Public perception of low-level radioactive waste disposal issues
Kozak, Rita Mary
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The purpose of this study was to investigate perception of low-level radioactive waste disposal issues. Responses were sought through the use of a mailed questionnaire that contained statements to which respondents Indicated the strength of their attitude or belief through the use of a six choice Likert scale. Questionnaires were mailed to two different types of respondents: organized citizen interest group members and non-group member citizens who resided in communities located near an open, closed or proposed low-level radioactive waste disposal site. Seven sample locations were used In this study: Spokane, WA and Harrison, OH (open sites); West Valley, NY and Sheffield, IL (closed sites); Dell City, TX and Lumberton, NC (proposed sites) and Lubbock, TX (control group). The objectives of the study were: 1) To gather information on how people perceive low-level radioactive waste disposal Issues; 2) To compare the perceptions between organized citizen Interest group members and non-group members within the same community; 3) To compare the perceptions between Interest group members living near open sites, closed sites and proposed sites; 4) To compare the perceptions between non-group members living near open sites, closed sites and proposed sites; 5) To identify aspects of crucial low-level radioactive waste policy questions which should be considered in policy decision making. Findings Indicate that significant chi-square test results between Interest group member respondents (IGMRs) and non-group member respondents (NGMRs) were rarely the result of interest group members being on one side and non-group member respondents being on the other side of an issue. Rather, significance usually occurred when there were varying degrees of agreement or disagreement between the two types of respondents on a particular question, with the IGMRs typically registering stronger levels of agreement or disagreement. Open site associated IGMRs tended to register stronger levels of agreement or disagreement on most issues, with the exception of the risk oriented questions, where the proposed site IGMRs were consistently stronger in their level of agreement or disagreement. Priority Issues identified by both IGMRs and NGMRs included public health and safety (safe living and working distance from a site, notification of site leakage, evacuation plans); risk perception (risk posed by low-level waste as compared with normal garbage, the government's priority on low-level radioactive waste Issues); economic (generator payment for safe sites, cost of groundwater monitoring and testing of residents' water); and environmental (protection of the environment when new technologies are developed and the responsibility of humans for the quality of the environment). Respondents also Indicated a need to redefine the problem from simply where to bury wastes, to whether more waste production should be allowed, how disposal should be undertaken and then finally, where disposal sites should be located.