Nuclear Waste and Public Worries
Start Year: 2013

Nuclear Waste and Public Worries: Public Perceptions of the United States Major Nuclear Weapons Legacy Sites

We surveyed 1351 residents who lived near six U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) former nuclear weapon sites using random digit dialing and stratified random sampling in order to determine which risks most worried them and the predictors of their worries. Respondents’ greatest concerns were threats to their drinking water, transportation accidents, and worker exposures. The strongest predictors of their worries were concern about the quality of the local environment and the feeling that the federal and state governments were not doing enough to protect it. Many distrusted DOE’s com- munications to them, and they tended to be relatively poor and African American, women, not college educated, and admitted to little knowledge about the site. The results were largely, but not completely, consistent with the risk percep- tion and trust literatures, and they pose a challenge to the DOE to establish an effective partnership with diverse com- munities that will allow the DOE to manage some of these risks in perpetuity at these sites.