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Summary The socioeconomic and institutional issues associated with high-level radioactive waste management are complex and challenging. Waste management decisions involve the allocation of uncertain risks and benefits to different regions of the country, to different generations, and to different social groups. Many of these decisions are linked to the national debate over the role of nuclear energy and the future of nuclear weapons. In 1980, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requested the National Research Council to conduct a study of socio- economic aspects of nuclear waste repository siting, and a panel was established under the aegis of the Board on Radioactive Waste Management. The request was made, and the panel responded in the framework of the policy of several past administrations, since enacted into law with adoption of the National Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, that high-level nuclear waste from commercial power reactors shall eventually be permanently isolated in mined geologic repositories. Despite the difficulties in fashioning an acceptable strategy for high-level nuclear waste management, there is agreement that the present storage arrangements are not acceptable for the ultimate disposition of very-long- lifetime hazardous nuclear wastes. Selecting sites for geologic repositories and deploying a nuclear waste system that transports and manages those wastes must be accomplished with sensitivity to the complex socioeconomic issues involved. The study mandate called for the identification of major socioeconomic considerations in the location, construction, and operation of a generic radioactive waste repository; an assessment of what is known about these considerations, the extent of the data base 1
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2 associated with them, and the applicability of what is known to the repository siting process; and finally, suggestion of an approach or approaches for incorporating socioeconomic considerations into the repository selection process. The panel took no position on the desirability or merit of permanent isolation in a geologic repository as the ultimate disposition of high-level radioactive waste. In conducting its work, however, the panel did expand the mandate to incorporate other aspects of the radio- active waste disposal system, including issues related to transportation of wastes and temporary storage. This expanded focus allowed the panel to address key socio- economic aspects of the nuclear waste management system that would not have been possible with a more limited focus on repositories. The panel paid particular atten- tion to the etiology of public concern over nuclear wastes, to above-ground effects (especially on cost and equity) of different repository site locations, and to means for channeling public concerns (including those of states and local communities) into effective participation · ~ . . . . in recision making. The panel found an incomplete and inadequate body of social science knowledge available to guide the formula- tion and implementation of an effective radioactive waste management system. The basis for assessing socioeconomic effects of comparable projects only partially exists, because of the underdeveloped state of the theory and methodology of social impact assessment, the limited scale of the research program enacted to date, and the difficulty of comparing the radioactive waste management program to other large-scale industrial projects. The panel explicitly rejected the idea that specific socio economic criteria could be developed at this time to supplement physical science and engineering criteria in the repository selection process. However, through its attention to waste transportation and facility location, effects at a repository site, intergovernmental relations, and the basis for public concern, the panel has identified socioeconomic issues that it views as among the more important social questions facing implementation of a workable radioactive waste management strategy. Moreover, the panel believes that the current state of knowledge precludes identification of a satisfactory means for integrating socioeconomic criteria into siting decision making and also that such decisions should be the result of a participatory process. The panel, however, views its work on this study as contributing to such goals. ,
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3 In 1982, Congress enacted the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), which outlined a comprehensive strategy for permanent disposal of commercial nuclear power wastes. Throughout the complex debate that led to this legisla- tion, two issues--technical feasibility and public acceptance--were of paramount importance. This report examines the social science knowledge base appropriate to the latter issue, though it also addresses many technical logistical, and institutional questions that fall between feasibility and acceptance. This analysis is intended to illuminate those key issues facing the DOE and other agencies responsible for the implementation of the NWPA. The panel's limited resources prevented it from analyzing comprehensively the broad set of socioeconomic considerations that it identified. It examined, for example, only one scenario for nuclear power's future (a scale equal to the plants that are in existence or under construction) in terms of a few of the many radioactive waste management alternatives under consideration. The panel chose to allocate primary attention to spent-fuel management, leaving aside the implications of nuclear fuel reprocessing for waste generation, shipment, and social impact. The panel excluded consideration of commercially generated low-level nuclear wastes, and it has not addressed questions directly relevant to the management of defense wastes, except to note those experiences that offer lessons. The results of this effort are most properly viewed as suggestive of research that can be performed and as indicative of major gaps that need to be filled. APPROACH OF THIS STUDY The study panel found that there are several conceptions of the term "socioeconomic. n At one extreme is the narrow view that the term should be limited essentially to measurable changes in employment, housing, and demo- graphic characteristics that would be caused by a new facility. At the other extreme is the broad view that socioeconomic should refer to virtually any nontechnical effect, whether psychological, political, or behavioral. Clearly all the effects of a given facility cannot be reasonably anticipated or accounted for in the short run. While the narrow conception of the term socioeco- nomic has the advantages of simplicity and ease of
