Nuclear Waste Disposal

Another cleanup issue that is important is that the waste is in very large volumes and this makes its transportation very difficult. There are also very large-scale implications of the potential severe human and environmental impacts that nuclear waste can have on our soil. Disposal of nuclear waste also requires a lot of technical expertise and is a very complex process and this adds to the problems. In addition, this is a relatively new thing and there is lack of experience on the part of the people who manage nuclear waste disposal.

Also involved in nuclear waste management is “a legacy of secrecy, staggering sots, a history of inequitable practices, and a jumble of intricate federal and state regulations” (Drew et al 263). The inclusion of the many decision-making entities also makes this problem more complex. These entities include ‘tribal, State, and local government agencies; regulators; citizen groups; and contractors” (Drew et al 263). Both the complexities of the process itself as well as the large number of decision makers involved makes nuclear waste disposal a very complex problem.

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It requires the cooperation from all these entities to ensure a safe and successful nuclear waste disposal programs. This article shall discuss the various ways in which everyone, including the DOE, can come together and help reach a solution that is beneficial to everyone. For the purpose of this paper, we shall consider the term ‘stakeholders. ‘ This term is defined as the people who are interested in or are affected by the U. S. DOE cleanup. Citizen groups, DOE managers and contractors, regulators, the state and local governments, and the general public are all included as ‘stakeholders’.

The tribal people feel that they are a separate part and thus they are referred to as being outside the definition of ‘stakeholders. They shall be referred to as the ‘tribes’. Some of the questions that have to be asked in this scenario include: “What are the major issues? Who is involved and who is absent from the discussions? What information do people need, and how can it be best presented? What tools and approaches enable stakeholders and tribes to participate in meaningful dialogue with these issues? ” (Drew et al 264).

The answers to these questions are extremely important as they will work to provide a framework for the improvement of the current methods and also come up with new and better ways of solving the problems. To facilitate a dialogue on this situation, the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder participation (CREEP) took part in putting together three stakeholder and tribal interactions involving nuclear waste transport. It would be relevant to note that CREEP “is a national consortium of university-based researchers operating under a grant from the DOE.

An important goal for CREEP is to improve the dialogue among decision makers, technical specialists, and interested and affected parties to create more sustainable, understandable, and acceptable nuclear waste transport decisions” (Drew et al 264). The results from these activities are presented in this paper and they provide some recommendations for DOE to make their facilities better. The Challenges of Nuclear Waste Transportation The clean up of the nuclear weapons production facilities is the responsibility of the DOE. There are some 140 sites in 26 states and territories (U.

S. DOE 1999). The sizes of these sites vary as some of them are very large while others are small, being only a few acres. The largest site is the Idaho National Environmental Engineering Laboratory (KNEEL) in southeastern Idaho, which is larger than 900 square miles. This used to be a weapon employ and has produced a very large amount of waste both in terms of volume (36 million [m. Sup. 3]) and radioactivity (1 billion CIA) (U. S. DOE AAA). The term ‘waste’ IS used to denote ” “solids or liquids that are radioactive, hazardous or both” (U . S. DOE AAA).

Waste comes in several forms, including high-level waste, transonic waste, low-level waste, mixed low-level waste, residues from mining operations called “tailings” or 1 1 e(2) by-product material, hazardous waste, and other waste” (Drew et al 265). The “high-level waste” usually emits a high level of radiation and it has the potential to be ore toxic than usual. “low level waste” emits lesser levels of radiation but that does not mean that it is safer than the “high level waste”. This is one of the reasons for confusion about nuclear waste disposal and transportation among stakeholders and tribes.

The waste first has to be stabilized by altering their physical or chemical properties, by changing the position of the waste, or by “erecting some physical or institutional barrier so that wastes are less likely to come in contact with people or the environment (examples of physical and institutional barriers are fences and deed restrictions, especially)” (Drew et al 266). The cleanup activities cost almost about $6 billion per year (fiscal year 1992- fiscal year 2002) (U . S. DOE 2000, 2002). Sometimes it is necessary for transporting the nuclear wastes and other hazardous materials from one site to another.

This is done to separate the waste from the smaller sites so that they can be closed and then used for other purposes. The Yucca Mountain, Nevada, has another special facility that is proposed for the long-term storage of high-level waste. This project is more than a decade behind schedule and may never open due to technical and political obstacles. There is a lot of intense opposition to the transportation of nuclear waste. According to many researches, the public is reported to have a very high fear of radiation risks than any other types of risk (Mills and Unshared, Slavic et al 1 979, 1991 a, 781-785, 36-39, 1603-1607).

