Policy Struggles in the Bureaucracy
Despite the differences in principle proclaimed, the Reagan administration policies on domestic reprocessing turned out in practice not to be all that different from President Carter's. Similarly, the Reagan policies on management and disposal of spent fuel and high-level waste have not been markedly different from those that evolved during the Carter years. In fact, the Reagan policies had their origins in those of the Carter administration, discussed in this chapter, as well as in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, discussed in chapter 6. But the evolution of these policies actually begins in the mid 1970s during the Ford administration.
The Energy Research and Development Administration, as successor to the Atomic Energy Commission, proposed during 1975 and 1976 an exceedingly ambitious plan for the disposal of high-level and long-lived wastes from the commercial nuclear fuel cycle. It called for the siting and development of as many as six geologic repositories. The first two repositories were to be built in salt and to start operating at pilot-plant scale in 1985. The next four would be built in other kinds of rock, such as granite and shale. All were proposed to be operating by sometime in the 1990s. Six was the number believed to be needed to accommodate the waste generated over the thirty-to-forty-year life of the several hundred reactors expected to be on line by the year 2000. But so ambitious a plan was neither needed nor achievable. Electricity demand already was falling far short of past projections. With orders for nuclear reactors off sharply, the need for repositories to receive nuclear waste was correspondingly less.
By the late spring of 1977, President Carter's decision that reprocessing of commercial nuclear fuel should be indefinitely deferred had led the Energy Research and Development Administration to start rethinking waste program plans.1 A key figure in the rethinking was Colin A. Heath,____________________