History, Structure, and Institutional Overview of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA) established a program to deal comprehensively with the waste byproducts of nuclear power generation, as well as defense-related radioactive wastes, if appropriate. Under this program, the Department of Energy (DOE) must locate and develop a site for disposal of high-level radioactive wastes in a geologic setting capable of isolating them and preventing adverse public and private exposure for at least 10,000 and perhaps as many as 100,000 years. An examination of the NWPA and its implementation by the DOE reveals a number of important institutional issues that should be confronted and resolved for the program to be successful. These are the subject of this paper. The author summarizes the key features of the NWPA; describes the siting process for a waste repository and recent implementation history, including accomplishment of major milestones to date; and discusses several institutional issues that remain to be resolved and that are likely to affect the program's implementation.