Nuclear Waste:

Institutional Relations Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982

RCED-87-14: Published: Feb 9, 1987. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 1987.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Keith O. Fultz
(202) 512-3678
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

In response to a congressional request to assess the Department of Energy's (DOE) relations with the states and Indian tribes that its Nuclear Waste Repository Program affects, GAO: (1) identified the states' and tribes' concerns with the program, including their level of participation in the decisionmaking process for waste sites; (2) examined the DOE program for involving states and tribes and the DOE positions on their concerns; and (3) determined what steps DOE should take to improve its program.

GAO found that the states and tribes involved in the program: (1) were concerned about the potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of siting a nuclear waste repository in their region because they did not believe that it could safely withstand groundwater seepage and other natural phenomena and prevent radiation from escaping to the surrounding environment; (2) believed that DOE restricted them from participation in making decisions that affected them, particularly in the first-repository siting process; and (3) claimed that the DOE Mission Plan was deficient and vague. GAO noted that DOE claimed that attempts to negotiate formal agreements with states and tribes have been unsuccessful because of controversial issues such as federal liability, and because states and tribes were reluctant to agree with DOE concerning nuclear waste issues. DOE cited numerous steps it took over the past 2 years to involve states and tribes in the program, including: (1) holding periodic meetings and using other means to inform states and tribes and obtain input on program activities; (2) issuing detailed comment response documents to inform states and tribes about the disposition of their comments on program documents; (3) allowing states and tribes to participate in internal DOE management groups considering environmental issues and other relevant matters; and (4) using an independent peer group to review the DOE decision-aiding methodology for repository site selection.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE completed action to provide affected states and Inian tribes access to all OCRWM coordinating group meetings. In January 1987, DOE informed the states and Indian tribes that meetings of all coordinating groups would be open to their representatives.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should take steps to improve DOE efforts to involve affected states and Indian tribes in the nuclear waste program and to enhance the overall credibility of the program by providing states and tribes access, at least on a trial basis, to all of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management's (OCRWM) coordinating group meetings.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 1987, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) submitted a proposal to DOE to review the technical portions of site characterization for the three potential sites. DOE plans to employ NAS as an independent advisory group during its site characterization, which will continue through 1994. The new amendments provide for an appointed review panel to monitor relations between Nevada and DOE.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should take steps to improve DOE efforts to involve affected states and Indian tribes in the nuclear waste program and to enhance the overall credibility of the program by employing independent advisory groups during site characterization and other program activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE pursued interim cooperational consultation agreements with Nevada, but the state declined to participate.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should take steps to improve DOE efforts to involve affected states and Indian tribes in the nuclear waste program and to enhance the overall credibility of the program by adopting a strategy of negotiating incremental agreements with the states and tribes in an effort to build a foundation for resolving controversial issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During a May 27, 1987, meeting with affected states/Indian tribes, DOE initiated discussions to arrive at a mutually acceptable redefinition of consultation/cooperation. Since then, DOE has reported to Congress that it plans to work with Nevada to establish a forum and format by which operating principles governing consultation/cooperation will be developed. Nevada has been uncooperative.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should take steps to improve DOE efforts to involve affected states and Indian tribes in the nuclear waste program and to enhance the overall credibility of the program by better defining consultation and cooperation in the Mission Plan.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Aug 11, 2014

Jul 17, 2014

Jul 11, 2014

Jun 23, 2014

Jun 9, 2014

Jun 5, 2014

May 30, 2014

May 16, 2014

May 15, 2014

May 7, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here