposing of civilian low-level radioactive waste in the United States is broken, and that large-scale reform is necessary to adequately handle the volume of waste expected from further nuclear decommissioning. Between 1947 and 1980, low-level radioactive waste disposal was the sole responsibility of the federal government. The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980 upended this system, devolving responsibility for civilian low-level radioactive waste disposal to the states. Devolution has been a disaster. For the last thirty years, state governments have been beset by Not In My Back Yard syndrome, as project after project designed to handle additional low-level radioactive waste has been halted by local opposition, leaving the system vulnerable to meddling by state regulators eager to exclude out-of-state waste. This paper discusses the history of the country’s system to manage low-level radioactive waste, how it gradually became dysfunctional, and what reforms are necessary to fix it. This paper proposes a two-part solution: first, the integration of Energy Department low-level waste disposal sites into the commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal system, and second, by junking the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act and returning to the centralized governance structure utilized in 1980.
  • nuclear waste,
  • environmental law,
  • NRC,
  • department of energy
Publication Date
January 2, 2013
Citation Information
Jacob Berman. "Wasting Away: America’s Dysfunctional System of Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal" ExpressO (2013)
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