Sociology, Department of


In Whose Backyard?: Concern About Sitting a Nuclear Waste Facility

Robert Benford, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Helen A. Moore, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
J. Allen Williams Jr., University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Document Type Article

Published in Sociological Inquiry, Vol. 63, No. 1, February 1993. Copyright © 1993 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713. Used by permission.


Proponents of hazardous and nuclear waste depositories label opponents to local siting of such facilities "NIMBYs" (Not In My Backyard). This study assesses the extent to which the NIMBY label and the strategies of industry proponents to reduce opposition function on a reasonable set of assumptions. Using survey data and multiple regression techniques, the levels of concern of residents living in the county selected as the site of a low level radioactive waste disposal facility (imminent threat condition) are compared with a statewide sample (hypothetical threat condition). Consistent with proponents' theoretical assumptions, the levels of concern are greater for respondents under conditions of imminent threat than of hypothetical threat. However, within the host county, levels of concern are lowest, albeit most polarized, in the community closest to the proposed site. A conflict theory approach enhances an understanding of these findings by suggesting that within the most proximate community levels of concern are lowest for citizens who stand to gain the most economic benefits from the facility but highest for those citizens who are least likely to derive tangible gains.