Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 000-000


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


For nearly twenty-five years after Congress passed the 1980 Federal Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act, Nebraska was torn by controversy over where a waste dump should be spotted in the state. The final act came in 2005, when Nebraska sent $146 million in damages to the five-state Central Compact Commission in charge of constructing the facility. Nothing was built.

Susan Cragin's book is a highly readable, well-researched, and very one-sided look at the uproar that cost all those millions of dollars, left a small Great Plains county irredeemably split, and caused years of newspaper headlines, angry meetings and hearings, and protests that verged on the violent. One side even had an arsenal of four hundred automatic weapons, ready for war. There were explosions and state troopers called out.

It seemed so simple. Congress passed a law encouraging states to join in regional compacts to find a place to bury low-level civilian nuclear waste. The nation was running out of space at designated sites, and something had to be done. Nebraska joined Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas in the Central Compact and quickly became the favored state to host the site as its two nuclear plants produced the most waste.