State of Nevada Socioeconomic Studies:
|Purpose of the Report||Rural Community Impacts||Describing the Yucca Mountain Project||Native Americans|
|The Yucca Mountain Repository||Impacts for Native Americans in Nevada||Project Employment and Procurement||Rural Communities|
|State of Nevada Socioeconomic Studies||Compensation and Mitigation for Impacts and Vulnerabilities||Stigma Effects||Las Vegas|
|Major Impacts and Vulnerabilities||History of Socioeconomic Studies||Addressing Potential Stigma Effects||Compensation and Mitigation|
|Project Description||Criteria for Socioeconomic Studies||Nevada's Vulnerable Industries||Developing a Program to Monitor Impacts and Vulnerabilities|
|Economic and Demographic Benefits||Positive and Negative Impacts||Stigma Impacts for Nevada Residents||Summary|
|Federal Mandate Impacts||Impacts and Vulnerabilities||Economic Costs of Stigma||References|
|Impacts on Intergovernmental Relations||Nevada's Cautious Approach||Quality of Life Costs of Stigma|
|Impacts in Las Vegas and Clark County||Nuclear Waste Mandates||Impacts and Vulnerabilities for Nevada Citizens|
Purpose of the Report
Yucca Mountain, Nevada, is located in Nye County, less than 100 miles from Las Vegas. The
map presented in Figure 1.1 shows some of the salient jurisdictional, transportation, and geographic factors important to understanding public responses to activities at Yucca Mountain.
The federal government program to study and possibly develop the nation's first high-level nuclear
waste (HLNW) repository at Yucca Mountain introduced a number of issues and concerns into
Nevada's public life. This report presents Nevada's potential impacts and vulnerabilities as
identified by the state of Nevada socioeconomic study team. The focus is on work done between
1993 and 1995. However, this recent work is based on an ongoing study program that began in
1986, and this first biannual report builds and expands on work done prior to 1993.
An outstanding characteristic of the Yucca Mountain project is the high levels of uncertainty that
accompany all attempts to describe the effects the project is likely to produce and to forecast the
future impacts. This uncertainty exists in all areas of study from scientific evaluations of the
mountain, to transportation, handling, and storage of the wastes, financing the program,
estimating potential impacts on public health and the environment, and socioeconomic impacts for
citizens, communities, jurisdictions, and the state as a whole. This report identifies key areas most
likely to experience socioeconomic impacts and points out important areas of vulnerability.
The impacts and vulnerabilities identified in this report cannot be precisely described for a number
of reasons. The federal government has not been able to provide an authoritative description of
the HLNW program or the Yucca Mountain project. Every attempt to do so over the past decade
has been subject of major revisions. Furthermore, no comparable project has ever been built
anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, the Nevada socioeconomic study team has made significant
progress in identifying public attitudes and opinions about radioactive wastes and the federal
HLNW program. These fundamental findings provide the basis for estimating the range of
potential impacts and vulnerabilities that may accrue to Nevada, its communities, and its citizens.
The Yucca Mountain Repository
For more than three decades the federal government has tried to find a permanent disposal site for
HLNW. The current program was established with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, and it
has been modified several times by subsequent congressional actions, most importantly with the
1987 amendments. These amendments designated Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as the only site to be
studied as the nation's first HLNW repository site. Additional legislation, including bills now in
Congress, have attempted to increase the likelihood that Yucca Mountain will be selected as a
repository or as an interim storage site. Despite these efforts, serious scientific, legal, and political
problems need to be solved and many uncertainties about the suitability of Yucca Mountain
should be addressed. However, if attempts by the federal government and the nuclear power
industry are successful, Nevada could become the host for HLNW within the foreseeable future.
State of Nevada Socioeconomic Studies
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act and its amendments authorized the state of Nevada to conduct
independent socioeconomic studies of the Yucca Mountain project. In 1986 the Nevada Agency
for Nuclear Projects established a socioeconomic study team to carry out the necessary research
and studies.1 The study team included social scientists from a number of universities and research
groups including the University of Nevada-Reno, and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. These
researchers had experience in evaluating nuclear and radioactive waste facilities or had other
special technical expertise. Subsequently, the agency created a Technical Review Committee
(TRC) to provide an independent social science oversight and review function.
This report discusses the rationale for the research program, presents the essential findings,
provides an update to earlier summary reports, and outlines recommendations for future studies to
assess and monitor impacts.
Major Impacts and Vulnerabilities
The social scientists researching the socioeconomic effects of the Yucca Mountain project have
determined that a potential for major impacts and significant vulnerabilities to citizens,
communities, state and local governments, businesses, and the state of Nevada as a whole exist.
The major areas of impacts and vulnerabilities are discussed in detail in this report. These impacts
and vulnerabilities are the result of a number of conditions:
1. A HLNW repository is the source of serious radiation hazards.
2. The public expresses high levels of aversion to such hazards.
3. The level of scientific and management performance applied to the project has not, and may not in the future, command public trust and confidence.
4. The funding for the project is inadequate and not consistently applied to the priority needs of the HLNW program.
5. The level of control and oversight afforded by state and local authorities is inadequate because
of the management and administrative structure of the HLNW program and because of
restrictions on funding for state and local exercise of their mandated oversight.
The following major areas of potential impacts and vulnerabilities have been summarized from the
report chapters that follow.
There is no stable and authoritative HLNW program design nor is there a clear and consistent
description of the Yucca Mountain project over time. The future goals, strategies, activities,
schedules, and intentions of program managers are uncertain and subject to abrupt change at any
time. This condition makes it extremely difficult to make precise socioeconomic forecasts for the
future effects and impacts or to clearly identify Nevada's vulnerabilities due to the Yucca
Economic and Demographic Benefits
The HLNW program is designed to benefit the nation's nuclear power industry and the nuclear
weapon's complex by developing a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain. If accomplished,
this would remove nuclear wastes from their present location near communities that host nuclear
power plants and nuclear weapons facilities. There is no benefit in this movement of HLNW to
Nevada. In terms of the employment, spending, and income potential in Nevada, the benefits are
very modest in the context of southern Nevada. Most DOE employees (about 1500) live in the
Las Vegas metropolitan area. Project spending produces few benefits to state residents because
even the very modest purchases made in Nevada for goods and services are generally produced
outside the state. There are no fiscal benefits from Yucca Mountain because the state tax structure
is designed to collect a significant proportion of public revenues from visitors and tourists to
support public services provided for residents and in-state businesses. Because the Yucca
Mountain project does not increase the visitor and tourist spending, it does not pay for the public
services provided to its employees and contractors.
Federal Mandate Impacts
The federal legislation for the HLNW program includes mandates that require state agencies and
officials to address numerous demands generated by the activities and plans for Yucca Mountain.
These include oversight of scientific study activities at the site, evaluation of potential
socioeconomic impacts, and response to DOE transportation, environmental, legal, and
health-related initiatives. Resources to pay for the state and local responses have been allocated
through the congressional budget process. However, many costs have not been recognized in the
federal budgeting process, and specific requests by the state for funding have been reduced or
Impacts on Intergovernmental Relations
Selection of Yucca Mountain as the only potential HLNW repository site was made unilaterally
by Congress without the agreement or cooperation of the state. This process engendered a great
deal of intergovernmental conflict between the state and DOE. It also involved, to a lesser degree,
conflict between state and local governments within Nevada.
Impacts in Las Vegas and Clark County
The Las Vegas metropolitan area is liable to the most severe impacts from the Yucca Mountain
project because it has more at stake, being the economic, transportation, and business center for
southern Nevada and the state as a whole. Given its location, Las Vegas could be associated with
news stories about the repository program and Yucca Mountain. This could result from news
about the program, which is headquartered in Las Vegas, or about transportation accidents along
routes that go through the metropolitan area, or simply by being identified as a locational sign for
stories about accidents or incidents related to Yucca Mountain. The association of Yucca
Mountain with Las Vegas in the public mind could produce a public aversion to the area. In terms
of the visitor and gaming industries, which are developing to attract an ever wider customer base,
the association of Las Vegas to HLNW could stigmatize the area, with the result that a decline in
visitors would produce serious negative economic impacts for the city and the state.
