Status Report: Managing Low-Level Radioactive Waste in New Jersey, 1987-1998 and Beyond, June 1998
Meeting Our Responsibilities: Siting a Disposal Facility for Low-Level Radioactive Waste in New Jersey

Introduction
Background
Congress Takes Action
The Northeast Compact
The Siting Board
Board Members
Volunteers
Into the Future

Highlights of the Siting Process in New Jersey
Lessons Learned
Recommendations
Public Information Materials Produced by the Siting Board


Introduction

IN DECEMBER 1987, THE NEW JERSEY legislature passed the Regional Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility Siting Act. This legislation, which was sponsored by then-Assemblyman John Bennett (R-Monmouth), garnered bipartisan support and was signed into law by Governor Tom Kean. It was adopted to meet the mandate of federal legislation giving states responsibility for the commercial low-level radioactive waste generated within their borders that required special disposal.

The Siting Act created the Siting Board and the New Jersey Radioactive Waste Advisory Committee, each of which is comprised of unpaid volunteers selected by the Governor with the ratification of the Senate. The quasi-independent Board was given the statutory responsibility to find a site, choose a disposal technology and site operator, and oversee the construction, operation, and eventual closure of the facility. The Advisory Committee was charged with providing objective and independent advice to the Board, and reviewing all matters related to siting and developing a facility. Amendments to the Act in 1991 authorized the Board to assess and collect fees from generators of low-level radioactive waste in New Jersey to cover the costs of planning, siting, and developing a disposal facility. It was envisioned that generators would also pay all costs related to operating and closing the facility, including monitoring and protection measures, and the compensation and benefits that were to be given to the host community.

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Background

In the earliest years of the development of nuclear technologies, disposal of radioactive waste was the responsibility of the Atomic Energy Commission, the predecessor agency to the federal Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In the 1950s, several companies had also been licensed to dispose of commercially generated low-level radioactive waste at sea.

With the growth of non-military applications of nuclear technologies, the AEC announced in 1960 that "regional" land disposal sites for commercially generated low-level waste should be established by the private sector. The sites would be located on government-owned land and would be licensed and regulated by government agencies.

In response to this policy, six commercially operated shallow-land disposal facilities were licensed and operated in the United States-in Beatty, Nevada; Maxey Flats, Kentucky; West Valley, New York; Richland, Washington; Sheffield, Illinois; and Barnwell, South Carolina. The Beatty facility, which opened in 1962, was the first to begin operations; the Barnwell facility, opened in 1971, was the last. Three of the facilities (Maxey Flats, West Valley, and Sheffield) closed in the late 1970s. Water management problems led to the closing of West Valley in 1975 and Maxey Flats two years later; in 1978, Sheffield was closed after the operator experienced lengthy delays with its NRC license renewal; Sheffield’s operator had requested an increase in the lifetime and capacity of its original 20-acre tract, a request that was denied by the NRC because of the discovery of far more permeable sand and other coarse-grained deposits than had been found in the original site investigation. The Beatty facility closed to radioactive waste in December 1992 in accordance with an agreement between the Governor of Nevada and the Rocky Mountain Compact Board.

The problems experienced in the developmental years of commercial low-level waste disposal led to the recognition that the regulations controlling the licensing of radioactive materials did not contain sufficient technical standards or criteria. More comprehensive standards, technical criteria, and licensing requirements were needed for the selection of disposal site locations, the form and characteristics of waste allowed for disposal, and operational practices.

In 1982, the NRC added a new part to Title 10 Code of Federal Regulations: Part 61, Licensing Requirements for Land Disposal of Radioactive Wastes. This regulation established a series of performance objectives and technical and financial requirements which a disposal site and site operator must meet in order to ensure public health, safety, and long-term protection of the environment. The regulation established four performance objectives: to protect the general population from releases of radioactivity; to protect workers during site operations; to protect any individual who inadvertently enters a disposal site after the site is closed; and to ensure long-term stability at disposal sites to eliminate the need for ongoing active maintenance after closure.    

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Congress Takes Action

In the late 1970s, the National Governors’ Association and the Congress began to look into the disposal situation at the urging of the governors of Washington, Nevada, and South Carolina. In 1979, the governors of Washington and Nevada temporarily closed their states’ facilities to waste generated outside their borders, and threatened permanent closure if the federal government did not make provisions for future low-level radioactive waste disposal and a more equitable distribution of disposal responsibility.

Consequently, Congress enacted the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2021b et seq., which made states responsible for disposing of their own commercial low-level waste and set forth the federal policy that waste disposal is best handled on a regional basis. This waste does not include low-level radioactive waste produced by the U. S. Department of Energy or waste generated by the federal government from the production of nuclear weapons. Nor does it include low-level radioactive waste that has the highest concentrations of radioactivity. Disposal responsibility for all of these wastes rests with the federal government.

Recognizing that the critical issues were access as well as equity, the Act also encouraged states to enter into regional alliances, or "compacts," for the purpose of siting disposal facilities, and established January 1, 1986 as the deadline after which a compact could exclude waste generated beyond its boundaries. Compacts, which had to be constituted between two or more states, were to be approved by Congress; unaffiliated states could not form a compact unilaterally, nor could they exclude waste from outside their boundaries.

As it became clear that only those compacts having existing disposal facilities would be able to meet the 1986 deadline, the National Governors’ Association sent another proposal to Congress, which led to the passage in 1985 of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2021d et seq. This legislation extended the operation of the three existing disposal sites to December 31, 1992; established specific milestones states had to meet in order to maintain access to the facilities operating at the time; set up strong incentives to encourage states without sites to site, license, and construct facilities; and gave congressional approval to seven compacts-Central, Central Midwest, Midwest, Northeast, Rocky Mountain, Southeast, and Northwest. In subsequent congressional sessions, two additional compacts-the Appalachian and the Southwestern-were ratified. The Texas Compact, comprised of Texas, Maine, and Vermont, awaits action by a conference committee to resolve differences in the language approving this compact. Today, all but six states-New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and South Carolina-along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia are members of the ten compacts ratified by Congress since the passage of the Amendments Act.