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4 measurement, its use may be greatly misleading to the decision maker. Site selection is a political as well as social issue, involving complex value judgments and a wide range of poorly understood "effects." Both the state of the art of social impact theory and the complex nature of nuclear waste repository siting argue, in the panel's view, for adopting a wide view of the term. Even though methods for measuring and comparing many kinds of effects are not yet fully developed, the panel concluded that both methodological and political realities require us to go beyond the relatively narrow definition usually employed in environmental impact statements. Efforts to identify criteria for making decisions are founded on the assumption that there is an adequate body of knowledge that can be used to link particular programs with particular results. Where such a body of knowledge is available, choices can be made among options based on an assessment of beneficial or harmful effects. If socio economic criteria are to be used in selecting repository sites, however, two conditions must be met: 1. The effects likely to result from choosing one or another option must be specified, in regard both to an individual repository and to the progressive deployment of an entire waste management system. This suggests that effects caused by the waste management operations for a U.S. nuclear energy system involving at least twice the currently licensed 75 nuclear power plants must be assessed. In addition, there are effects from the waste generated by the military program. 2. The social values relevant to the concerns and goals of different social groups, particularly as they bear on the socioeconomic effects experience, must be specified. In other words, the social values (e.g., equity, quality of life) should be described in ways that allow the public to judge the degree to which the waste program realizes or fails to realize them. Both of these analytical elements should be addressed. However, when the panel took up its work it discovered that only limited progress had been made in the first and little or no progress in the second area. Although a data base of useful studies and surveys has been emerging, little systematic work has been done in integrating the results or assessing their relevance to policy choices in a radioactive waste management system. Experiential
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5 information on the socioeconomic effects of a high-level waste repository is not available because no such facility has been established in the United States. Instead, assessment must draw on the siting of other nuclear fuel cycle facilities, highways, and noxious functions (e.g., drug treatment centers, prisons, hazardous waste disposal sites) and interpret this experience in light of possible relevance to nuclear waste facilities. Further, there has been little attempt to specify the conditions that would signal the attainment of various social or economic outcomes. The panel believes that further research is required for sound estimates of the social, economic, and political consequences of locating and operating a nuclear waste repository at a particular site in the United States. The panel is also quite certain that those sponsoring and conducting research are in full agreement with this statement; in fact, it is explicitly acknowledged in reports and briefings. Even greater information and analyses are needed on the effects of waste management systems composed of more than one repository, for such a system is likely needed to service present and future reactors. The panel necessarily limited itself to near-term socioeconomic considerations (i.e., the next 50 years). Owing to the very long duration of radioactive waste hazards, there may be socioeconomic effects far beyond this. However, since the predictive powers of social science are very limited, the highly uncertain long-term considerations cannot play a definable role in repository site-selection criteria. What the panel has sought to do is identify the relatively near-term socioeconomic and institutional considerations that should be addressed in locating, building, and operating high-level waste reposi- tories, to explore the nature of the considerations, to assess the adequacy of the current data base and under- standing, and to suggest the implications of alternative strategies for addressing these considerations. In doing so, the panel has identified a variety of assumptions that could constrain current policy choices and concep- tions of the management system. The panel did not, how- ever, restrict its analysis to fit those preconceptions. This report, in fact, points out areas where such assump- tions should be explicitly debated. As noted earlier, the study focuses on the isolation of unreprocessed spent fuel produced in commercial nuclear power reactors. Consistent with its study mandate, per
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6 manent isolation of the waste in stable geologic forma- tions within the continental United States was the only disposal concept considered. Because the configuration of the network of waste facilities influences the number of potentially affected states and communities, the panel addressed facility locations and the associated transpor- tation system that would be required to move the wastes from the places where they are generated to repository sites. The managerial and socioeconomic issues involved in storing spent fuel temporarily at reactors or away- from-reactor storage facilities were also considered. The panel did not address the question of the overall role of nuclear power in the United States, nor did it compare the effects of nuclear power and its wastes with those of nuclear power's alternatives. Potential health effects and the adequacy of the technology for isolating radioactive wastes were considered only to the extent that they impinge on social issues and public concerns. MAJOR SOCIOECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS In its mandate to the panel, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requested an identification of major socioeconomic considerations involved in repository siting, construc- tion, and operation. As noted above, the social science knowledge base does not at present permit detailed pre- dictions or development of siting criteria. Nonetheless, the panel has developed a list of major socioeconomic considerations that ideally should be addressed in siting nuclear waste repositories over the next several decades. The list is, of course, not exhaustive, and a different group of social scientists would certainly identify other considerations. Nevertheless, those identified herein suggest the scope and types of issues that require analysis by the DOE. The considerations are stated in the form of questions and follow the organization utilized in this report. The list, of course, is much larger than could be addressed by the panel in one study. Those issues assessed either partially or fully by the panel are indicated by an asterisk. A. Public Response 1. What are the trends, magnitude, and charac- teristics of public concerns over radioactive wastes?*
