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Not equitable, not efficient: U.S. policy on low-level radioactive waste disposal


  • Dennis Coates

    (Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

  • Victoria Heid

    (Budget Analyst, Fiscal Research Division, Maryland General Assembly)

  • Michael Munger

    (Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)


Elected officials and policy analysts alike often treat equity and efficiency as distinct concerns. In this case study, focusing on U.S. policy for disposing of low-level radioactive waste, we consider an instance where the distinction between equity and efficiency is difficult to sustain. The “equity, then efficiency” approach embodied in the compact system of regional agreements is largely to blame for the current crisis facing generators, regulatory officials, and citizens. We find that nearly three times more waste disposal facilities are being contemplated than are financially viable. More generally, it is claimed that the approach for achieving an equitable solution must be very carefully designed, and that the concept of economic efficiency must be considered (at least in this case study) as part of the definition of equity. This case study is unusual, because we are able to make a recommendation that improves both efficiency and equity.

Suggested Citation

  • Dennis Coates & Victoria Heid & Michael Munger, 1994. "Not equitable, not efficient: U.S. policy on low-level radioactive waste disposal," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 526-538.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:13:y:1994:i:3:p:526-538 DOI: 10.2307/3325390

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Colin F. Camerer & Howard Kunreuther, 1989. "Decision processes for low probability events: Policy implications," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(4), pages 565-592.
    2. Christopher K. Leman & Robert H. Nelson, 1982. "Ten commandments for policy economists," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 1(1), pages 97-117.
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    Cited by:

    1. Revesz, Richard & Stavins, Robert, 2004. "Environmental Law and Policy," Working Paper Series rwp04-023, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Vajjhala, Shalini & Van Epps, Amanda & Szambelan, Sarah, 2008. "Integrating EJ into Federal Policies and Programs: Examining the Role of Regulatory Impact Analyses and Environmental Impact Statements," Discussion Papers dp-08-45, Resources For the Future.
    3. Di Vita, Giuseppe, 1997. "Macroeconomic effects of the recycling of waste derived from imported non-renewable raw materials," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 179-186, December.
    4. Richard Benjamin & Jeffrey Wagner, 2006. "Reconsidering the law and economics of low-level radioactive waste management," Environmental Economics and Policy Studies, Springer;Society for Environmental Economics and Policy Studies - SEEPS, vol. 8(1), pages 33-53, December.

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