The most controversial part in the Amendments Act was its "take-title" provision. This required states unable to provide for disposal capacity by January 1, 1993 to take legal title to all low-level radioactive waste generated within their borders at the request of the waste generator; it was intended as the ultimate incentive to encourage states to site regional facilities. This portion of the Act was declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1992 on a challenge brought by New York and two of its counties. The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the rest of the Act.

On January 1, 1993, the three states with operating disposal facilities were no longer required to continue accepting waste from outside the borders of their compacts. On that date, Nevada closed its Beatty facility. Washington continued the operation of its Richland facility, accepting waste only from the Northwest and Rocky Mountain Compacts. South Carolina continued to accept waste from some states outside its compact, including New Jersey, through June 30, 1994, when it closed Barnwell to all but Southeast Compact members. Access had been allowed under contract, provided that states were judged by the Southeast Compact to be making adequate progress in siting their own disposal facilities.

One year later, the South Carolina Legislature reopened Barnwell to all states except North Carolina, excluding its neighbor ostensibly because it had not fulfilled its commitment to the Southeast Compact to have a disposal facility in operation by 1995. The reopening of Barnwell has allowed for continued disposal of waste from New Jersey through the present. This arrangement, which exists on a year-to-year basis, is complicated by substantial financial requirements of the state of South Carolina that has led Chem-Nuclear, the operator of the Barnwell facility, to float some long-term proposals that would permit the facility to operate for at least another twenty years. The response to the proposals by generators thus far, in New Jersey and elsewhere, has been tepid at best.

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The Northeast Compact

In the wake of the passage of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act, representatives of the Coalition of Northeast Governors, an organization representing eleven states, negotiated the framework for the Northeast Compact, of which New Jersey is a member. Over an 18-month period, a series of public meetings were conducted to develop the provisions of the compact. This task was completed in 1983, and the legislation establishing the compact was sent to the governors of the eleven states. However, the legislatures of only four states-

New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland-adopted the legislation. After the passage of the Amendments Act of 1985, Delaware and Maryland decided to join the Appalachian Compact, with the understanding that Pennsylvania was to be the first host state for the low-level waste generated by compact members.   

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The Siting Board

New Jersey’s Siting Board was appointed in 1988 and held its first meeting that September. The Board initially retained the services of Association Management Corporation, a professional management firm, to handle the various administrative functions of the Board’s operations. During this time, the Board developed Requests for Proposals both for technical services related to statewide screening and siting, and for public information, a critical component of the siting effort.

As the Board hired a small staff, headed by Samuel Penza, and engaged consultants, it also developed siting criteria. Acting upon the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, the Board adopted performance-based rather than prescriptive criteria: the Board emphasized what was to be protected, rather than how to protect it.

The legislation that created the Siting Board, modeled largely after the state’s hazardous waste siting commission legislation, envisioned a "top-down" approach to siting a disposal facility. This traditional method was to be geographically neutral: Technical consultants would apply the siting criteria across the state, narrowing potential candidates to 18–20 geologically diverse sites around the state. Then in open public forums, the Board would further narrow down the field to six sites-without knowing the specific locations. These would become public only when the Board notified the respective towns that land within their jurisdiction had been designated for preliminary analysis and evaluation, or "site characterization." The goal was to ultimately reduce the field to three for preliminary characterization and then choose one.

As part of the siting effort, the Board placed emphasis on statewide and regional outreach to civic, professional, and governmental groups across the state. In addition to seeking and generating media coverage of the issues and its activities, the Board exhibited at conventions and placed articles in various organizational publications; spoke before a variety of interested groups; and began producing a variety of public informational materials (a selection appears in the Appendix on page XX). In addition, anticipating that generators would have to begin interim storage of low-level radioactive waste after January 1, 1993, the Board worked closely with generators to ensure that the transition from out-of- state disposal to on-site storage would go smoothly.

Reviewing the experiences of other states as well as provinces in Canada, it soon became apparent to members of the Board that the top-down approach did not augur well for a successful siting process. As New Jersey was preparing to notify municipal officials that it was about to initiate statewide screening, Connecticut, which had employed this methodology, announced its proposed sites to a chorus of outrage. Public outcry led to political roadblocks. New Jersey’s Board made a sobering assessment of the lack of progress on this issue nationally, and concluded that even when this type of process produces a site, it leads to controversy and acrimony and time-consuming lawsuits. In addition, the Board felt that the top-down method rarely allowed all the people potentially affected by the facility to get meaningful information and answers to their questions and concerns before a decision has been made. So, beginning in the fall of 1992, the Board charged the Advisory Committee with developing a blueprint for siting a disposal facility using a different type of decision-making process: a voluntary approach to siting.

To accomplish its mandate, the Advisory Committee embarked on an 18-month effort, studying siting initiatives in the United States and in Canada, meeting with numerous groups and individuals across the state thought to have a stake in the siting of a disposal facility, and commissioning sessions with focus groups to further refine how to give the voluntary approach the best chance for success in New Jersey. Emergency responders, municipal officials, and planners, as well as representatives of environmental groups, labor organizations, and facilities generating low-level radioactive waste provided valuable input. After listening to all of them, and motivated by the desire to create a flexible yet environmentally sound approach to siting the disposal facility, the Advisory Committee recommended a process which it felt would encourage communities to consider volunteering a site for the facility. New Jersey generators, it should be noted, actively worked with the Board, and even formed their own organization, the New Jersey Radioactive Materials Management Group.