Rural Community Impacts
In absolute terms, the rural communities in Nevada are not likely to experience large negative
impacts from the repository. Relative to their size and resources, however, these community
impacts can be very serious. In addition, the nearby rural communities are subject to slowdown
and shutdown scenarios in a way that Las Vegas is not. This is because the large and dynamic Las
Vegas economy can easily do without the direct employment and spending benefits of the DOE
program and may even be benefitted by a shutdown at Yucca Mountain because this shutdown
would remove the vulnerabilities of stigma effects. In the rural communities, however, any
economic loss can have serious social and economic impacts.
Impacts for Native Americans in Nevada
Native American citizens are generally opposed to the repository program. They see few benefits,
and they view the HLNW program as a threat to their social and cultural values. Some of their
opposition is based on land claims that go back to the nineteenth century and have never been
satisfactorily resolved according to Native Americans. In addition, there is concern about
transportation risks because many Native American communities are located near highway and
rail routes. Native Americans are subject to at least as much health and environmental risk as
other Nevadans, and face additional vulnerabilities based on their social, economic, and cultural
Compensation and Mitigation for Impacts and Vulnerabilities
There have been many suggestions over the years that conflict and opposition to Yucca Mountain
could be handled by a proper program of compensation and mitigation. The study team examined
these options in detail.
To address the problems of public perceptions of risk from a HLNW repository and to institute
processes and outcomes that would satisfy stakeholders at the state and local levels, two essential
conditions must be met. First the host location should be a volunteer. Second, state and local
people should have a substantive role in decisions about all aspects of the repository program.
Meeting the minimal criteria for an acceptable program would require major restructuring of the
federal government's goals, strategies, and tactics.
History of Socioeconomic Studies
The Agency for Nuclear Projects formally initiated a study of the socioeconomic impacts of a
proposed HLNW repository at Yucca Mountain in southern Nevada in 1986 after the Nevada site
had been chosen as a potential waste disposal site. The state study recognized that the effort
would need to go well beyond what is traditionally considered adequate for socioeconomic impact
assessment because of the unique nature of the repository project. Between 1987 and 1994 the
state's study produced over 200 reports and work products, plus numerous publications in the
scientific and academic literatures.
The state of Nevada Yucca Mountain socioeconomic study program is different from any other. It
may be the most extensive investigation of the role of social and economic impacts resulting from
a federal program undertaken to date. The results of the state's studies have demonstrated that a
repository has the potential to produce significant impacts from a number of sources, including
the possibility of stigmatizing effects on the visitor and tourist industries of the state.
State socioeconomic studies were initially designed to provide for a comprehensive, integrated
assessment of possible impacts associated with the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste
repository. Until 1989, when the first interim report (Mountain West, 1989), was published, the
program covered a full range of economic demographic, social cultural, and risk-related areas.
Since 1989, as a result of the findings in the interim report and substantial reductions in available
funds, the state program has focused on the most likely and potentially most significant causes of
impacts. These include research on the stigmatizing effects of risk perception and risk behavior,
the interface between risk effects and Nevada's unique visitor economy, and the effects of the
proposed repository on special populations in the state (including urban area residents and Native
Beginning in 1989-1990, when independently-funded county socioeconomic programs were
established as a result of changes in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the Agency has found it more
efficient to accede responsibility to the counties for developing very detailed and extensive
baseline information on economic, demographic, community services, and fiscal conditions within
localities. This delegation of responsibility because under the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments
Act of 1987, the jurisdiction within which the Yucca Mountain site is located and any units of
general local government contiguous to the situs jurisdiction can be designated as "affected" by
the Secretary of Energy. Such designation allows the local governments to receive funds for
oversight and impact assessment activities. Initially, three counties were funded to carry out
socioeconomic activities (Nye, Clark, and Lincoln). In 1990 seven additional counties (including
Inyo County in California) were awarded funds by DOE and began independent programs that
involve socioeconomic impact assessment and monitoring. The Agency's program will use
information developed by these county programs as appropriate and necessary for state-level
monitoring and impact assessment.
With the completion of the research and reporting cycle that ended in 1992, and with the
development of a comprehensive summary report published that year (Yucca Mountain
Socioeconomic Study Team, 1993, which contains a comprehensive description of the research to
date, together with a discussion of objectives, methods, findings, and annotated bibliographies of
all reports generated), the Agency's socioeconomic program entered a period of reassessment and
programmatic redesign aimed at adjusting state efforts to meet changed circumstances of both the
national (DOE) repository program and the multi-party/multi-focused nature of socioeconomic
activities within Nevada. Between 1992 and 1994 a revised framework for the effort was
developed and a new round of research and monitoring was initiated.
During the past 2 years, developments at the national level have significantly affected the Agency's
socioeconomic efforts. DOE's new program approach (PPA) has again altered the basic
description of the project, instituting new schedules and new conceptualizations for key
repository elements. The emergence of the MPC as a centerpiece of the federal program has
significant implications for both the occurrence and manifestation of socioeconomic impact in
Nevada. In addition, the possibility of a congressionally-directed interim storage facility at the
Nevada Test Site would significantly impact the state and local communities in ways substantially
different from the effects of a repository alone.
Criteria for Socioeconomic Studies
The prototype for doing socioeconomic studies is modeled on an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS), as required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). This
approach begins with an extensive and precise description of the project.2 Typically, the
socioeconomic portion of an EIS would define the activities to be undertaken by the project
developer, including the location, number and type of personnel, wages and salaries, other costs,
purchases, and expenses, taxes, fees, and other revenues to public funds, schedule of activities,
location of activities, distribution of employees to communities, and alternatives to the proposed
action. Other possible effects such as aesthetic impacts might be included if they were important
public concerns. Social scientists then characterize the socioeconomic conditions of the host states
and communities to understand how the effects of the project will interact and change the
development of these places from what would happen without the proposed project. The
differences between the with-project and without-project are defined as the impacts
(see Figure 1.2).
Positive and Negative Impacts
This approach should identify both benefits and costs, which can be characterized as positive or
negative impacts. How well these impacts are measured depends on identifying the important
areas of impact and providing accurate information, data, forecasts, and analyses. The proposed
repository at Yucca Mountain is a major federal project that will spend billions of dollars for
personnel, equipment, supplies and services. These funds will be spent over a period of 50 to 100
years on implementing and managing the required planning, handling, transportation, operation,
and permanent storage of high-level wastes for a period of at least 10,000 years. Almost every
state in the continental U.S. will be affected in some way by the program, many due to the
extensive transportation network that will be put into place.
Some portion of the HLNW program expenditures will be made in Nevada where they will
produce additional jobs, population, spending, incomes, and revenues. The people and activities
added to the state will also increase costs for public services, such as schools, police, libraries, fire
protection, and so forth. The methods for estimating these positive and negative impacts are fairly
well established and can be applied to many aspects of the Yucca Mountain project. There will
definitely be economic benefits for some people and communities, and perhaps net costs to other
people and jurisdictions.
Whether the benefits will be greater than the costs depends on what costs the repository program
imposes on the state and its communities. These potential costs must be subtracted from the
benefits in order to arrive at a net impact assessment. In this context, the unique character of the
Yucca Mountain project presents Nevada and its citizens with the task of understanding
extraordinary potential impacts and vulnerabilities.
