GEOG 160
Mapping Our Changing World

9.3 Siting LLRW Storage Facilities


The U.S. Congress passed the Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act in 1980. As amended in 1985, the Act made states responsible for disposing of the LLRW they produce. States were encouraged to form regional "compacts" to share the costs of locating, constructing, and maintaining LLRW disposal facilities. The intent of the legislation was to avoid the very situation that has since come to pass, that the entire country would become dependent on a very few disposal facilities.

Map showing regional compacts formed by states in response to the LLRW Policy Act .
Figure 9.2. Regional compacts formed by states in response to the LLRW Policy Act.
Credit:U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 2011b.

State government agencies and the consultants they hire to help select suitable sites assume that few if any municipalities would volunteer to host a LLRW disposal facility. You have probably heard the acronym “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard) used in relation to radioactive waste. They prepare for worst-case scenarios in which states would be forced to exercise their right of eminent domain to purchase suitable properties without the consent of landowners or their neighbors. GIS seems to offer an impartial, scientific, and, therefore, defensible approach to the problem. As Mark Monmonier has written, "[w]e have to put the damned thing somewhere, the planners argue, and a formal system of map analysis offers an 'objective,' logical method for evaluating plausible locations" (Monmonier, 1995, p. 220).