In grappling with the issues associated with siting a disposal facility in New Jersey, the Board anticipated that concerns about local property values in a potential host community would be a key consideration. The Board commissioned the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Rutgers University to gather information to help the Board in designing a comprehensive multi-purpose assistance program for the host community that would address mitigation, compensation, and incentives.

In June 1994, the Board published its Proposed Voluntary Siting Plan, and during the summer and fall of 1994 sponsored a series of public meetings and hearings at locations across the state. Public comments on the proposed plan endorsed the idea of a voluntary approach. The Board revised the plan-without changing or compromising siting criteria-based on the suggestions it received both at the meetings and in writing, and adopted New Jersey’s Voluntary Plan for Siting a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility at its public meeting on February 2, 1995.

The Board’s efforts were spurred in 1994-95 when the disposal facility at Barnwell, South Carolina closed to all but members of the Southeast Compact. This development left generators with no option but to store all of their low-level waste on site. The emerging crisis passed when a newly elected administration in South Carolina decided to reopen Barnwell to states outside the compact, charging them a hefty surcharge for the privilege of burying their waste in the sands of Barnwell County.   

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Board Members

List of past and present Siting Board, Advisory Committee and Staff

Volunteers

Implementing the voluntary siting plan meant a focused, concentrated effort at public outreach and public information. New Board Executive Director John Weingart criss-crossed the state, speaking to a wide variety of groups, from Rotary Clubs to planning associations to governmental entities. Bolstering its initial public information effort, the Board began publishing a quarterly news update, disseminating that publication along with several brochures and reports to public officials, waste generators, environmentalists and other interested parties throughout the state. The Board set up a Web page on the Internet to assist in its effort to effectively disseminate information to anyone with interest in the issues. The Board solicited doctors, scientists, and educators from across the state to sign a statement that "A disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste would be a safe neighbor." The Board’s efforts continued to generate generally positive media coverage.

It was the guarantee of $2 million a year over the projected 50-year operating life of the disposal facility that spurred interest in dozens of communities. This amount was derived from quantifying an approximation of the host community benefits included by the Legislature in the Siting Act. In several instances, preliminary discussions indicated that a particular site or community would not meet the stringent requirements for the facility, i.e., the community was located in the Pinelands, or a possible site was in a 100-year flood plain. Discussions with those communities ceased.

Over the three years during which the voluntary approach was actively pursued by the Board, many individuals sought information to help them determine whether or not hosting the disposal facility might be a good idea for their municipality. In sixteen towns, the possibility gained enough public interest to inspire attention in the local and regional press. In fourteen of those communities, local officials began public processes intended to fully explore whether or not they should volunteer to host the disposal facility.

The difficulty the Board ran up against time and again, however, was fear-fear that having a disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste in a town would decrease property values; that it would cause irreparable harm to people’s health and well-being; that it would irredeemably pollute the environment as well as disrupt the relative tranquillity of the community; and that claims and promises by government officials-as well as the expertise of scientists and engineers-to the contrary could not be trusted. In most of the towns in which the issue was raised, fear led to opposition so immediate and intense that local officials who had supported studying the possibility felt compelled to end the study process within weeks-or at most three months-of its inception. The other potential volunteer towns were eliminated by the Board because preliminary examination indicated that they had no available locations likely to meet the stringent siting criteria.

To spur its efforts to get all the facts on the table so that people in a community could decide if considering the possibility of volunteering to host New Jersey’s disposal facility was an option worth pursuing, the Board commissioned the New Jersey Office of Dispute Settlement to compile a Sourcebook on Low-Level Radioactive Waste, which lists organizations with various points of view that could offer speakers and/or literature on the subject. The Board funded the Environmental Sciences Training Center at Rutgers University to research and produce a series of Fact Sheets on radioactive materials and low-level radioactive waste. The Board funded the New Jersey League of Women Voters’ Education Fund to compile an informational handbook, to produce a videotape that explored the various facets of siting, and to organize and co-sponsor, with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and Rutgers, workshops designed to explore the issues.

In towns in which interest was expressed to learn more, the Board displayed its exhibit in municipal buildings. In some towns, it co-sponsored Open Houses at which organizations with various viewpoints on the use of radioactive materials and the siting of a disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste could be heard. (The Board learned fairly early on not to hold or attend a large public meeting as its first point of contact with many members of a community, since those meetings shed more heat than light.)

Although many residents of the communities that invited the Board to speak were interested in learning the facts as a prelude to making an informed decision, many of their fellow residents already had their minds made up: Not In My Back Yard! Discussion of the facts-and the not inconsiderable benefits that the host community would receive-became irrelevant. Demands that town officials cease considering the possibility not only of hosting but even of learning the facts quickly became so loud and persistent that even town officials who were absolutely convinced that the disposal facility would be safe and beneficial decided that intense local controversy over a two-year study period was too high a price to pay.

One of the difficulties that became apparent in several communities that expressed initial interest in learning more about the issues and the process was the inability of sponsors, working with the Board, to create an inclusive forum for meaningful public discussion. A second problem that proved insurmountable was the inability of sponsors to develop a vocal core group of followers who would advocate at least having the opportunity to learn and evaluate the facts and explore different points of view before rendering judgment on whether or not hosting the disposal facility might be right for their community. Almost by definition, people who believed this idea would cause cancer in their community acted with far more passion than those who thought this a potentially interesting economic development option.

In Carneys Point (Salem County), the last community to make an effort to learn about the issues, the Board, at the behest of town leaders, agreed to offer up to $750,000 up front in incentive money-money that would go to the town without obligation just to learn about the issues in the course of a 16-month process. Despite the hopes of the town’s Economic Development Commission, which had spearheaded the town’s interest, public comment against the proposal-at community meetings, in letters to the editor-undercut and quickly curtailed the development of any meaningful public dialogue.   

