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The problem of complex technology in public policy design: A history and *policy evaluation of low-level radioactive waste policy in the United States

Steven Robert Bolduc, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980, as amended, provides for a regional management solution to the disposal of commercial low-level radioactive waste (LLRW). States may either act alone or form interstate compacts to dispose of LLRW. Since 1980, states collectively have spent nearly $1 billion and not one facility has been built or licensed for construction. Various studies have explained the failure of the compact approach and many argue that sufficient capacity is available at the three facilities currently operating, albeit outside the LLRW Policy Act framework. These studies have taken as given the waste classification scheme. ^ This project examines the working rules that establish the current waste taxonomy, a system premised primarily on the source of waste and not the characteristics of the waste generated. An alternate taxonomy is proposed and serves as the point of departure for discussion of a system using both storage and disposal technologies. ^ Economic, political and legal dimensions of the LLRW issue are examined. Moreover, the physical and chemical properties of the waste are brought to bear on a revised waste taxonomy. This transdisciplinary inquiry is coordinated through use of the Social Fabric Matrix. A systems dynamics software application, ithink, is used to model the system components and the relationships between such. ^ This institutional analysis clarifies the shielding and monitoring requirements of the isotopes generated, and isotope half-lives serve as a natural clock to influence both the duration and type of storage/disposal. The revised storage/disposal capacity estimates are compared to currently available capacity. Current policy contains perverse incentives to build more storage capacity than is needed; economies of scale cannot be achieved under this set of requirements. This consequence is exaggerated by free market economic principles and neo-federalist political beliefs. Holistic methodology is employed to avoid this result and to seek consistency with ecological, technological and socio-political belief criteria. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|Economics, General|Political Science, General

Recommended Citation

Bolduc, Steven Robert, "The problem of complex technology in public policy design: A history and *policy evaluation of low-level radioactive waste policy in the United States" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3022618.