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7 2. How do public concerns over these wastes compare with concerns over nuclear power, hazardous wastes, and other technological hazards? 3. What explains public concerns over radioactive wastes?* 4. How may public trust and confidence be developed in the institutions responsible for radioactive waste management?* 5. How may public values best be accommodated in repository site selection, in weighting various socio- economic and institutional effects, and in avoiding or mitigating adverse effects? 6. How should public concerns and values be compared, and weighted, with technical criteria? B. The Waste Management Network 1. How will the number and location of waste reposi- tories affect the socioeconomic and institutional burdens associated with radioactive waste-management?* 2. What socioeconomic effects will be associated with at-reactor, away-from-reactor, or interim storage facilities co-located with repositories?* 3. What significance should be attached to psychological stress occurring at facility sites and along transportation corridors? 4. Should socioeconomic effects occurring along transport corridors be included in impact mitigation programs? 5. How will scale and the rate at which the waste system is brought to scale affect the magnitude of socioeconomic effects and institutional burdens?* 6. What socioeconomic and institutional con- siderations are involved in the mix of transport modes (railroads, trucks, barges) used in transporting radio- active wastes?* 7. How sensitive are overall waste management costs to transportation designs, cask costs, and repository development? 8. How should waste management costs be compared, and weighted, with long-term safety and intergenerational equity? 9. How adequate are state and local monitoring, regulatory, and emergency response capabilities, given the demands that may be placed on them during the deployment of the waste management system?
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8 10. How are the beneficial and adverse effects of radioactive waste management distributed over generations, geographical regions, social groups r and beneficiaries nuclear power?* and nonbeneficiaries over C. Site Effects 1. To what extent will the socioeconomic effects of a nuclear waste repository resemble those associated with other large industrial facilities located in rural areas?* 2. Which effects are amenable to quantitative expres- sion. and which must be stated in qualitative terms?* 3. Which effects can be reasonably predicted in advance, and which are likely to become annar~nt mn] v tic the site is developed?* ~ ~ . , ~ , -~ ~ I''- ~ & ~ ~ ~- a. now s~gn~r~cant are rates as compared with types of social and economic change in the host repository region? 5. What are likely to be the most beneficial impacts of a repository on the host community and region? 6. How may socioeconomic changes in one locale be compared with those at another? 7. How may local citizens best participate in identifying, assessing, and proposing means to ameliorate siting effects?* 8. What is the likely magnitude of socioeconomic effects associated with postclosure or unexpected premature closure of the repository? 9. How adequate are provisions in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and other existing governmental programs for assuring the time and equitable flow of incentives, impact mitigation, and compensation measures?* D. Institutional Issues . 1. What is the nature of this generation's respon- sibility to future generations? 2. What are the institutional prerequisites for effective management and disposal of radioactive wastes?* 3. What means exist for resolving conflict over repository siting at both federal/state and state/local levels, and how adequate are they?* 4. How adequate are the scientific and managerial resources of the major institutions responsible for radioactive waste management for identifying and
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9 responding to the social and economic obstacles to the timely implementation of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982? 5. What types of failure identification and contin- gency planning are required for effective implementation of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982?* 6. What are the alternative modes of conflict resolu- tion available for siting controversies, and what are their potential applicability to the radioactive waste problem? 7. How may the integrity and stability of the radioactive waste management program be insulated from changing political administrations? 8. Given the complexity of a National High-Level Waste Program, what long-range institutional effects will need to be addressed?* 9. How is experience with siting low-level radioactive waste and other hazardous waste facilities likely to affect (if at all) the siting of a high-level radioactive waste repository? 10. How may public information and involvement programs for radioactive waste management best be designed, managed, and evaluated?* 11. What should be the relationship (if any) in the management of high-level commercial and defense radioactive wastes? MAJOR FINDINGS All the above issues could not, of course, be addressed in the panel's study. As noted above, the panel has evaluated a number of those issues judged among the more important and within study scope and panel expertise. Generally these fall within, the major chapter headings-- public concern, effects of facility location and transportation, site-related effects, and institutional issues . 1. Although the electoral, legislative, and administrative sectors in the United States have historically demonstrated substantial support for the economic benefits of nuclear power, over the past 15 years (and particularly since 1979) support has weakened significantly in all three sectors. In the same period, an articulate organized opposition has emerged, one with support among a significant minority of the population.