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Into the Future

Since the passage of the Siting Act, generators have made substantial efforts to reduce the volume, if not the activity, of the low-level waste that is the unavoidable by-product of the products and processes that use radioactive materials. At the same time, they have each constructed or designated space on-site capable of temporarily storing all the waste they expect to generate for at least five years. Many do, in fact, have a considerably longer storage capability; GPU Nuclear’s power plant at Oyster Creek can, if necessary, store all of the low-level waste it generates up until the time the plant is decommissioned. In addition, other developments nationally might expand the out-of-state disposal options for New Jersey generators. These developments, along with the dramatic reduction in waste volume in New Jersey, which call into question the economic viability at this time of building a disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste generated exclusively in New Jersey, led the Board to suspend active siting efforts.

Although active siting has ceased, the Board does anticipate continuing its efforts to monitor and track national developments in the management of low-level radioactive waste. Currently, two privately operated facilities-Barnwell in South Carolina and Envirocare in Utah-service New Jersey generators. Other private firms are seeking to open disposal sites in Colorado and Utah. And the possibility remains that disposal facilities may open in Texas and California. In addition, various private interests are exploring new technologies to treat and/or consolidate waste products. The progress of these efforts may reduce or even eliminate the need for additional disposal facilities in New Jersey and elsewhere. The Board expects to actively monitor-and keep the Governor, legislators, and generators apprised of-these and any other emergent developments, as well as the elimination of, or obstacles encountered by, once-promising technologies and options.

As Board Chairman Paul Wyszkowski cautioned in a letter to the Governor in the wake of the Board’s vote in February 1998 to suspend the active siting effort, although "the Siting Board continues to believe that a disposal facility for low- level radioactive waste would provide a safe, light industrial addition to New Jersey’s economic base...we want to stress that the problem the Board was created to address has not been solved; New Jersey’s utilities, industries, hospitals, research labs and universities do not have a secure long-term disposal option for the low-level radioactive waste they generate. While this is not a current crisis, it does require continued attention and vigilance."

And education. To fulfill its legislative mandate, the Board expects to expand its public education effort concerning the management of low-level radioactive waste. Although sound and safe management technologies now exist for handling, storing, and disposing of this waste, the general public has not reached a level of understanding and confidence that this can be accomplished in a manner that protects public health and safety.

The Board remains firm in its belief that the voluntary siting process would eventually have led to one or more municipalities in the state to choose to host the disposal facility. The Board also has profited from lessons it has learned that should be of value not only when, and if, the siting process is revived, but that should have relevance to officials and citizens grappling with other controversial land-use issues as well.   

NOTES

The following sources were cited in compiling this narrative:

Directions in Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management: A Brief History of Commercial Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal, published in August 1994 by the National Low-Level Waste Management Program.

Perspectives: Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management, published by the U. S. Department of Energy.

The Northeast Compact: An Interstate Agreement for Regional Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management, published in April 1995 by the Northeast Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission.

"What Regulations Govern the Siting of a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility?", one of 18 Fact Sheets researched, written, produced, and disseminated by the Environmental Sciences Training Center of Rutgers University under contract to the New Jersey Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility Siting Board.

New Jersey’s Voluntary Plan for Siting a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility, produced and published in March 1995 by the New Jersey Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility Siting Board.

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Highlights of the Siting Process in New Jersey

1980: At the behest of the Governors of three states which were then the repositories for all of the low-level radioactive waste generated in the country, and at the urging of the National Governors’ Association, Congress passes legislation that gives the states the responsibility for the disposal of the low-level waste generated within their borders. The law encourages the formation of interstate "compacts," or associations, to cooperate in managing and disposing of low-level radioactive waste on a regional basis. The law offers compacts approved by Congress the authority to restrict use of their regional disposal facilities to waste generated within the respective regions.

1985: The law is amended to spur movement on the part of the states, requiring states and compact regions not having disposal facilities to meet specific milestones and deadlines leading to the operation of new disposal facilities by 1993 and extending the operation of the three existing disposal sites through December 1992.

IN NEW JERSEY:

1983: New Jersey enacts the Northeast Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Compact Act.

January ‘86: The Northeast Compact is ratified by Congress. In addition to New Jersey and Connecticut, original members of the compact include Delaware and Maryland, which later defect and join the Appalachian Compact.

December ‘87: New Jersey and Connecticut are each designated by the Compact to host disposal facilities. The Regional Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility Siting Act becomes law.

August ‘88: The 11-member Siting Board and 13-member Advisory Committee on Radioactive Waste are constituted, having been appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate.

July ‘89: The Board hires Samuel Penza as its executive director and begins assembling a staff.

August ‘89: The Board awards a contract to EBASCO (later acquired by the Foster Wheeler Environmental Corporation) as its site research consultant, and to Holt, Ross and Yulish as public affairs consultant.

October ‘89: The Board, the Northeast Compact, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection meet with generators to discuss the siting process and the upcoming federal milestones. This is the first of many meetings with generators.

November ‘89: The Board issues preliminary siting criteria and conducts public hearings. These are the first of several sets of public forums designed to get public input into the siting process.

January ‘90: Public hearings are conducted on revised siting criteria and the proposed waste disposal plan.

March ‘90: The Board approves a "geographically neutral’ approach for screening and selecting sites for characterization

April ‘90: The Board adopts the final Siting Criteria Report, which lays out the criteria a disposal site must meet.

May ‘90: The Board adopts the Waste Disposal Plan, mandated by the Siting Act, which discusses waste projections, the decommissioning of the four nuclear power plants in New Jersey, and issues surrounding the transportation of low-level radioactive waste.

August ‘90: The Board sends Insight, the first in a series of quarterly newsletters, to officials across the state.

November ‘90: The Board begins its public outreach effort with an information booth at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities convention. This is the first of many such appearances by the Board-before civic, environmental, governmental, and educational groups-the goal of which is to familiarize community leaders with the issues of low-level radioactive waste disposal, the role of the Board in effecting a solution for New Jersey, and the mechanics of the siting process.