Impacts and Vulnerabilities
Impacts are positive or negative effects. The task for social scientists is to identify and measure
impacts with some precision either as they occur or with estimation procedures in advance of
when they happen. Some important potential negative impacts are uncertain but have a reasonable
change of occurring in the future. These the study team identifies as vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities
are not simply impacts that might possibly happen (anything can possibly happen). Rather they are
potential negative impacts that have a reasonable chance of happening in the future based on
analogous experiences, the logic of human and social behaviors, and/or credible theories about
how and why the vulnerable conditions could take place. The socioeconomic study team believes
that the positive impacts from a Yucca Mountain repository are acceptable to Nevadans. It is
important to understand and measure these impacts in order to determine if, overall, a repository
is likely to be a net gain or loss for the state, its communities and citizens. But that is not the
whole story. Perhaps more important is the ability to identify and measure the negative impacts
and vulnerabilities. Only by clearly understanding the downside of the repository project can an
informed judgment be made about what Nevadans are being asked to accept and live with in the
future. One important point is that the benefits of the repository will exist for a relatively short
period, perhaps 50 to 100 years, while the hazards of the HLNW will exist for thousands of years.
Nevada's Cautious Approach
Nevada's concerns about the potential negative impacts of a repository have been expressed by
other states whenever they faced the prospect of hosting a HLNW facility. This history of concern
goes back to the state of Kansas experience with the federal government's ill-fated attempt to site
a repository at Lyons, Kansas almost 30 years ago. This failure was followed by others, most of
them complicated by obstinate public opposition. Finally it was decided that federal agencies
needed congressional action to move forward on the task of managing the nation's growing stock
of spent fuel and other HLNW.
The response of states during the congressional process that resulted in the Nuclear Waste Policy
Act of 1982 (NWPA) was revealing. Luther Carter's book records some of the ways by which
states avoided or minimized their potential to be selected as a HLNW host (Carter, 1987).3 This
widespread reluctance to be considered as a repository host motivated many of the provisions of
the original NWPA legislation, which were included to assure that the selection process would be
fair and equitable. One strategy was to put a limit on the amount of HLNW that the first
repository could contain and to develop a second repository in the eastern U.S. where most of the
nation's nuclear power stations are located.
Subsequent attempts of the federal government to identify a second round repository site in the
eastern United States, a point of equity in the original NWPA, provoked a general public outcry in
states from Maine to Wisconsin. As the elections of 1986 drew near, the Secretary of Energy
stopped work on these second round states, an action that Congress endorsed by the passage of
the 1987 amendments to the NWPA. In addition, these amendments, bowing to state of
Tennessee opposition, also canceled plans to site a Monitored Retrievable Storage (MRS) facility
at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A Nuclear Waste Negotiator's Office was established to negotiate with
potential volunteer jurisdictions, Indian tribes, states, or local entities. This process identified
more than 20 potential volunteers but in every case the states where these interested parties were
located strongly opposed any HLNW storage facilities.
This history of behavior by numerous states shows that Nevada's concerns about hosting a
HLNW facility are not a peculiar or selfish reaction. Every other state that has been suggested as
a HLNW storage site or that has HLNW stored at its nuclear power plants has recorded similar
The hundreds of studies done on the various siting attempts show that there are three major areas
of concern: (1) the risk to human health and the environment from an especially long-term and
highly hazardous waste materials; (2) questions about the ability of federal agencies to manage
HLNW programs and doubts about the level of trust these agencies should be given; and (3) the
potential for the negative impacts, including the possible stigmatization, to overwhelm any
benefits and undercut the economic, social, and quality of life conditions of host communities and
states. The Nevada socioeconomic studies program has been designed to address these areas of
Nuclear Waste Mandates
Chapter 2 identifies the federal mandates that the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as amended, has
prescribed for Nevada. Some of these mandates have been implemented, others have not; some
have been funded, others have not; some are recognized in the federal legislation, others are not.
For an example of a mandate not implemented: The NWPA (Section 117) requires the Secretary
of Energy to seek and obtain a consultation and cooperation agreement with a host state and the
act specifies in detail the process to be followed and the subjects to be addressed. No such "C &
C" agreement has ever been seriously pursued by federal officials.
For an example of a mandate recognized but not funded: The state of Nevada is faced with a
number of important legal issues and activities in response to the Yucca Mountain project but the
costs of addressing these issues in court have been specifically excluded in congressional
appropriations bills. The rationale for this is that Nevada will use legal means to oppose the
project and the federal government does not want to provide funds to contest its own program. In
judicial review the ultimate question is whether the federal program meets statute and
constitutional legal standards, a determination that is as much a federal responsibility to meet as it
is an opportunity for the state to oppose a federal program on behalf of state residents. The test of
whether Yucca Mountain meets the applicable standards in our adversarial legal system must
involve the state of Nevada because it has essential legal standing. In this case the costs are
recognized but federal government responsibility for them is denied.
For an example of a mandate unrecognized and not funded: The Yucca Mountain project requires
the state of Nevada to receive and process permits for activities at the Yucca Mountain site, as
was the case for the water permits issued in 1992. The costs of these processes are not funded in
federal appropriations nor are they treated as a compensable condition in the NWPA. Planning by
many state agencies has, for a variety of reasons, been unfunded by the federal government
although such activities are essential to the state of Nevada response to the Yucca Mountain
In theory, the costs to the state from these response activities may be recoverable through the a
process of impact assistance or mitigation (Section 116) but the burden for demonstrating such
impacts and their costs are placed on the state. This means that the ability to determine such
impacts depends on funding to do the required studies. The determination of what constitutes
appropriate federal funding has been assumed by the Congress through the appropriations
process. In the appropriations process, funding for state of Nevada activities is regarded as a
strategic decision to be used to advance the development of the repository and not as an federal
obligation to pay for the costs of its legislative mandates. These federal appropriations have
consistently provided only a small percentage of the funds the state has said it needs to conduct
oversight and impact studies. As in the case of the legal costs, these funding restrictions are
motivated by congressional concerns that Nevada will use the federal funds to oppose the Yucca
Mountain project. Congress has imposed the Yucca Mountain repository program on the state of
Nevada through legislative mandates with the requirement that the state must identify and
document their costs but at the same time it has failed to provide the funds so the state can follow
through. In this sense, the result can be characterized as a substantially unfunded mandate.
The NWPA provides some direct benefits to state and local governments. One provision (Section
116 (3) (A)) mandates Grants Equal to Taxes (GETT), which Congress said should equal what
the state or local government would obtain in taxes from "non-Federal real property and industrial
activities." This recognizes that the federal government is immune from state and local taxation
but in the case of developing a HLNW facility it is acting as the agent for the nuclear power
industry where there are many private corporations involved. Tax payments may be considered as
important benefits to state and local governments thus increasing support for a repository project.
So both equity and a siting strategy are included.
Given the state of Nevada tax structure, there are few direct benefits to the state from the GETT
provision and the amount offered to Nye County (the host jurisdiction) was not based on the
value of the facility (e.g., the costs of developing Yucca Mountain), as are private industrial
properties, but was negotiated by the federal government to be an amount that is only a fraction
of what the legislation theoretically allows. Thus, while the mandate calls for full tax payment at a
market value that applies to commercial businesses, the implementation by the U.S. Department
of Energy was considerably less than that.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act assigned specific oversight responsibilities to the state of Nevada.
One reasonable expectation is that funding for state oversight would increase along with greater
levels of work by DOE, because such activities would require more oversight effort. However,
state oversight funding has not kept pace with DOE spending. Between 1991 and 1995
allocations to DOE more than doubled, increasing from $243 million to $532 million; during this
period funding for the state of Nevada increased from $4.1 to $5.5 million. The oversight mandate
was allocated just 1.6% of the amount budgeted to DOE activities in 1991 and that small
proportion declined to about 1.0% for 1995. Two obvious questions apply here: Is funding in the
range of 1-2% adequate for the state's oversight work, and is it appropriate that the proportion of
funding should drop by over a third at the same time that the DOE program is more than doubling
its work at the Yucca Mountain site?
