The Politics of Nuclear-Waste Disposal

by Paul Tarricone, Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,


Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1994, Vol. 64, Issue 3, Pg. 56-58


Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: Spurred by federal and state legislation recommending local disposal of low-level radioactive nuclear waste, the Illinois-Kentucky Compact announced plans in the mid 1980s to build a disposal facility in Illinois. The facility would hold 10 million to 15 million cu ft of waste generated by nuclear powerplants, research and medical laboratories, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. The facility was to include state-of-the-art steel and concrete vaults that would have a 50 year operating life and 560-year design life. The Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety selected the town of Martinsville to host the facility, and site approval and construction start-up were expected by mid-1991. But it never happened. By the middle of 1990, the Martinsville site was under increasing scrutiny due to claims that politics, not engineering and science, drove the selection process. The governor eventually named an independent, three-person panel to approve or reject the proposed site. The commission would hold 72 days of public hearings and in October 1992, it voted unanimously to reject Martinsville as a disposal site for low-level radioactive waste, citing numerous instances where engineering took a backseat to political considerations. New criteria is now being established and a new site will eventually be selected.

Subject Headings: Waste disposal | Radioactive wastes | Illinois | Waste storage | Site selection | Political factors

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