Connecting social sciences and engineering to design energy facilities that serve local communities

A research team led by the Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis University of Oklahoma is developing a community framework to help the US Department of Energy design critical energy facilities to meet the aspirations of potential host communities.

NORMAN, Okla., August 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — There’s plenty of new stuff that cities will proudly claim – ever hear the road trip trope of visiting the biggest ball of yarn? But it has always been much harder for local communities to take pride in hosting critical energy facilities, especially those involving the management of the country’s spent nuclear fuel.

On March 26, 1999on the outskirts of Carlsbad, New Mexico, the waste isolation pilot plant received its first shipment of nuclear waste. Congress authorized the construction of WIPP in 1979 because of its unique geology, a 2,000-foot-thick salt bed resulting from the evaporation of the ancient Permian Sea more than 250 million years ago. Additionally, its proximity to Los Alamos National Laboratory and the support of key local officials are also beneficial, making WIPP the first underground nuclear waste repository in the United States to safely store decades of nuclear detritus resulting from the Cold War bomb making and nuclear research. Since its inception, however, finding a safe and accepted approach to managing the growing stockpile of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants has proven elusive, drawing opposition from potential host states and advocacy groups.

Today, the Department of Energy is reviewing the process for managing used nuclear fuel. The DOE Nuclear Energy University Program has awarded nearly $3 million to a research team led by the University of Oklahoma Institute for research and analysis of public policies with collaborators of the Institute University of Michiganthe The University of Wisconsin-Madison, New Mexico State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to develop a new approach to “consent-based siting” of storage facilities that puts the questions, concerns, and interests of community members at the forefront of the engineering and planning process future storage sites. Learn more at

THE SOURCE University of Oklahoma

Abdul J. Gaspar