"Not in My Back Yard": High-Level
Nuclear Waste Policy
JAMES A. THURBER
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) (P.L. 97-425) and the subsequent Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1987 (NWPAA) (Title V of P.L. 100-203 and P.L. 100-507) provide the legislative framework for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) program to find a long-term means for storing high‐ level civilian nuclear waste in the United States.
In 1987 Congress directed the DOE through the NWPAA to study ("characterize") the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, site for suitability as a national nuclear waste geologic repository, while at the same time prohibiting the search for a second repository site. The selection of Yucca Mountain was the geographic expression of congressional agendas that reflected the power structure within Congress and well-entrenched political-economic relationships in the nuclear power arena.
The passage of the NWPAA was a direct result of the policy adopted in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. The NWPA had enjoined the Department of Energy to hold hearings wherever site characterization studies were conducted in order to identify the public's concerns and calm citizens in affected areas by educating them about the repository site selection process. DOE, politically weak and convinced that public liaison was unnecessary and irrelevant, only halfheartedly attempted to implement the public comment portion of the 1982, policy. As the program neared collapse in 1987, Congress reacted with new legislation—the NWPA Amendments.
This case shows that decision-making processes concerning the disposal of high-level civilian nuclear waste evolved through several policy-making subsystems. From 1956 until 1979, the subsystem was dominant, exhibiting stable relations among a small group of decision makers. After the Three