Describing the Yucca Mountain Project
All studies of the Yucca Mountain project, scientific as well as socioeconomic, must be based on
accurate and quantifiable descriptions of the proposed actions. This point is so basic that it may
seem obvious to mention it. However, DOE has not yet been able to provide project descriptions
useful for socioeconomic impact analysis. The federal government has some HLNW storage goals
they wish to achieve and they have fixed on Yucca Mountain as a prime potential site for a
repository. However, these goals and intentions have not been put into a form that allows the
state of Nevada (or DOE for that matter) to understand the potential impacts on Nevada, its
communities, and its citizens.
The task assigned to DOE is extremely difficult. A Yucca Mountain repository would be a
first-of-its-kind facility and the HLNW program must deal with a highly toxic hazard, assuring
safety over thousands of years, in a geologic media that is poorly understood, under complex
permitting and licensing requirements, in the face of widespread public opposition and distrust,
with an unstable management structure ill-suited to the task at hand, and all this based on a
revenue source that is fragile and a Nuclear Waste Fund that is seriously underfunded. These
conditions complicate attempts to describe effectively the Yucca Mountain project and its
potential socioeconomic impacts in Nevada.
All the plans, designs, studies, and regulatory activities that make up the existing project are
uncertain. The continuous revisions to every aspect of the program over the past decade give
ample evidence that clear definitions, procedures, and processes do not apply to this project. As
outlined in chapter 3, the state of Nevada study team had to design a new approach to making
project descriptions. This approach was designed to translate the nation's HLNW problem, the
DOE program, and the direct effects scheduled to take place in Nevada into a useful project
In conducting socioeconomic impact studies, the timing and distribution of project effects are
important. Impacts are the difference between what happens with the project as compared to what
happens without the project. These impacts will depend on when and where they occur, because
the interaction between project events and the time and place where they occur will determine the
final outcome. As communities change and develop over time, their ability to respond to major
events, such as those resulting from the Yucca Mountain repository project, will also fluctuate.
However, even the basic description of when major activities at the Yucca Mountain site might
take place is uncertain. As an example, see Figure 1, "Projected years to go before repository
operations," which was prepared by a DOE task force (Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task
Force on Radioactive Waste Management, 1993, p. 23). Notice that the official schedule
mandated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 would follow a line to converge at the year
1998 when a repository was scheduled to open and accept HLNW. The actual schedule widens
with time and, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), even the scale on this
chart may not be long enough because GAO estimates that repository operations may be delayed
until 2025, 30 years from now and more than 40 years following the passage of the NWPA of
1982 (GAO, 1993). This means that repository operations at Yucca Mountain, if they finally
begin, will occur sometime during the next century.
The recent recommendations by DOE for a new "Proposed Program Approach" suggests that the
site may be in operation for 100 years, with the possibility that a final decision to close the
repository could be made in the 22nd century (approximately 2110). Such a schedule for the
repository would extend decades beyond the expected operating life of the existing nuclear power
plants. This means that the costs of a repository will extend far beyond the revenue production life
of its funding source.
Distress with the pace of the project, the lengthening schedule, and the huge costs involved, have
been instrumental in efforts by the nuclear industry, Congress, and states with operating nuclear
power plants to put forward plans to completely redesign the current program. These new
approaches bring with them the potential for new scientific and regulatory problems, political and
legal conflicts, and increasing public doubts about the ability of the federal government establish
an acceptable HLNW program. An important schedule that must be kept in mind is one
determined by nuclear physics, one that economics, public planning, and political decisions have
little influence over: The thousands of years that HLNW remains hazardous to human health and
The long time periods suggested for construction, operation, monitoring, and storage introduce
great uncertainty into efforts to provide socioeconomic impact assessments. The uncertainties are
not limited to the project schedule and other project characteristics; a whole set of uncertainties
exist in attempts to describe non-project characteristics, such as how Nevada and its communities
will change over the coming decades. Yet it is this combination of project effects and the societal
response within Nevada that will determine what the impacts actually will be. The important
question for socioeconomic research is, How will the state and its people respond to and be
impacted by the project?
Project Employment and Procurement
The study team seeks to understand the range of impacts associated employment and spending in
Nevada, which then produce income and public revenues. The socioeconomic studies also must
take into account those characteristics of the Yucca Mountain project that produce changes in
social, economic, and political behaviors. These include changes in the work force, population,
income and spending in local communities, and demands for public services. The added costs to
the public sector services (such as for schools, police, fire protection, emergency management and
response, etc.) can be balanced by the revenues produced directly and indirectly from project
activities. For example, the project itself and the contractors, suppliers, and individuals who are
employed because of it will pay taxes, fees, or provide payments to support public services. The
distribution of these costs and revenues will determine whether, where, and when there are
positive and negative fiscal impacts for the state and local jurisdictions.
In this context, a substantial portion of public revenues in Nevada are tied to the gaming and
entertainment industries, which depend on visitor spending. Subsequently, these visitor-based
revenues are spent to provide public services to residents. This means that those economic sectors
that do not support the visitor income to Nevada do not pay a full share of the costs of state
services they and their employees receive.
The study team also seeks to understand the social and economic impacts that result from public
responses to radioactive wastes and facilities. The powerful and persistent public opposition to
earlier federal attempts to site HLNW storage facilities provides evidence that a new and special
kind of impact could occur.
In addition to work done by the state of Nevada study team, researchers performing
socioeconomic impact assessments for Texas, Washington, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and other
places were concerned that a repository might stigmatize its host states and communities (see,
Dunlap, Kraft, & Rosa, 1993). Studies in Washington and Texas emphasized the possibility that
agricultural products could be stigmatized; Tennessee residents were greatly concerned about
stigma impacts on economic development; Maine residents focused on stigma impacts that would
limit the recreational use of nearby communities and reduce the resident's quality of life; residents
of Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Georgia were concerned about stigma impacts on tourism,
recreation, and quality of life (Kraft & Clary, 1993: 89-114).
The concern with stigma is a concern that people would be less likely to visit places near a
repository for vacations, conventions, or recreation. People also might be less willing to move to
repository host locations for jobs or retirement, to invest in businesses there, or to purchase local
products, such as foods grown and processed nearby.
The primary economic concern for Nevada is the potential impacts of stigma on the tourist and
visitor industry. Such impacts could produce significant losses to an economy dominated by
visitor-based revenues. The unique importance of the visitor and tourist industry for Nevada and
Las Vegas justifies a major effort to understand the potential for stigma impacts. This involves
understanding how the Yucca Mountain project might affect visitors and those portions of the
Nevada economy that serve and benefit from the visitor activities.
Addressing Potential Stigma Effects
Over the past decade attempts to study stigma have employed four distinct strategies: (1) asking
respondents direct questions about the acceptability of HLNW under various conditions; (2)
examining cases where stigma responses have occurred in response to technological hazards; (3)
asking respondents for decisions about expected behaviors based on scenarios involving HLNW;
and (4) conducting studies of how people respond to HLNW based on theories of individual and
societal decision making. The study team research has employed all these strategies in attempting
to understand the potential for future stigma impacts in Nevada. At the same time, the study team
has examined the ways that the Nevada economy might be most vulnerable to stigma impacts.
These potential vulnerabilities have been combined into the following categories: Nevada might
experience significant economic losses if: (1) there were a reduction in tourists, convention
attendees and other visitors; (2) there were a reduction in the number of people who want to
move to Nevada for jobs or retirement; (3) there were a reduction in the willingness of business
people to invest in Nevada or establish new businesses.
