Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust: Dealing with Radioactive Waste

By Luther J. Carter | Go to book overview

4
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,

____________________
1
This rethinking of program requirements was evident, for example, in the paper "ERDA Waste Program Management" presented by Carl W. Kuhlman of the Energy Research and Development Administration at the Atomic Industrial Forum Fuel Cycle Conference in Kansas City, Mo., April 26, 1977.

-129-

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Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust: Dealing with Radioactive Waste
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1 - Sources of Public Unease 7
  • 1 - Containment 9
  • 2 - A Technology Ahead of Itself 41
  • 3 - The Reprocessing Dilemma 91
  • Part 2 - Searching for a Waste Policy 127
  • 4 - Policy Struggles in the Bureaucracy 129
  • 5 - Conflict in the Host States 145
  • 6 - The Nuclear Waste Policy Act 195
  • Part 3 - Europe, Japan, and the International Waste Problem 231
  • Introduction to Part 3 233
  • 7 - The United Kingdom: Problems of Containment 235
  • 8 - Germany: Wastes, Fuel Cycle Choice, and Politics 265
  • Conclusion 288
  • 9 - Sweden: Robust Solutions 289
  • Conclusion 306
  • 10 - France: Commitment to Plutonium Fuel 307
  • Conclusion 333
  • 11 - Japan, the Pacific, and the Nuclear Allergy 335
  • Conclusion 367
  • 12 - Transnational Problems and the Need for Multinational Solutions 369
  • Conclusion 396
  • Part 4 - A Time to Act 399
  • 13 - Common Ground 401
  • Glossary, Acronyms, and Abbreviations 435
  • Name Index 449
  • Subject Index 455
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