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10 2. There is widespread perception that nuclear energy entails risks to health and safety. This perception is by the fact that most of the public groups do not distinguish clearly between the risks of nuclear weaponry and those of nuclear power plants. The extent to which fear over nuclear weapons enters into attitudes on nuclear wastes is difficult to pinpoint, but it is undoubtedly an element in the formation of public opinion. Concern over catastrophic accidents in nuclear power plants appears to add to these fears of the technology. 3. The level of knowledge about nuclear power and radioactive wastes remains low among the general public. This limited knowledge, however, does not explain the high level of concern. It is uncertain whether greater amounts of information would reduce or increase public concern, but improved public understanding of waste management problems is a central need for developing an informed public policy and a socially acceptable management program. 4. Public concern and the perception of threat are exacerbated by mistrust of government in general and by the appearance of secrecy or desire to exclude the public from governmental decisions about radioactive waste and repository siting. 5. A substantial disparity exists between the amount of research effort expended on technical aspects of under- ground nuclear waste storage and the limited efforts expended on the above-ground design of a waste system. Specifically, the socioeconomic and institutional issues associated with facility location and transport modes, routes, distances, and scheduling require greater attention than they have received to date. While the panel believes that the logistical and institutional challenges involved can be met, it finds substantial tasks ahead that merit attention in a formulation and implementation of a national radioactive waste management strategy. The panel also emphasizes that the kinds of problems involved are not readily amenable to easy technical solutions; they must be considered in the overall system design and in institutional policies that include socioeconomic as well as technical criteria. 6. The socioeconomic and institutional effects associated with the network of nuclear waste facilities and transportation are quite sensitive to the number and location of repositories. These effects, as suggested by the panel's analysis, include transport system complexity, shipping costs, public concern and conflict, vulnerability exacerbated
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11 to possible transport system bottlenecks, and institu- tional burdens on states and localities. One problem-- interregional inequity--viewed as particularly important by the panel, could be minimized through regional siting. The relationships among these factors and effects have received only limited research attention and require further explicit analysis. They will also need to be weighed against geologic criteria and overall waste management system costs. 7. The socioeconomic effects of establishing tem- porary away-from-reactor facilities for interim storage depend on specific assumptions and scenarios chosen and are at present not well understood. Whether such storage facilities are co-located with repositories, located at reactors, or located away from both reactors and reposi- tories appears to affect significantly total system transport costs, regulatory and emergency response burdens on state and local governments, and public concern along transport routes. At-reactor storage, in particular, may have potential for reducing these effects. At the same time, the panel recognizes the potential usefulness of the limited away-from-reactor storage provided for in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. 8. Current DOE plans assume that the transportation of waste will be primarily by rail. The panel has iden- tified a variety of obstacles to a predominantly rail transportation system. The rail industry appears to have few economic incentives and a stated reluctance to take on radioactive waste transport. Rail also does not appear to have a decisive economic advantage over truck trans- port, and the rail system is,less responsive to possible demands for routing changes. These obstacles should receive further review from the DOE. If these problems lead to greater use of truck transport, differing socio- economic and institutional effects will need to be anticipated. 9. The research base that exists to support the selection of sites for a nuclear waste repository and the formulation of programs for impact mitigation is limited and uneven. The underdeveloped state of theory in social impact assessment theory and methodology and the cursory efforts thus far in comparative analysis of impact mitigation are particularly problematic. The limited research program sponsored by the DOE has not sufficed to fill this void. As a result, no authoritative statements can be made at this time about the magnitude, types, or