April ‘91: The Board sponsors forums held at Cook College, Rutgers University, aimed at giving local officials and health officers background information about low-level waste and the siting effort in New Jersey, and getting feedback from these leaders on the issues.

June ‘91: The Siting Act is amended, with the active support of generators, authorizing the Board to assess and collect fees from generators for all costs related to the Board’s operation, including site selection and construction.

December ‘91: The Board conducts public hearings on its proposed fee assessment rule.

February ‘92: The Board adopts its fee assessment rule. The Board and Advisory Committee commence discussions concerning a voluntary siting program, and establish a subcommittee to explore the feasibility of such an approach.

May ‘92: The Siting Board sends its first fee assessment bills totaling just under $13 million, to generators.

June ‘92: Generators organize as the New Jersey Radioactive Materials Management Group.

The United States Supreme Court declares the "take-title" provision in the federal siting act unconstitutional, but reaffirms all other provisions of the law.

The Board addresses the Environ-mental Commission in East Amwell Township (Hunterdon County) after officials express interest in learning more about siting the disposal facility. In the wake of the meeting, township officials decide to proceed no further.

July ‘92: The Board directs EBASCO to cease screening activities under its original site selection methodology pending development of a voluntary siting program.

September ‘92: The Advisory Committee begins to develop a blueprint for implementing a voluntary approach to siting. working with the Office of Dispute Settlement, a unit of the Department of the Public Advocate.

October ‘92: The Board holds the first of twelve meetings with interest groups across the state, consulting with them on how the Board might structure a voluntary approach to siting the disposal facility. These meetings were facilitated by the Office of Dispute Settlement and the New Jersey League of Women Voters.

November ‘92: The Northeast Compact executes an agreement with the Southeast Compact for continued access to the disposal facility in Barnwell County, South Carolina through June 1994.

The Star-Ledger runs a series of front-page articles on low-level radioactive waste and its disposal.

December ‘92: The Board adopts a policy statement on "seeking a volunteer community to host a disposal facility as an alternate Site Identification Methodology."

March ‘93: Northeast Compact partner Connecticut makes a surprise offer of $100 million to the Texas legislature to become part of a compact being contemplated by Texas. The offer is rejected.

April ‘93: The Board approves a fee assessment of generators of $2.5 million.

May ‘93: Siting Board Executive Director informs the Northeast Compact of New Jersey’s displeasure with Connecticut’s unilateral action to attempt to join a compact with Texas.

June ‘93: The first working draft of the voluntary siting plan prepared by the Advisory Committee is presented to the Board for input.

October ‘93: The Board and Advisory Committee hold a workshop with experts in the siting of waste facilities to finalize the guiding principles of the voluntary siting approach.

January ‘94: The Board approves a resolution adopting a voluntary approach to siting the disposal facility and seeking public input into this approach prior to final adoption in September ’94.

June ‘94: A five-month comment period on the proposed voluntary siting plan begins.

Sam Penza, Executive Director of the Board since 1989, retires.

July ‘94: The disposal facility in Barnwell, South Carolina, to which New Jersey generators had been sending their waste, closes to all states outside the Southeast Compact. On-site interim storage begins in New Jersey.

September ‘94: John R. Weingart is named the new Executive Director of the Board.

November ‘94: The Environmental Commission in Mansfield (Warren County) votes to invite Board representatives to attend a meeting. Before the invitation is sent, however, local opposition causes the invitation to be rescinded.

February ‘95: The Board adopts the Voluntary Siting Plan.

March ‘95: Board staff gives a presentation to a standing-room only crowd in a too-small room in Roosevelt (Monmouth County).

As the Board is speaking with Roosevelt officials, someone in Montgomery Township (Somerset County) misinterprets a talk by the Siting Board Executive Director before the local Rotary Club as an indication that there might be local interest in exploring the voluntary process. He anonymously prints up flyers, which generate several local news stories.

April ‘95: The Environmental Commission of Roosevelt, which had extended the invitation to the Board, votes 6-0 in support of a study, but the Town Council votes 4-2 to cease any consideration of hosting the disposal facility.

Copies of a new Board publication describing the Voluntary Siting Process is sent to legislators, mayors, health officers, municipal clerks, and environmental commissions of every town, borough, and city in the state.

May ‘95: The Mayor of Elsinboro publicly suggests that the township consider volunteering. After meeting with the township engineer and examining area maps, Board staff conclude that no potentially suitable sites appeared to be available within the town’s borders.

June ‘95: The Board adopts the Voluntary Site Evaluation Methodology.

In response to the dissemination of the voluntary plan, the Township Committee of Alloway (Salem County) meets with Board staff.

July ‘95: The disposal facility in Barnwell reopens to all states except North Carolina, as South Carolina withdraws from the Southeast Compact, angered at the slow pace of development of a new disposal facility in North Carolina.

Officials in Alloway (Salem County) and a landowner with property straddling Hamburg and Hardyston (Sussex County) express interest in learning more about the voluntary process.

August ‘95: The Sussex County chapter of the League of Women Voters schedules an Open House in Hamburg. Two days before the event, the Hamburg Council votes to prohibit the use of any municipal building for such an event, causing the League to postpone. The neighboring community of Hardyston votes to oppose the siting of a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility on or near its borders. Sussex freeholders adopt a resolution opposing locating a disposal facility anywhere in Sussex County. No public meetings are held with the Board.

Board staff makes a presentation before the Ruritan Club in Alloway.

September ‘95: The Alloway Township Committee, responding to public disapproval voiced in petitions and meetings, votes to discontinue its investigation of the possibility of siting a disposal facility in the township.

November ‘95: A new question-and-answer booklet is mailed to all mayors, environmental commission, planning boards and others across the state on the Board’s mailing list. This becomes the best and most widely disseminated introduction to the Voluntary Siting Process.

