Nuclear waste disposal: can government cope?

by Jackie L. Braitman

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With the passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the policy debate surrounding nuclear waste management shifted from broad issues of problem definition to the question of "how" to implement the provisions of the Act. Among the more important implementation questions is whether the Department of Energy (DOE) can develop the management capabilities necessary to establish waste repositories. This research examines the organizational capabilities required to site noxious facilities in the face of public opposition, and the ability of private companies and executive agencies of the federal government, such as the DOE, to develop requisite siting capabilities. The analysis draws on two cases: the DOE programs to dispose of high-level nuclear wastes, and the program of a large oil company to site petrochemical plants. The research suggests that neither a federal agency nor a private corporation can be expected to succeed in developing the necessary management capabilities. A hybrid organization must be designed in order to increase the chances of succeeding at this difficult task.

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