The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a final policy statement on its intended approach to nuclear plant licensees as the electric industry moves toward greater competition.
I propose that a Federal Waste Disposal Commission be created to assign the allocations, modeled after the Defense Base Closure Commission. The new commission would consider the geological and other physical requirements of a facility, the amount and kinds of waste generated within the state's borders, and whether the state is already a net importer or exporter of waste.
Once a state received an allocation, it would hold the responsibility for finding a home within its borders for that waste, although a state would be free to trade with other states. Every site would have to meet minimum technical criteria for the type of facility (em depth to bedrock, distance from population centers, no siting in floodplains, and so on.
In finding facility sites, states would be encouraged to ask for volunteer communities using a compensation auction. Interested communities would receive technical assistance grants to perform their own studies of the proposal and the site. If the municipal government was satisfied that the proposed facility did not pose an unacceptable risk, there would be a public referendum. Only if the referendum passed would the facility go to that community.
Every state would have to take care of some waste stream or streams. A state that did not fulfill its responsibility would be sanctioned by being cut off: The other states would be allowed to close their borders to its waste.
This system would solve the fundamental flaws in the current siting method. States would not feel intruded upon, because every state would bear a fair share of the nation's waste disposal burden. Localities would not feel invaded, because they would only get a facility if they volunteered. t
Michael B. Gerrard is a partner in the New York City law office of Arnold & Porter, and an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School. He also chairs the environmental law section of the New York State Bar Association.
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