When Nevadans and other U.S. residents are asked, for example in the more than 20 surveys done
by the study team, about their expectations of a HLNW program, a great majority expect
accidents to happen in handling, transporting, and storing the wastes. They expect a host state to
be labeled at a "Nuclear Dump" state. They say a HLNW repository would diminish the
attractiveness of a host state or community and that they would prefer to live and work further
away from a repository than any other hazardous facility including a nuclear power plant and a
chemical waste facility.
Examination of a number of cases shows that stigma happens but it is not clear why stigma occurs
when it does and not in other similar cases. The case studies done by the study team and by other
researchers supports the conclusion that there is a potential for negative impacts from people
wishing to avoid stigmatized places but this body of research does not allow us to identify when
and where such adverse responses will occur in the future.4 Because understanding the
vulnerabilities of the gaming and entertainment industries in Nevada is essential to conducting a
proper study of socioeconomic impacts, the state of Nevada study team has focused much of its
work on this area of research. This section of our report is a summary of what has been
accomplished in that research and an identification of what should be done in the immediate
One technique for understanding potential stigma impacts is to present a wide range of
respondents with repository program scenarios and then ask these people how such events would
influence their decisions about the place where the scenario events occurred. These scenarios and
their responses were collected from focus groups, general populations through surveys, and
interviews with special groups such as convention planners, real estate investment executives, and
people contemplating retirement. These scenarios ranged from the benign to the severe - that is,
from the statement that the repository exists and operates with no problems or accidents to the
case where there were various accident or management events. In the case of the convention
planners, respondents were also told that the scenario conditions were the subject of amplified or
dampened media coverage. This portion of the scenario description was based on the prior study
team work on the social amplification of risk and recognized the fact that convention planners
must be responsive to the associations and attendees for whom they are making the convention
Responses to the scenario studies to these descriptions produced strong stigma responses across
the entire range from benign to severe. Large proportions of the respondents said they would
avoid places and activities that were linked to a HLNW facility. This is important information for
how people view HLNW activities but it also raises a further question of how likely it is that
people at some time, perhaps many years or even decades into the future, will respond when a
repository is actually in place. There is the potential of considerable difference between what
people say they intend to do now and what they may actually do at some future time.
To address the problems with asking people how they might behave at some distant point in the
future, the study team developed a series of studies based on the idea of environmental imagery.
An update of these studies is contained in chapter 4. These studies were designed to provide a
theoretical framework from which an understanding of possible stigma impacts on tourism and
other important behaviors could be estimated. At the level of theory development, the studies
wanted to examine the concept of environmental imagery and develop useful measures. Then the
studies sought to assess the relationship between images of places and preferences for those
places. Finally, by collecting appropriate data, the studies would describe the potential impacts
and vulnerabilities that might result from images of places that were affected by associations with
These studies formulated hypotheses to be tested: (1) images associated with places, products,
and technologies have positive and negative affective meanings; (2) a HLNW repository evokes
strongly held negative images, consistent with perceptions of high risk and dreaded consequences;
and (3) images of a HLNW repository, such as that proposed for Yucca Mountain, might become
associated with its host state and the nearby communities (Slovic, Layman, Kraus, et al., 1991).
Images for various cities and states were elicited using a version of the "method of continued
associations," adapted for telephone interviews (Szalay & Deese, 1978; Slovic et al., 1991). This
process asks people to provide an image or associated word to a stimulus prompt: For example,
the first word or image to come to mind when the respondent hears the prompt: "Las Vegas."
Subsequently, people are asked to say how positive or negative the image was on a five point
scale ranging from "very negative" to "very positive."
Results showed that the more positive the image score for a city or state, the more likely that city
or state was preferred over other places for visiting, raising a family, retiring, or locating a
business. Images to nuclear or radioactive facilities, such as "an underground nuclear waste
repository," were extremely negative and when nuclear images were associated with a place such
images reduced the attractiveness of the place. Surveys were conducted in 1988, 1989, and 1994
in Phoenix and in 1989 and 1994 in southern California to obtain images of Nevada and Las
Vegas, and to determine how those images related to past and intended visitation behaviors
(Slovic, Layman, & Flynn, 1991, 1993; Slovic, Flynn, & Layman, 1991).
The 1994 survey is similar to earlier surveys and supports the relationship between image scores
and intended vacation choices. It showed that the voluntary image technique produces image sets
dominated by a few stereotypical images. The image ratings of places are subject to fluctuations
over time. There is little production of nuclear or radioactivity images. We noted that there has
been a decline in the proportion of nuclear images for Nevada, perhaps due to the moratorium on
Taking into account past surveys, the voluntary image technique demonstrated the connection
between images of places and choice of those places for visitation, residence, and investment.
However, it may not be precise and powerful enough to uncover and demonstrate the role of a
future repository in people's perceptions and decisions. Greater sensitivity would seem essential
for a monitoring program that addresses the impacts of the Yucca Mountain repository project.
For purposes of measuring and tracking actual and potential stigma, the techniques used in the
1994 surveys need to be modified and perhaps supplemented by additional data collection
The question of stigma types needs to be considered. We hypothesis that stigma can be expressed
in two ways. The first way we might call "sudden" stigma, which results from accidents or other
dramatic events in the handling or management of HLNW. The second way we might call
"persistent" stigma, which develops from a gradual and persistent association of a host community
with HLNW images.
Another important area is the potential impacts of stigma on residents, especially in terms of
quality of life and satisfaction with place. Understanding these conditions should be considered a
high priority for study team work.
Finally, the existence of stigma raises the question of how a state or community might deal with
stigma impacts. In contrast to stigma images, other images that characterize a place may be
positive, but it is not clear how positive or "prestige" images might be created or enhanced or how
they interact with stigma images in influencing behavior. The potential role of prestige images
should be included in a comprehensive research program to understand the affective qualities of
place that influence visitation, inmigration, and business investment.
The stigma studies have shown evidence of potential impacts based on: (1) the concerns and
estimates people give when asked about HLNW; (2) the cases where analogous stigma responses
have occurred; (3) the responses people make in evaluating HLNW scenarios; and (4) the results
of the image and behavior studies based on public surveys.
Nevada's Vulnerable Industries
The stigma studies have tested the hypothesis that development of a repository will not have
adverse impacts on the economy and the people of Nevada. After careful study, we conclude that
the possibility of adverse impacts cannot be ruled out; the Yucca Mountain repository imposes a
significant vulnerability for Nevada's economy. This leads to two further lines of study: (1) more
precise estimation of stigma impacts; and (2) consideration of ways to eliminate, reduce, or
compensate for stigma impacts. Chapters 4 and 5, below, discusses the vulnerability of the
Nevada visitor economy and chapter 8 discusses the issues of mitigation and compensation.
The task of estimating the potential impacts of a repository on key economic sectors, especially
those serving visitors, is particularly challenging. The purpose of the estimation task is to predict,
at least within some meaningful bounds, the location and scope of the potential losses. The study
team is interested in predicting potential vulnerabilities by geographical location (e.g., Clark
County, Nye County, the Strip) and economic sectors as well as in constructing estimates of the
aggregate losses to Nevada as a whole. To forecast economic impacts, two capabilities must
exist: (1) a comprehensive model of the Nevada economy, which describes the linkages between
visitor activities and the various economic sectors; and (2) credible estimates of how repository
events would influence visitor activities. Currently, neither of these capabilities exist due to
limitations with the existing socioeconomic methods, databases, or expertise available. However,
the Nevada study team has made important progress as funding for research has been made
Chapter 4 describes the work done to understand how visitors and convention attendees view
HLNW and the implications for Nevada's major gaming and entertainment industries. The goal of
this work is to combine risk perception models with the socioeconomic projection models that
handle project descriptions and the estimates of future change in the economy. The results to date
have been encouraging, although they also have demonstrated the complexity and difficulties of
making impact assessments for the visitor industry. While this experience produces a humility in
those attempting to make forecasts, it also provides a clear focus of what information is needed
and the format that information should be put into.
