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Public Preferences Related to Consent-Based Siting of Radioactive Waste Management Facilities for Storage and Disposal

This report provides findings from a set of social science studies undertaken by the Center for Risk and Crisis Management (CRCM) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), which focus on public attitudes and preferences concerning the siting of nuclear repositories and interim storage facilities. Overall these studies are intended to be responsive to the recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) that US Department of Energy (DOE) learn as much as possible from prior experience. As stated by the BRC (BRC 2012: 118): "To ensure that future siting efforts are informed by past experience, DOE should build a data base of the experience that has been gained and relevant documentation produced in efforts to site nuclear waste facilities, in the United States and abroad…."

Specifically, this report describes the findings from four new studies undertaken in 2012, including (1) an Internet survey conducted in June 2012, with 2017 adult residents of the continental US focused on nuclear issues and nuclear facility siting; (2) an analysis of the outcomes of 269 cases of attempted nuclear facility siting efforts globally spanning 31 countries over 50 years; (3) trend analysis of evolving nuclear sentiment in the US, employing a total 287 questions drawn from dozens of nationwide surveys from 1973 through 2011; and (4) a time-series study, utilizing the content of social media and patterns of online information searches in 2010-2011, to analyze the changes in public attention to nuclear energy and nuclear waste that followed the Fukushima nuclear event in March of 2011. These studies add to the stock of knowledge that will facilitate the transition to a consent-based siting program for interim storage and permanent disposal facilities for used nuclear fuel (UNF) and high-level waste (HLW) in the US.