December ‘95: During public meetings, Planning Board officials in Springfield (Burlington County) discuss looking into the issues.

January ‘96: Public hearings are held in Trenton, Jersey City, and Glassboro on the 1996 Disposal Plan Update.

February ‘96: Ten community leaders from Springfield visit Barnwell on an information- gathering mission before their town decides whether or not to explore the possibilities of volunteering to host New Jersey’s disposal facility.

March ‘96: A workshop on low-level radioactive waste, funded by the Siting Board, is co-sponsored by The League of Women Voters of New Jersey Education Fund, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, and Rutgers University. It attracts more than 200 participants.

Board staff begin developing a Request for Proposal for a private company to design, build, and operate the disposal facility.

The Board adopts the Preliminary Site Investigation Program for Evaluating a Potential Site for New Jersey’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility.

The Town Council in Pennsville (Salem County) passes a resolution requesting the Siting Board to advise them if they have any suitable land. The Board replies that they do not. The township suggests it may offer additional information for the Board’s consideration.

Lower Township (Cape May County) forms a committee to look into the siting process. After a meeting at which the Board’s Executive Director speaks, the municipal council votes to take no further action at this time.

April ‘96: The Springfield Township Planning Board votes to take no further action regarding a study to learn about the issues, as over 200 residents attend a meeting in which this issue is not even on the agenda.

The Board approves the Update to the New Jersey Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Plan.

May ‘96: Representatives of five more towns, including Commercial Township (Cumberland County), contact the Siting Board. In some cases, Board staff inform the caller that his/her town could not be the site for the disposal facility because it is in the Pinelands, or in a 100-year flood plain, or not enough acreage is available. One of them-Fairfield (Cumberland County)-begins an active public exploration of learning about the issues with an eye towards volunteering.

July ‘96: The Board issues a Request for Information to solicit guidance that would enable staff to develop the RFP for a company to design, license, operate, and close a disposal facility.

Board staff brings a model of the proposed disposal facility and its exhibit to Fairfield (Cumberland County) at the request of the township Environmental Commission. Officials in Fairfield form a group of residents to study the issues.

August ‘96: The Fairfield Town Committee unexpectedly votes to end looking into the process.

September ‘96: The Board adopts the Site Characterization Program for Evaluating a Potential Site for New Jersey’s Low-Level Radio- active Waste Disposal Facility.

October ‘96: The Board sends a letter to the Northeast Compact Commission asking that $500,000 in federal rebate money be made available as an upfront incentive to a potential host community. This request is made to the Commission because the New Jersey Siting Act does not appear to permit the Board itself to make grants to interested communities.

November ‘96: The Environmental Commission in Bethlehem Township (Hunterdon County) contacts the Board.

December ‘96: A workshop designed for local officials, entitled "Weighing More Facts: Municipal Issues in Low-Level Waste Management," co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters Education Fund, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, and Rutgers University, is held at Rowan University in Glassboro. The focus of the conference is how to balance community concerns and options in discussing tough public land-use issues, and how to initiate community dialogue.

January ‘97: Open Houses are held in Bethlehem Township. A subsequent review of potential sites by staff and a state geologist determines that no site in the township has the requisite characteristics that would make it viable for the disposal facility. The Board sends a letter to Bethlehem, formally ending the discussion. Subsequently, the Bethlehem Town Council also ceases the exploratory process.

March ‘97: Officials in Delaware Township (Hunterdon County) publicly discuss learning about the issues to possibly consider volunteering.

April ‘97: The Delaware Township Committee votes to send the Board a letter expressing "no further interest" in pursuing the idea.

May ‘97: South Harrison Township (Gloucester County) forms a study group to begin looking into the issues. The township committee sends a letter to all residents informing them of its action. An Open House is held. Four days later, the Township Committee votes to end the process.

The Northeast Compact approves the proposal to make $500,000 available to a municipality identified by the Siting Board.

September ‘97: Revisions to the Preliminary Site Investigation Program, which reflect a revised management schedule to better meet the needs of a potential host community, are adopted by the Board.

October ‘97: Chem-Nuclear, which operates the disposal facility in Barnwell, acknowledges a shortfall in the anticipated volume of low-level radioactive waste it will receive. Since payments it owes to the state of South Carolina are fixed by law, this means Chem-Nuclear will have to raise almost $7 million to meet its obligations to the state. This impels a plan to sell most of the remaining space at the Barnwell facility now for future disposal for $235 a cubic foot plus usage costs.

December ‘97: Following preliminary discussions with the Carneys Point Economic Development Commission, the Siting Board votes to enter into a contract with Carneys Point (Salem County) for an amount not to exceed $750,000 for "all reasonable expenses" that would be incurred as the township considers all aspects of volunteering to host the disposal facility. The EDC mails a newsletter to every town resident and holds a public meeting.

Two weeks later, the Township Committee votes to cease the siting process.

February ‘98: The Siting Board votes to suspend the siting process, citing the continued though unpredictable availability of out-of-state disposal combined with a dramatic reduction in the volume of waste generated.

The Board de-authorizes its contract with the Carneys Point EDC and reimburses Carneys Point for the $47,000 it incurred in expenses.

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Lessons Learned
  • "Radioactive Waste Disposal" is a double whammy, a deadly designation. "Radioactive" strikes a chord of fear to generations nurtured on the images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. And no one wants "waste disposal" in their backyard, no matter how benign the waste may be or how beneficial a disposal facility may be to a community.
  • Ignorance about the beneficial role of radioactive materials in our society is rife among the general public. At the same time, there is little understanding of the realistic risks of exposure to small amounts of radiation-and little willingness to assume responsibility for the waste that results during the processes that use nuclear materials.
  • Most opposition in New Jersey resulted from spontaneous, gut-level fear on the part of a plurality of residents in a community that announced it was looking into the issue. Opposition was neither created nor stirred up by organized opposition groups. National opposition groups, particularly NIRS, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, did provide informational materials, arguments, and anecdotes that, particularly with the growing use of the Internet, was quickly disseminated in each town. Many of the "facts" cited by these groups seemed to be half-truths and misrepresentations based on their belief that all nuclear power plants should be shut down immediately.
  • If siting a disposal facility in any town is to have a shot, proponents who want to learn about the issues must be identified-and be willing to be vocal and visible. They need not be convinced that they want their community to host the facility but only to have the opportunity to uncover the facts, then make up their own minds on the whether or not to volunteer.
  • It is important to work closely with community leaders to develop a plan-and to plan a series of mailings, forums, and events-to let residents know about the interest community leaders have in exploring the issues.
  • Getting people to discuss an issue that has a legacy of misinformation and mistrust, an issue that has been demonized in the popular culture, takes an extraordinary effort to address public fears and apprehensions.
  • Commencing any public dialogue at a large meeting is a tactical blunder. Those opposed to the idea of siting can shout down advocates of learning about the issues. A dialogue on the facts gets subsumed by the emotion of the encounter.
  • Proponents in favor of initiating a dialogue need a good reason to stand up to the arguments of those who don’t want to even discuss the issues, and to endure a lengthy debate and a heated controversy.
  • Communities may want to see money up front if they are to go through a wrenching and cantankerous public process/dialogue, and they may deserve such funds simply for agreeing to try to help solve a state problem. Elected officials and other community leaders cannot be expected to take flak for something for which, even if ultimately successful, their successors will reap all the benefits. And the public cannot be expected to trust that the benefits will be forthcoming without seeing tangible gains now.
  • Community leaders-even those with experience in dealing with difficult and controversial public issues-are not prepared for the scope and depth of fear and anger that surfaces when people think that a facility for radioactive waste might be sited in their backyard.
  • Speaking of backyards, in a small, densely populated state like New Jersey, nobody wants anything built near them, certainly not in their backyard. And the opposition-it is a lot easier to be opposed to a controversial proposal than it is to be willing to learn about it-often is more significant than the specifics of the proposal.
  • Given the dramatic decrease in the volume of waste generated in New Jersey, it does not appear economically viable at this time to build a disposal facility for New Jersey’s waste alone. The problem of securing a safe, dependable, long-term disposal option for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste generated in New Jersey remains. If New Jersey is to restart a siting process at some point in the future, it should consider designing a facility to accept waste from Connecticut as well as New Jersey generators-and perhaps from other states as well.

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Recommendations
  • The State should take an active lead in developing or sponsoring a program to help educate citizens about the benefits we as a society enjoy from the use of radioactive materials; the risks we face by exposure to radiation; the risks we face not only by the use of radioactive materials but the dangers we face by not using them or not providing for their proper disposal; the potential for new uses for radioactive materials in the future (along with the incumbent risk); the need for society to take responsibility for the waste we produce.
  • When and if the need to site a disposal facility reemerges, this educative process can provide a critical underpinning for any rational discussion of the issue of how we must deal with low-level radioactive waste. Education can be accomplished on several fronts simultaneously: giving presentations before such groups as science teachers, school administrators, public officials, and environmental organizations; developing an education module that can be adapted in science classes at appropriate grade levels; holding conferences and workshops on the issue of low-level radioactive waste.
  • It is tempting but naive to say, "Let’s work with the media to increase public awareness." The reality is that coverage is generated by news, i.e., when a community announces it is actively considering hosting a disposal facility. But feature coverage of the generic issues can be encouraged by creatively reaching out to environmental reporters with "hooks" on which they might hang a story.
  • Because "radioactive waste disposal" is, to too many citizens, a triple whammy that precludes informed, give-and-take debate, a change in the name of the Siting Board that stresses "management"-and one that entails less cumbersome terminology-could prove helpful.
  • The entity charged with siting a disposal facility must have the flexibility to make decisions and negotiate with municipalities. This effort will be enhanced if

- the Board can reimburse in a timely manner expenses incurred by a community looking into the possibility of volunteering;

- the Board is formally endowed with the authority to offer and provide incentive or reward money to a community during the process of consideration, which may be as important as the promise of money down the line once the disposal facility is operational;

- the Board remains a quasi-independent body;

- Board staff remain independent, hired by and reporting to the Siting Board not only so that they have a mandate to focus on their mission, but also so that they can be dismissed if their services are no longer required;

- The Board commence a bimonthly or quarterly schedule beginning in September.

  • The Siting Act should be amended to:

- recognize and specifically authorize the voluntary process adopted by the Board;

- continue to prohibit locating a disposal facility in the State Pinelands area, but permit consideration of sites outside the State Pinelands area that are within the Federal Pinelands Reserve. This would enable military reservations such as McGuire Air Force Base and Fort Dix, as well as property controlled by the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Plant, to be evaluated if requested by a potential host community so long as they meet the stringent siting criteria adopted by the Board;

- permit consideration of a facility design that emphasizes ongoing, long- term management and oversight as an alternative to permanent disposal of low-level radioactive waste. A long-term isolation facility that preserves options for future waste management by incorporating into its design accessibility for direct inspection and preventive maintenance may prove to be feasible-as well as publicly acceptable;

- authorize the Siting Board to make unrestricted grants to communities during the process of consideration;

- remove the requirement for an adjudicatory hearing before an Administrative Law Judge if the potential host community is selected in a voluntary siting process. The hearing requirement automatically turns a voluntary process into an adversarial one.

  • If it is determined at a later date that a disposal facility is in fact needed in New Jersey, the ability of the Board to coordinate programs at the front end with those of other state agencies, e.g., Department of Community Affairs, Economic Development Authority, Green Acres, will be useful. This will enable the State to provide favored status to towns that consider helping solve a problem that affects all communities in New Jersey.
  • Because it does not appear to be economically viable to build a disposal facility for New Jersey waste only, the State needs to discuss and consider other options and arrangements, i.e., accepting waste from Connecticut, the other member of the Northeast Compact, or from other states if a disposal facility is to be built in New Jersey.
  • To better counter, or respond to one of the oft-expressed concerns of interested communities, a thorough effort must be made to address the issue of property value guarantees both during the siting process as well as when the facility is operational.
  • Having three separate contracts-between the Board and the host community; between the Board and the facility operator; and between the facility operator and the community-can help reassure residents that everyone will deliver on the promises they have made.
  • Drafting the parameters of the contract between the Board/State and the facility operator, and the contract between the Board/State and the host community should be a joint project of the Board and an agency with expertise in designing and awarding large contracts such as the EDA or a similar State entity.

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Public Information Materials Produced by the Siting Board

New Jersey’s Voluntary Plan for Siting a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility. This 28-page book lays out the reasons why New Jersey needs to have a site at which generators can dependably and permanently dispose of the low-level radioactive waste they generate. It explains the philosophy and objectives-as well as the steps, or phases-of the Voluntary Siting Process. (Published March 1995)

An Introduction to the Issues: Siting a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in New Jersey. This is a Question-&-Answer booklet that asks and answers basic questions about low-level radioactive waste. It is a general introduction, or primer, to the issues. (August 1995)

Hosting New Jersey’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility: Could It Be Right for Your Community? This 18-minute long video introduces the viewer to why waste is generated, how it is minimized, why New Jersey needs a facility to ensure its safe disposal, and what incentives and benefits the community that volunteers to host the facility will receive. (January 1996)

Voluntary Site Evaluation Methodology for Siting a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in New Jersey. This technical report describes how potential sites will be characterized, or evaluated, to determine their viability and licensability as New Jersey’s disposal facility. (June 1995)

Preliminary Site Investigation Program for Evaluating a Potential Site for New Jersey’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility. This publication lays out the objectives and time frame for the initial phase of evaluating a potential site. (March 1996; revised September 1997)

The Site Characterization Program for Evaluating a Potential Site for New Jersey’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility. This publication lays out the objectives, the kinds of information to be gathered, and time frame for the full-scale site characterization, or evaluation, of a potential site. (September 1996)

Final Siting Criteria Report. This document, prepared by the Board’s environmental consultant, describes and explains the rationale behind the siting criteria adopted by the Board. (April 1990)

Final Area Screening and Candidate Site Identification Methodology Report. This document, also prepared by the Board’s environmental consultant, lists and describes how a site would be selected using statewide screening data. (September 1990)

Final Report: New Jersey Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Plan. This report, prepared by the Board’s environmental consultant, compiles demographics of the low-level waste generated in New Jersey; discusses the characteristics and management of this waste; projects waste volume; explains how the waste is transported; discusses the feasibility of disposal methods and the commercial viability of constructing a disposal facility. (May 1990)

New Jersey Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Plan: 1996 Update. This document describes the characteristics and management of the low-level radioactive waste generated in New Jersey; offers projections for waste that is likely to be generated; and discusses transportation, disposal methods, and commercial viability of the disposal facility. (April 1996; updates the first Disposal Plan published in 1990)

New Jersey Doctors, Scientists & Educators Agree: "A disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste would be a safe neighbor." is a statement signed by doctors, scientists, and educators that lists their names and affiliations. (updated periodically to include additional signers)

If Your Town Has Contaminated Land. . . . This brochure discusses under what conditions the Siting Board will consider siting the disposal facility on a contaminated property. (May 1996)

We Live in a Radioactive World. This brochure illustrates the many uses of radioactive materials today. (October 1996)

Transporting Radioactive Materials in New Jersey: Some Facts. This brochure offers some facts about the transportation of radioactive materials across the roadways of New Jersey. (November 1996)

What Have We Learned About Disposing of Low-Level Radioactive Waste? This brochure discusses the lessons learned from the failures of the early commercial disposal facilities. (November 1997)

Would a Disposal Facility for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Affect Daily Life In My Community? This brochure explains how a disposal facility would, and wouldn’t, alter daily routines in its host community. (November 1997)

Property Value Guarantee. This pamphlet outlines the Siting Board’s commitment to guarantee the value of property when a disposal facility commences operating in a community. (January 1997)

Who Is the New Jersey Siting Board? This pamphlet lists the 11 members of the Siting Board and gives a brief curriculum vitae for each. (March 1997)

Quarterly News Update provides the dates for upcoming Siting Board meetings and offers information on newly available Board publications, reports, conferences, and relevant siting news. (Published every three months beginning in January 1996)

Annual Reports offer the accomplishments of the Siting Board during the past fiscal year and agenda for the current year. (Published every March since 1989)

The Board also published three issues of a newsletter called Insight, as well as a series of InfoBriefs on such topics as "An Open Process," "Managing Low-Level Radioactive Waste in New Jersey," and "Planning for New Jersey’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Needs."

At the request of the Board, Thomas A. Kerr of the National Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Program, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, prepared Answers to Some Often Asked Questions about Low-Level Radioactive Waste, a question-and-answer publication that provides answers to questions, many of which are national in scope, encountered by Board staff when speaking to citizens across the New Jersey. (February 1997)

In addition, the Siting Board funded:

- The League of Women Voters of New Jersey Education Fund to compile Managing Low-Level Radioactive Waste in New Jersey: A Challenge for the Future (April 1995);

- the Environmental Sciences Training Center at Rutgers University to research, compile, write, and edit a series of Fact Sheets on radiation science and low-level radioactive waste (January 1997); and

- the New Jersey Office of Dispute Settlement to compile and produce a Sourcebook on Low-Level Radioactive Waste (September 1996; updated May 1997).

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Department of Environmental Protection
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