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The Socio-Economic Impacts of the Proposed Yucca Mountain High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository
Client: Inyo County Board of Supervisors
dashed line separator The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) submitted a License Application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in June of 2008 for the proposed Yucca Mountain Repository for High-Level Nuclear Waste. As an Affected Unit of Local Government, Inyo County filed and was granted a petition to intervene in the licensing proceedings before the NRC. The petition includes one contention that focuses on the potential for the repository to cause socioeconomic impacts within Inyo County.

The County entered into contracts with Gruen Gruen + Associates (GG+A) to study these potential impacts. GG+A provided the Board with an overview of their report, entitled “A County at Risk: The Socio-economic Impacts of the Proposed Yucca Mountain High-level Nuclear Waste Repository.” Upon the Board’s review, the report was finalized and submitted to the NRC to support the County’s socioeconomic contention.

GG+A’s research included gathering existing reports, summarizing the County’s current socioeconomic baseline, collecting data, conducting surveys, estimating potential impacts, and identifying mitigation measures. Research of past studies indicated that the proposed Repository could stigmatize nearby areas, amongst other findings. Three surveys were conducted, two in Death Valley National Park (one in April and one in July), and one in July at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center near Lone Pine. The results indicate that a stigmatization effect will be induced by the Repository. The financial impacts of this stigmatization were then modeled. Estimates were also made of direct costs to the County if the Repository becomes operational, as well as indirect impacts in terms of lost tax revenue.

The findings of the report indicate that if the Repository becomes operational, all of its impacts will be negative. It is estimated that upon initial announcement of the Repository’s operation, visitation will drop between 17.3 and 26.3 percent. If the Repository operates for ten years with no incident, it is estimated that the drop in visitation will be between five and 14.7 percent. If there is a transportation incident, it is estimated that visitation will drop between 27 and 57 percent. The resulting total annual losses are predicted to range from about $32,000,000 to $84,000,000. Predicted direct costs to the County are estimated at about $200,000 per year, and predicted revenue decreases to the County range between about $350,000 and $4,000,000. Additional losses could occur from the diseconomies of scale and investment disincentives.

In order to mitigate the potential impacts of the Repository’s operation, GG+A recommended that the County’s economy be diversified. According to the report, the most likely route to such diversification is available in the form of utilization of the County’s natural resources, particularly solar and geothermal energy and mining, that have the potential for becoming a significant part of the economy of Inyo County. GG+A recommended that a concentrated effort be spearheaded and funded by the federal government to increase and speed up the use of the County’s natural resources.




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