Conflict in the Host States
As the search for a nuclear waste policy and strategy went on from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s in Washington, first the Energy Research and Development Administration and then the Department of Energy was engaged in a largely frustrating effort to identify and investigate potential repository sites in the field. This effort was taking place in ten states in several widely scattered regions, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and from the Southwest to the Northwest. The rock formations targeted in these investigations have been principally salt beds, salt domes, and two kinds of volcanic rock, basalt and tuff. Major problems have been encountered, problems arising from actual and perceived resource and land-use conflicts and frequently exacerbated by the presence or perception of technical difficulties and uncertainties.
The politics of repository siting have in some cases conformed poorly to stereotyped thinking and clichés about the waste problem. For instance, there is not invariably a not-in-my-backyard ( NIMBY) response locally. On the contrary, in two of the salt states, Utah and New Mexico, the opposition has come not from the communities nearest the potential sites but from more distant parts of the state, and in Utah particularly from a governor who saw unacceptable resource conflicts. In these instances a repository is taken locally to mean additional jobs and federal dollars. For some of the same reasons the basalt program at Hanford has enjoyed a friendly political environment locally, but has met with strong criticism and opposition elsewhere in Washington state.
The experience in the generally troubled salt and basalt programs suggests that the Department of Energy's focus on finding sites in specific kinds of rock--and, at Hanford, in a specific place--has not represented the best way to go about repository siting. Later in this chapter I shall take up the experience of the department and its predecessor agencies with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant project for military transuranic waste, now under construction in New Mexico. Taken together, the