The development of theoretical models of visitor behaviors and possible responses to stigma
conditions, provide guidance to what factors should be monitored and quantified to determine
whether impacts occur. The monitoring effort provides a further return in allowing researchers to
better understand the visitor economy in Nevada. As we gain more understanding of the links
between visitor behavior and predictors, such as the perceived risk and imagery associated with
Nevada, we will increase our ability to isolate the impacts the repository is having on the
economy. Monitoring the effects the repository has on visitor images of the state will increase our
ability to estimate repository-induced losses in terms of visits, lost spending, and impacts on jobs
Stigma Impacts for Nevada Residents
Adverse public responses to technological hazards affect residents as well as nonresidents and
potential visitors. These resident responses can have a number of impacts including effects on the
quality of life, satisfaction with communities, trust in local and state government, and demands on
public services. One aspect of stigma is especially important because it involves property values
and can be differentially distributed, for example, to those people who reside near HLNW
transportation routes. In chapter 5, the study team examines the issue of geographical stigma
impacts including some of the most recent legal cases.
Economic Costs of Stigma
When out of state visitors formulate a negative image of Nevada they can react by deciding not to
visit. When residents formulate a negative image of the HLNW repository program, they can react
by minimizing their exposure to places most affected by repository activities. The location of
Yucca Mountain is some distance from Nevada's population centers - more than 75 miles from the
Las Vegas metropolitan area. In the case of transporting HLNW, however, some degree of risk
exists along the length of each transportation route. DOE has identified potential rail and highway
routes within Nevada, including ones that go directly through Las Vegas, with sections that
parallel the famed Strip along its major developed areas.
DOE and the nuclear industry strongly assert that HLNW can be safely transported on the nation's
highways and rail lines. However, the public believes otherwise. Chapter 5 reviews some research
on public risk perceptions and points out that the public views transportation risks as greater than
risks due to on-site handling or storage at a HLNW facility. These public perceptions appear
strong enough to influence the evaluation of property values along a HLNW transportation route.
The most clear legal case was decided by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 1992 when it upheld
an award of $337,815 made in a lower court to John and Lemonia Komis. In this case, the Komis'
claimed that their property values were diminished by the City of Santa Fe when it designated a
route for transporting radioactive wastes to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in southern
New Mexico. The Komis' commissioned survey research to support their position that the route
selection caused negative public perceptions and a reticence of potential buyers to purchase their
adjacent property. In upholding the District Court jury award, the New Mexico Supreme Court
stated that compensation for losses could be granted "even if the loss is based on fears that are not
founded on objective standards." In explanation the court said:
If loss of value can be proved, it should be compensable regardless of its source. Thus, if people
will not purchase property because they fear living or working on or near a WIPP route, or if a
buyer can be found, but only at a reduced price, a loss of value exists. If this loss can be proven to
the jury, the landowner should be compensated (City of Santa Fe v. Komis, 1992).
The principle that public perceptions can cause compensable stigma impacts is finding continuing
support. In 1993 the New York Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Criscuola et al. v. New
York Power Authority that landowners whose property is taken for construction of high-voltage
power lines can collect damages if the values of the rest of their property fall because of public
fears about safety, regardless of whether that fear is reasonable. Other losses due to stigma have
been recorded for products, perhaps the clearest example being the apple growers' losses, about
$100 million, as a result of the "Alar story" in the spring 1989. It is quite clear that stigma related
to the hazards of radioactive and chemical hazards does happen and that the losses can be severe
for people and communities who are often mere bystanders.
Quality of Life Costs of Stigma
In our commercial society the market costs of stigma are often a highly noticeable feature in
public debate. However, other aspects of stigma impacts should be considered. For any number of
practical reasons, people may be put into a situation where they cannot escape from the
conditions that cause stigma but have to endure the social, psychological, and financial costs.
Often these costs are considered as reducing people's "quality of life" or their full enjoyment of
their place of residence.
While it is difficult to specify the cause-and-effect relationship between a stigma source and its
effects, or to define exactly individual costs of stigma impacts when these costs are internalized, it
is possible to get some insight into how stigma affects quality of life. These results can be implied
from responses people make to sources of stigma, in this case the potential of a HLNW
repository. Survey research over many years and many places including Nevada has shown that
people expect accidents and unfortunate events to be part of a HLNW repository program. The
public produces extremely negative images of a HLNW repository, with associations of death,
danger, destruction, ugliness, unfairness, and anger. When asked how far they would prefer to be
distant from each of a list of modern industrial facilities, the least acceptable was a HLNW
repository. People wanted to be more than twice as far from a repository as from the next most
feared facility, a toxic chemical waste site. The total of these responses, gathered in numerous
surveys over a decade of research by the state of Nevada researchers and by others, suggest a
significant potential for a repository program to have adverse impacts at the personal level for
citizens of a host state or community.
Impacts and Vulnerabilities for Nevada Citizens
The studies of potential impacts and possible vulnerabilities for Nevada residents has been
assigned to the study team based on three categories: Native Americans, rural community
residents, and the Las Vegas urban area. There are similarities for each subject area, but there are
also considerable differences resulting from social and cultural perspectives identified within these
The Western Shoshone and Southern Paiute lived for thousands of years on aboriginal territories
that once covered much of central and southern Nevada and southern Utah. The Yucca Mountain
site is astride a very old border between these two Native American entities and it is subject to
aboriginal claims and feelings of ownership and stewardship as lands they once held. Chapter 6,
below, describes the relationship between these Nevadans and the Yucca Mountain repository
Native American tribes have a distinct legal standing, which has been recognized in recent federal
environmental and cultural legislation: the National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic
Preservation Act, American Religious Freedom Act, and so forth. In the 1982 Nuclear Waste
Policy Act provisions are made for "affected Indian tribes" that are equivalent to rights accorded
states. This legal standing is based on a long history of relations with American Indian tribes and
in many cases dates back to the days when treaties were signed between the U.S. government and
various tribes. A tribe could obtain "affected" status if: (1) a Monitored Retrievable Storage, test
and evaluation facility, or a HLNW repository was proposed for their reservation lands; or (2) the
group had ratified treaty rights to additional lands to be used for such facilities. The determination
of "affected" status is assigned to the U.S. Secretary of Interior and is made subsequent to a
petition by a Indian tribe.
Yucca Mountain is clearly not located on a recognized reservation (criterion 1), but some people
think they should obtain "affected" tribe status on the basis of the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley,
which recognized Indian rights to the Yucca Mountain area. In an analogous case, the Secretary
of Interior recognized Indian tribes in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho when the Hanford
reservation was under consideration as a potential repository site (prior to the 1987 NWPA
Amendments). However, an application by the Western Shoshone was not certified by a former
Secretary of Interior and the tribes have not been included in the DOE program in any official
capacity. The Nevada Nuclear Waste Office has supported the involvement of Native American
representatives in its planning and oversight work but this is not in any sense equivalent to an
"affected Indian tribe" role. Therefore, the most obvious vulnerability for Nevada's Native
Americans is to be left with little voice on major decisions about their ancestral lands.
Native Americans in Nevada are economically disadvantaged in comparison to the general
population, which makes them more vulnerable to socioeconomic change, such as the imposition
of stigma impacts along transportation routes. Some of the potential impacts are due to the
experience of Native Americans with the federal nuclear weapons program. Many of these people
see themselves as "downwinders" and believe that some current health problems are due to the
years when nuclear weapons were tested. This past experience with radioactivity lends weight to
concerns with future hazards from HLNW, especially because their traditional ways of life
involved close association with local plants, animals and birds. The possible contamination of
water supplies is a major concern. The Native Americans see the waters of southern Nevada and
eastern California as linked into one large network, so that contamination at any one place affects
Native American perceptions of risk from a repository tend to be equal to or higher than those
recorded by their neighbors. The are concerned about the transportation risks because many of
the Indian communities are near highway or rail routes. The Western Shoshone National Council
has gone on record in opposition to a repository at Yucca Mountain, and they have taken the
position that the federal government is violating their rights by refusing to deal with them fairly
and consider them in making decisions about the repository program. The Nevada Native
Americans are vulnerable to the same potential impacts that their neighbors are, and face many
additional vulnerabilities based on their social, economic, and cultural heritage.
