Working Paper

Cleaning Up the Nuclear Weapons Complex: Exploring New Approaches

Aug 1, 1996 | Katherine N. Probst, Carolyn A. Pilling, Karen Turner Dunn


<p>In recent years, policy experts have increasingly decried the "piecemeal" approach to environmental protection embodied in existing laws and regulations. This paper analyzes one aspect of the call for more integration: the feasibility and advisability of developing an integrated approach to regulating the cleanup of the nation's nuclear weapons complex. The Cold War has left an unprecedented set of difficulties at sites across the country where vast quantities of hazardous and radioactive materials must be properly managed. Regulatory fragmentation&#151particularly the phenomenon of multiple regulators and regulations driving the allocation of resources in an uncoordinated fashion&#151is nowhere more evident than in the current statutory and regulatory framework governing environmental management activities at this array of sites&#151the nuclear weapons complex.</p> <p>The objective of an integrated approach is to give regulators and the regulated community incentives to look holistically at environmental hazards, both existing and future, and to develop creative ways of setting priorities such that risk, cost effectiveness, and public concerns are taken into account. This paper describes recent efforts to achieve integration in the environmental arena, surveys the unique technical, regulatory, and political circumstances surrounding cleanup of the weapons complex, and offers some preliminary thoughts on how integration might be attained in this vital area. While administrative and regulatory changes could achieve some important steps in this direction, the authors conclude that legislative change is necessary for implementation of a truly integrated approach.</p>