Nuclear Waste Disposal: How the Concerned Public Is Involved in Decision Making

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  • Topic: Radioactive waste, High level waste, Waste
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Nuclear Waste Disposal: How the Concerned Public is Involved in Decision Making

Thesis Statement: Nuclear waste disposal is a complex process and it requires the cooperation from the public sector to aid the government and the scientists in order to ensure safe and successful nuclear waste disposal programs.

I.Nuclear Waste Disposal: The Players and the Challenge

A. DOE responsible for disposal
B.Other entities concerned (public)
C.Problems concerning waste disposal (toxicity, costs, technical difficulties etc) D.The major issues: lack of good communication between public and officials

II.The Challenges of Nuclear Waste Transportation

A.Volume and Radiation
B.Costs
C.Public fear and opposition
D.Scientists vs. People

III.Some Solutions: Integrating the People

A.Scientists + People
B.Some people (immigrants, children) might require specialized communication efforts in order to gain their participation C.Integrating professionals who can better understand the situation and the problems

Nuclear Waste Disposal: The Players and the Challenge
The department that is responsible for the nuclear waste disposal is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This department has to face certain very complex decisions about how and where to dispose the waste. The transportation of these hazardous materials is also very important and DOE has to come up with the best and safest possible techniques in order to do so. The citizens of the United States are also very concerned when it comes to the disposal of nuclear waste (Riley et al 1993). The most commonly perceived problem about nuclear waste is that it is extremely toxic and hazardous. People are always concerned about being contaminated. Another cleanup issue that is important is that the waste is in very large volumes and this makes its transportation very difficult. There are also very large-scale implications of the potential severe human and environmental impacts that nuclear waste can have on our soil. Disposal of nuclear waste also requires a lot of technical expertise and is a very complex process and this adds to the problems. In addition, this is a relatively new thing and there is lack of experience on the part of the people who manage nuclear waste disposal. Also involved in nuclear waste management is “a legacy of secrecy, staggering costs, a history of inequitable practices, and a jumble of intricate federal and state regulations” (Drew et al 263). The inclusion of the many decision-making entities also makes this problem more complex. These entities include “tribal, state, and local government agencies; regulators; citizen groups; and contractors” (Drew et al 263). Both the complexities of the process itself as well as the large number of decision makers involved makes nuclear waste disposal a very complex problem. It requires the cooperation from all these entities to ensure a safe and successful nuclear waste disposal programs. This article shall discuss the various ways in which everyone, including the DOE, can come together and help reach a solution that is beneficial to everyone.

For the purpose of this paper, we shall consider the term ‘stakeholders.’ This term is defined as the people who are interested in or are affected by the U.S. DOE cleanup. Citizen groups, DOE managers and contractors, regulators, the state and local governments, and the general public are all included as ‘stakeholders’. The tribal people feel that they are a separate part and thus they are referred to as being outside the definition of ‘stakeholders.’ They shall be referred to as the ‘tribes’.

Some of the questions that have to be asked in this scenario include: “What are the major issues? Who is involved and who is absent from the discussions? What information do people need, and how can it be best presented? What tools and approaches enable stakeholders and tribes to participate in meaningful dialogue with these...
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