Tribe-Sanctioned Nuclear Waste Facilities and Their Involuntary Neighbors

Nelson, R. Benjamin

In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) in order to study options for dealing with nuclear waste as alternatives to replace permanent disposal at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The BRC recommended a new voluntary siting mechanism based on the Nuclear Waste Negotiator (NWN), an expired program decried as “radioactive racism” for its almost exclusive focus on Native Americans. The NWN inspired numerous articles supporting or opposing tribes’ efforts to host nuclear waste facilities. Rather than focus on the tribal majorities that have pursued such facilities, as previous scholarship has done, this Note refocuses the analysis on the substantial tribal minorities that have actively opposed their leaderships’ decisions to host such facilities. The Note has two main goals. First, it seeks to elucidate the uphill legal battle that minority tribe members face under current law if they decide to challenge the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ approval of the lease for a facility that their tribal leadership has signed. Second, it offers specific recommendations for Congress to implement as part of its impending nuclear waste legislation.

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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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March 13, 2015