Nevada's rural communities face a long list of potential impacts and vulnerabilities due to the
Yucca Mountain repository project. The nature of these risks includes potential threats to health
and safety, effects on community infrastructures, social conflict, changes in local government,
economic and social dislocation, and alterations in community social structures. Chapter 7
describes the study team research that underlies the identification of these potential impacts and
draws the necessary distinctions between the wide variety of rural communities that were studied.
The studies find that the extent of the impacts and vulnerabilities will depend on a number of
factors, most importantly the social organization of the communities. Other critical factors are
economic structure, community infrastructure, social and demographic characteristics, form of
local government, and geographic location relative to the repository site. The nearness of
southern Nye County communities, such as Beatty, Amargosa Valley, and Pahrump, makes them
likely to experience the most profound consequences of the repository project at Yucca
Almost all the communities surrounding Yucca Mountain have a long history of uneven and
unstable economic conditions. For many of these communities, mining has been the primary
activity with stock raising, farming and railroad employment a distant second in terms of
economic importance. The adjustment to a new source of economic dependence will create
changes in all the communities surrounding the proposed repository. These adjustments will be
complicated by concerns about the hazards of radioactive wastes, low levels of trust and
confidence in the federal government, past history with the Nuclear Test Site, final location of the
transportation routes, distribution of jobs and other economic benefits within southern Nevada,
and the responses to potential stigma effects.
Adaptation problems are compounded by several existing conditions. First, few rural
communities, and none in southern Nye County, have governmental structure amenable to
planning and controlled growth. And none are incorporated under state law. As a result, policy
and fiscal decisions are made by county commissioners - a constant source of dissension. Of the
communities in "affected" rural counties adjacent to Nye County, only Caliente is incorporated.
Second, the relatively small size of these communities limits the public sector skills needed to deal
with significant change; there are virtually no trained planners available locally to work at the
community level. Finally, all these rural communities are distant from each other and from Las
Vegas, the primary regional source of goods and services, including the manpower and materials
needed for planning and adapting to change.
Because the resources of rural Nevada communities are limited they are vulnerable to the impacts
of failed projects as well as to the changes produced by new economic development. An
analogous case occurred a few years ago when the major oil companies engaged in developing the
oil shale deposits on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado suddenly
shut down operations on a Sunday morning. The impacts on communities from Grand Junction to
Battlement Mesa were dramatic.
The history of rural Nevada is a mixture of boom and bust development associated with natural
resource extraction as well as defense industry activities. The social and economic landscape of
rural Nevada includes old ghost towns that once held thousands of miners, places which have
endured through major dislocations due to declines in resource development or defense-related
activities, and communities which are at least temporarily thriving as a result of new schemes and
projects. A litany of actual and proposed project have buffeted Nevada's rural communities,
including the MX missile project, Howard Hughes rocket factory, now a planned development
called Summerlin, and the recent large-scale mining of microscopic gold. Many activities that
once were the foundation of rural social and economic structures have faded away: the railroad
facilities at Caliente gave way to changing technologies; military bases such as that at Indian
Springs have been closed or downsized; and after 40 years of major activity the Nuclear Test Site
is on standby and may be headed for decommissioning.
Now there is Yucca Mountain, which after a decade stands somewhere between a vision and a
research project, characterized by high levels of uncertainty about its design, development,
schedule, and potential effects on Nevada's rural communities. Like other efforts designed to be
set in the Nevada desert, this one also faces the very real possibility that it is a mirage and that it
will fade away one day without ever fulfilling its intended purpose. Thus a final vulnerability
confronting rural communities is that one day the federal government will walk away from the
Yucca Mountain project, leaving the state and its communities with the task of adjusting to the
lost jobs, the retreating benefits, and vanishing promises.
The Las Vegas metropolitan area is the major urban area in Nevada and the state's dominant
economic center. Over the past decade it has developed at a pace that leads the country in
population, business investment, and growth. This has brought numerous growth problems and
costs as well as great opportunities and increased revenues. The primary growth area has been in
the visitor industries, primarily gaming, conventions, and entertainment. The additional
development of construction employment, services to capture the markets created by new
residents, and the demand for public services and facilities, have added to the strong primary
economic sectors that attract visitors. In this context the role and relative impact of government
employment and programs, such as the jobs and spending provided by the Yucca Mountain
project, become relatively small. The local citizens are more concerned about the major economic
sectors than about the relatively small number of jobs held by DOE and its contractors. In fact, a
medium sized hotel-casino project in Las Vegas (e.g., at 2500 rooms) produces substantially more
jobs, income, and public revenues than the Yucca Mountain project does or ever will. Numerous
surveys over the past decade show that a large majority of Clark County residents (about 70%)
oppose the Yucca Mountain project.
However, there are influential advocates for the repository program in the Las Vegas area. These
proponents are a mixture of new and old; DOE and its predecessor agencies have been a major
power because the Nuclear Test Site was established in the early 1950s with a large staff of
federal employees and contractors headquartered in Las Vegas. In the case of the Yucca
Mountain project, it is acting on behalf of the nuclear power industry, which in turn has
established its own presence with political and media programs. Local contractors and labor
unions with special ties to DOE both at the test site and at Yucca Mountain are supporters. Local
public officials are often put in a difficult position. They want to support the Nuclear Test Site
because it has a long history of acceptance and is defended by an entrenched group of supporters
but that means also condoning the radioactive hazards of testing. At the same time they want to
oppose the Yucca Mountain project because it presents additional, perhaps uncertain risks, not
only to human health and the environment but to the visitor economy, and it is strongly opposed
by the public. These conditions are a formula for conflict within the public stakeholder groups and
between public officials and jurisdictions.
Las Vegas has experienced few significant economic impacts to date, but it is the most vulnerable
area in the state to the future potential of stigma impacts. Such impacts would have serious
negative effects on state revenues, which are dependent on visitor spending in Las Vegas. Other
areas of growth and development could also be adversely affected if stigma impacts prompt
retired people, job seekers, and business investors to avoid southern Nevada.
Compensation and Mitigation
Attempts to find an interim storage site have not succeeded, although locations in New Mexico
and Wyoming are possibilities. This situation arises in part from the maldistribution of costs and
benefits associated with HLNW storage. At least in theory, compensation provides a solution to
the siting dilemma. The study team has examined this option, as reported in chapter 8.
The idea is that a combination of mitigation and compensation should enable a developer to
address public opposition to a facility such as a HLNW storage site. Mitigation and adjustments in
engineering or program decisions and processes should eliminate and/or reduce negative effects
and potential impacts so acceptable solutions could be found for public concerns. Residual
negative impacts then could be compensated for by making payments to persons or communities
that are otherwise harmed.
Compensation can take a number of forms: direct monetary payments, in-kind awards,
contingency funds, property value guarantees, benefit assurances, and economic goodwill.
Compensation strategies can be classified based on when the payments are made at the time the
facility is sited (i.e., ex ante); while the facility is operating (i.e., interim); or after an accident or
some negative event occurs (i.e., ex post).
The siting literature suggests many cases in which compensation produced or at least contributed
to successful siting, but there are also a number of cases where benefits failed to overcome
opposition of local residents. Compensation has been ineffective in gaining support in the case of
radioactive waste facilities. This is true of low-level and high-level facilities. This does not appear
to be merely a problem of the level of compensation; it suggests that radioactive waste facilities
raise objections that cannot be offset with compensation.