Answers from several surveys, the public also perceives that the specific problem of waste transportation is also very problematic. “A survey of Oregon residents about transporting nuclear waste using the state highway system found that public concerns about health and safety issues were high, while confidence and trust in public officials were IoW’ (Drew et al 268). People in Idaho were found to be more concerned about the use of trucks to transport the transport nuclear waste (Macbeth and Sakes 421-427).

Feldman and Hangman surveyed neighborhoods that were very close to a radioactively contaminated site and it was found that more respondents favored off-site management of wastes than on-site management, but noted that written comments indicated a concern with exporting or transferring the problem elsewhere, ensuring the careful transport of contaminated soil while avoiding contamination of additional sites through transport (1344-1352). In the early 1 sass, the DOE realized that its nuclear waste cleanup strategy required a lot public involvement and it cannot proceed without letting the public in on the procedures and processes.

This was a good idea but there are many technical complexities that are still considered to be a barrier for meaningful perception (Probes and Lowe; Bowman). “Many researchers and decision makers believe that average citizens simply cannot understand or discuss nuclear waste transport issues, radiation hazards, or regulatory requirements” (Drew et al 270). There have been many documented examples in which the average person have been involved in solving some highly complex and intricate issues and been able to implement some change that is meaningful. Kaplan (67-83) has documented the early history of public participation activities with DOE.

He has strongly argued that the citizens are not mentally capable of handling complex situations that call for a lot of technical expertise. On the other hand, Bona et al. (35-57) have depicted that the “stakeholders can work with experts on highly technical DOE cleanup decisions to formulate recommendations. Common to these examples is a encounter effort to provide participants with at least some degree of specialized knowledge, information, or training” (Drew et al 272). The important thing here is not the public but the scientists involved in the discourse.

The scientists must try to open up their minds and think more on the lines of the nonprofessionals. They need to ask questions such as, “what information do participants need to engage in the process, who is participating currently in waste cleanup dialogues, and, perhaps more important, who is missing from the discussion? Finally, how can scientists present information in ways that foster participation? (Drew et al 272). Involving the people to contribute effectively and productively is the key here and it is up to the scientists to clarify the road for the public intervention.

After all, it is the public that fears the most and the scientists are working on new methods of safety for the publics safe. This is why public involvement is very necessary for the DOE to come up with an effective and safe nuclear waste disposal program. What Should be Done: Some Themes and Lessons The most important thing that has come up with the discourses setup by the CREEP is that the scientists need to work with stakeholders and tribes to evolve creative methods to make complex information accessible to the lay public.

The scientists should educate the public about the possible hazards of radiation exposure and at the same time disallow the wrongful and ambiguous information that many people have in their heads. The most important group of people to be targeted for this kind of education would be the workers at a nuclear facility and also the people who live close by. “Toward that end, researchers should not only continue to explore creative applications but also evaluate their contributions to public participation processes” (Drew et al 280).

A very few number of studies have been conducted on the relevance of the public participation with nuclear waste disposal programs and this is one area for future research. Some of the underrepresented groups of people might need some specialized communication efforts to ensure participation. These people can include the Spanish-speaking etc. The younger people should not be left out of this discourse either and they should also be made aware of the problems, solutions, and the need for their active role in the solutions. It is also very important to Inc dude technologically expert people from the takeovers and tribes.

These people are very important to target since they would be better able to understand the underlying problems that the DOE might be facing and thus they would be better able to help by giving their advice on the situations. Another important fact is that these experts can also disseminate the information to other people in nonprofessional terms and succeed where DOE has failed. It is difficult to have these people participate because they are very busy most of the times. In addition, many of these people felt that the issues that had to be discussed were not so important so hat they never attended.

Many people are simply not aware of or interested in the DOE cleanup because the issues are extremely complicated. Conclusion This article has discussed the various problems that the DOE faces in nuclear waste disposal and how these problems are elevated because of non- participation from the public sector. Even though many of the stakeholders and tribes are willing to participate in these issues, these people usually, believe that access to more technical information is required by them in order to make the participation effective and to make their decisions count.

In order or the participation to be meaningful, it is very important that the decision process and the technical information should be as transparent as possible and it should also be accessible to the wide range of potential participants, which means everyone from the public sector. It was also noted that the people tend to engage in productive participation when they are allowed to interact with technical experts in a small group. The government and the DOE should come up with various methods by which they can involve more public participation and also get as much input from the public as possible.

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