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12 rates of adverse socioeconomic effects to be expected at a repository site nor criteria that should be formulated for site suitability or an appropriate program of impact mitigation. 10. Adverse socioeconomic effects will likely be strongly site-specific and will be related in particular to the population size and rural qualities of the host region as well as to the overall waste system design. These effects will be difficult to predict on the basis of experience with other types of facilities at other sites. These effects have the potential, however, for substantial harm to the host community and region and should, therefore, receive more thorough assessment than has been accomplished to date. 11. The special effects associated with the radio- logical mission of the repository will interact with, and may well exceed, the more conventional effects resulting from the location of any large industrial facilities in rural communities. 12. A number of significant effects will not become evident undo ~ one siting process begins. Accordingly, careful monitoring of socioeconomic effects at the site and a program for timely and flexible provision of resources to reduce or mitigate adverse impacts are required. The panel finds that an appropriate mechanism for assuring the active involvement of local residents in assessing site effects and in monitoring mitigation and compensation programs does not now exist and should receive attention by the DOE. 13. A sound program to anticipate and respond to the effects of siting a radioactive waste repository should, in the panel's view, comprise (a) analysis of socioeco- nomic effects, with participation by the residents; (b) development of plans and policies to avoid and to mitigate adverse effects, with participation by the residents; (c) capital, provided by the beneficiaries of nuclear power, to fund mitigation of expected adverse conventional effects; (d) compensation for adverse effects, conven- tional and special, that cannot reasonably be avoided or ~:A~e .,~: ~ =_ further mitigated; and (e) means of redress for effects resulting directly from the siting of a repository or from overall changes in the radioactive waste program that alter site characteristics. 14. An ambitious program of technical and financial support to mitigate adverse effects at repository sites will be needed. While the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 provides for this need, several problems may be
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13 expected in implementation. The goals and levels of funds for impact mitigation are set at an early stage in site development, yet many effects cannot be anticipated and will become apparent with the development of the site and the beginning of operations. Moreover, no assurance exists that the states will adequately assess the needs of the host locality and allocate funds in an effective manner. 15. A major institutional gap exists in the framework defined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. There Is no Institutionalized process for relating the concerns of locally affected populations to the actions of state governors or legislatures. Institutional designs for bridging this gap have been utilized in other policy areas and may provide possible means to fill this void. 16. The site-selection timetable outlined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) is likely to force the DOE to choose between an open, consultative approach to planning that fails to meet deadlines and a closed, executive approach that meets schedules. A decision to adhere to the tight schedule of the NINA could contribute to insufficient attention to local concerns and par- ticipatory opportunities or result in inappropriate compromises. 17. Informal processes of planning and conflict resolution can provide valuable supplements to the official administrative and judicial processes outlined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Environmental mediation is one such process that deserves further exploration. 18. An ambitious program of public participation is needed to meet the challenges posed by high levels of public concern and the complexity of issues surrounding the siting of nuclear waste repositories. Previous research and experience suggest that an effective participation program will include (a) the direct involvement of affected public groups in impact assessment; (b) early and broad public involvement in both site searching and site selection, within the context of technical criteria; (c) the development of an independent technical review capability, similar to that created for the state of New Mexico for a Waste Isolation . Pilot Plant, among citizens of the communities hosting the repositories or those exposed to extraordinary waste transportation flow at major points along the waste funnel; (d) a variety of techniques and mechanisms of public participation, since the state of social science theory does not indicate a preferred mode of public
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14 participation. The participation program may be designed as a major research effort, with participation of citi- zens, peer review, and careful monitoring and evaluation. 19. Transportation of radioactive wastes by truck could be carried out either by a federally owned and operated fleet or by private trucking companies subject to federal and state regulation. Whether private companies or the federal government transport the waste, a sound federal regulatory system requires (a) a suf- ficiently broad-based and uniform regulatory regime, (b) the elimination of redundancies and incompleteness in the existing Nuclear Regulatory Commission-Department of Energy regulations for transportation, and (c) addressing the desire of states to deal with safety on their own highways.
Representative terms from entire chapter: