Article Details

Article Title

Siting Radioactive Waste Management Facilities: Successes and Failures


James Voss and John Greeves, Predicus LLC


Our assessment in 2015 of 39 attempts to site nuclear waste facilities in democratic countries over the past 40 years identified common inherent threads of both success and failure. 

In the successes, including those efforts still ongoing, the common threads include a) providing the host communities the opportunity to withdraw at any point, b) the physical presence of a significant project team in the host community, and c) the establishment of credibility and trust in the project team, the regulator and, where possible, a neutral commenting party.

In the failures, two dominant causes are present.  The first is the failure to properly address the legitimate concerns of indigenous people.  This has caused failures in the US and Australia.  The second and more common cause is lack of political consensus amongst the host community.  In nearly every case when the facility proponent selects the site and attempts to gain host approval, the effort has failed.

Within the failed cases, two topics appear to be common.  The first is that the definition of “host community” is initially too narrow by the proponents.  In many situations, the very local community is supportive of radioactive waste projects but the larger community is not.  The second factor is a failure on the part of the proponent to accurately communicate the risks associated with the project, driven significantly by differences in the manner in which the general public and experts process risk communications.


WM Symposia


WMS Journal Volume 2, Issue 2

Publication Date

January 2017

Document Type

Conference Paper