In a surprise move this week, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a series of actions it is taking to formally build a consent-based siting process for nuclear waste facilities. The announcement calls on all Americans to help in developing the process and this is a critical step toward solving the nation’s nuclear waste challenges.
According to their newly published plans, the first step will be an invitation for public comment, which will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days. Comments can also be sent to a new initiative-specific address at firstname.lastname@example.org. Following this public comment period will be a series of public meetings across the country in 2016 in which DOE will directly interact with stakeholders on the most important issues and options in a consent-based siting process. DOE will hold a kick-off meeting in January 2016 to jumpstart the process. Throughout the process the following questions will be discussed:
- How can the department ensure that the process for selecting a site is fair?
- What models and experience should the department use in designing the process?
- Who should be involved in the process for selecting a site, and what is their role?
- What information and resources do you think would facilitate your participation?
- What else should be considered?
This is a critical step toward resolving our nuclear waste management challenges. Up to this point, consent-based siting has been a buzzword, but if we can develop a guiding framework for achieving consensus we have a chance to address this problem.
The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Nuclear Waste Council is working to determine guiding principles for a consent-based siting design process. Building on the regional stakeholder outreach it conducted last year, the council is now focused on developing elements in a consent-based siting process amongst federal, state, and local authorities on nuclear waste transportation, storage, and disposal.
We look forward to sharing our findings and perspective with DOE to better inform the national dialogue on this issue.