Perspectives on radioactive waste disposal: A consideration of economic efficiency and intergenerational equity

Helen R. Neill, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Robert H. Neill


There are both internal and external pressures on the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce the estimated costs of isolating radioactive waste, $19 billion for transuranic waste at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and $57 billion for high level waste at Yucca Mountain. The question arises whether economic analyses would add to the decision-making process to reduce costs yet maintain the same level of radiological protection. This paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of using cost-benefit analysis (CBA), a tool used to measure economic efficiency as an input for these decisions. Using a comparative research approach, we find that CBA analyses appear particularly applicable where the benefits and costs are in the near term. These findings can help policymakers become more informed on funding decisions and to develop public confidence in the merits of the program for waste disposal.