The Nuclear Waste Policy Act
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act was largely a product of the Ninety-sixth and the Ninety-seventh Congresses, gradually taking shape over the period from early 1979 to late 1982. The recommendations by President Carter, coming in his last year in office when Carter was in a losing struggle for political survival, were given no priority and were not pushed by the administration on Capitol Hill. But in their emphasis on deep geologic isolation as the first order of business and on investigating several potential repository sites thoroughly and then picking the best of them, Carter's recommendations did influence the legislation that eventually emerged. However, the legislative effort was an untidy process and much time would elapse before even a fragile consensus was arrived at. It should be pointed out that for most members of Congress the waste issue was strictly a domestic concern. An early promise of success in demonstrating safe geologic disposal of spent fuel could be important to U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy, but this consideration was not to figure as an imperative in the congressional deliberations over nuclear waste policy.
The four major interests at play in the shaping of the waste legislation were the nuclear industry, the potential host states for geologic repositories and surface storage facilities, the environmental and anti-nuclear groups, and the Department of Energy.
The nuclear industry. All parts of the nuclear industry saw a need for Congress to act on the waste issue, and there were no major disagreements as to the form the legislation should take. The utilities felt an immediate need for the government to provide interim storage for