In many cases, repository opponents believe the facility will impose severe health and
environmental risks; no amount of money can offset large increases in the risk of death to oneself
and one's loved ones. Some opponents believe the repository will pose serious risks for future
generations, and these people tend to reject compensation, even if they see little risk to
themselves. In contrast to standard economic models of choice, it is not enough to make residents
believe they will be better off with the facility than without it; acceptance requires the person
believe he or she is acting in a morally responsible way. Offering compensation when there are
doubts about the legitimacy of the proposed facility is likely to intensify one's opposition and lead
to bribery charges. This consideration applies directly to the HLNW repository case.
This suggests that a combination of mitigation and compensation must address the range of public
concerns. It is not merely a matter of paying for negative impacts or vulnerabilities. The important
remedial measures involve addressing the public's safety concerns by revamping the siting
procedure to establish more legitimate decisions regarding what to build and where to build.
Based on survey data reported in chapter 8, and actual siting experiences, mitigation measures
such as independent inspections of the facility and the ability of local communities to shut it down
if they consider conditions unsafe show some promise for gaining public acceptance. Public
acceptance can also be enhanced when local residents are convinced that the proposed facility
should be built (from a societal perspective) and that the siting procedure is fair in assessing
potential sites and meeting standards of equity and fairness.
The research by the study team concluded that compensation is a potentially valuable tool for
gaining local acceptance of otherwise undesirable facilities, but in the case of a HLNW repository
it faces serious limitations. In this case, the federal government would be advised to approach
potential host communities with a willingness to negotiate the facility impacts, to provide
assurances that the study and development processes are fair and acceptable, and that the
communities are willing participants in the program. A key aspect of dealing with potential hosts
is that no community or state is forced into accepting a HLNW facility against its wishes. This
latter standard may greatly restrict the locational choices and it may require the federal
government to revisit the choice of technology, the options for interim waste management, and
the relative acceptability of alternative facilities.
Developing a Program to Monitor Impacts and Vulnerabilities
The state of Nevada Socioeconomic Study Team research program has identified numerous areas
of potential impacts, positive and negative, that might result from the Yucca Mountain project.
Impacts and areas of impact have been described. However, the repository program is an ongoing
effort and it will require continuing oversight in order to track the direction and degree of impacts
that will take place in the future.
One area of concern is the conditions introduced by the repository program that have been
evaluated as vulnerabilities for Nevada. These areas should be monitored because they might turn
into negative impacts. An adequate monitoring program will provide information and alert
Nevada officials to the problems and if possible to the options for dealing with impact problems.
The monitoring program is designed to use existing social science expertise and understand the
socioeconomic problems created by Yucca Mountain, develop new methods for research, and
apply advanced techniques for data collection and analysis.
The unique characteristics of the repository program and the uncertainties involved with it
confront researchers with unusual challenges. These uncertainties are not entirely those directly
produced by the program and the site. They also come from how people will react to the
activities, events, and locations where the repository program takes place. This includes the public
responses along the transportation routes, which will involve at least 40 other states but which
will focus on and concentrate in Nevada as the designation of the nation's HLNW. One issue is
how events and possible controversy along the transportation routes will be connected to facilities
in the host state, as would be the case with Nevada and a repository at Yucca Mountain or an
interim storage facility at the NTS.
Another set of concerns come from the direct impacts of the HLNW program on Nevada, its
citizens and communities. In many cases the costs and benefits can be traced through from the
project to the places where the impacts occur. This can be done for employment, income,
spending, and public revenue effects. The costs to state agencies of the program implementation,
including responding to the mandates, can be estimated. Because this is an ongoing program
subject to major changes over time, a monitoring program is necessary in order to track the
effects and determine impacts.
In some cases, such as the response of Nevadan's to the stigmatization of their state or
community, it will be necessary to structure reliable and valid ways to measure the quality of life
impacts. These research efforts can proceed along with the monitoring program. The
recommendations for this biannual report are to continue work on monitoring key information
sources that provide needed information, identify areas where additional development is needed,
and conduct the research necessary to obtain and analyze information that is not currently
available but which is necessary to reduce the uncertainty and vulnerability of Nevadans in regard
to the repository program.
Socioeconomic research to date has found that the federal government Yucca Mountain
repository program has had a negative impact on the state of Nevada, due to a number of basic
conditions that have not been addressed in federal attempts understand the nature of the
The potential sources of positive economic impacts include employment, spending, and revenues.
Repository-related employment is modest when compared to other economic sectors in southern
Nevada. For example, any one of the major new casino operations put into operation over the
past 5 years provides much greater employment than does this DOE program. Also, by attracting
visitor spending, which is taxed to provide state and local revenues by nonresidents, these casino
operations make a major contribution to the state's fiscal balances. The employment at the Yucca
Mountain project does not provide these sources of state and local funding. In effect, the Yucca
Mountain resident employees are subsidized for their public services by other citizens and by the
visitor economy, which provides a disproportionate amount of public revenues. Spending in
Nevada is a small part of the equipment and supplies costs for the Yucca Mountain project.
Recently, DOE began making payments equal to taxes to Nye County. These payments are
modest and a negotiated amount, rather than assessed as a privately owned industrial activity,
which was the revenue liability as defined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Also, the distribution
of these revenues does not support public expenditures for citizen services to most of the
employees Yucca Mountain project because most of these workers live in Clark County and not
in Nye County.
In addition, the Yucca Mountain program imposes a large number of costs on the state of Nevada
and its agencies, which are neither recognized nor paid for in the federal allocations for program
The Yucca Mountain project has generated extreme political and social concern, conflict, and
controversy. The response of DOE and the nuclear industry to these conditions has been to fund
and carry on extensive advertising, public relations, and advocacy programs to support the
repository program. The expenditures for these PR campaigns would appear to cost considerably
more than is allocated to the state of Nevada for its legally mandated oversight responsibilities.
The requirement in the federal legislation that DOE seek and obtain consultation and cooperation
agreements has never been seriously attempted.
The explication of the stigma impact vulnerabilities for the state of Nevada incorporates a new
dimension of planning and monitoring the nation's HLNW program. These studies have
demonstrated the way that significant future negative impacts might be experienced by the state
and its communities. The image and reputation of Nevada is a critical part of its future economic
viability. No other state has such an economic stake in the quality of its appeal to nonresidents as
Nevada does. The possibility that the state might be linked to HLNW images with their massive
negative connotations cannot be dismissed, and such a linking could have major negative impacts.
The study of potential stigma impacts should be a major focus of the state's research on
The wide range of serious problems with the Yucca Mountain project should not obscure the
importance of the socioeconomic issues. The many scientific, management, schedule, funding, and
contractual problems, which often seem to threaten the very existence of the repository program,
are very important. They often seem to overwhelm the socioeconomic issues. At the national
policy level, the socioeconomic vulnerabilities and impacts are often ignored. This means that
Nevada's case for a fair and equitable program must be made forcefully and with the best possible
research and information.
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1. This is a report on the findings of research into the potential socioeconomic impacts associated with the proposed Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste repository in southern Nevada. The report addresses a wide range of potential vulnerabilities and impacts particular to the Nevada context. It was peer-reviewed by an eleven member, multi-disciplinary Technical Review Committee comprised of nationally-recognized experts in various socioeconomic disciplines.
Researchers/authors of the report include: James Flynn (Project Manager), C.K. Mertz, and Paul Slovic, Decision Research and the University of Oregon; James Chalmers, Coopers & Lybrand; Doug Easterling and Howard Kunreuther, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; Catherine Fowler, University of Nevada Reno; Richard Krannich and Ronald Little, Utah State University; Alvin Mushkatel and K. David Pijawka, Arizona State University; and James Williams, Planning Information Corporation of Denver, Colorado.