Negotiating With NIMBY

Bruce Barcott argues that America needs a safe place to store its nuclear waste. Some tips on getting a community to support the construction of a nuclear waste site:

“With an issue like this, explicit cash payments make people very uncomfortable,” says Michael O’Hare [a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley who has studied Not In My BackYard problems for more than thirty years]. “They feel that this is not the kind of thing that ought to be traded in money.” When people consider a NIMBY project, whether it’s an airport, a prison, or a nuclear waste site, they impute a moral content to their behavior. Compensation sullies their motivation. “Crudely caricatured,” he wrote in a recent report, “a compensation offer can appear to ask, ‘How much do we have to pay you to give your children cancer?’”

Towns that entertain the thought of a nearby nuclear waste dump often have an economic rationale for doing so, but they’re also wary of being bought off. The key, O’Hare said, is to find indirect ways of compensating the local community that builds on a sense of pride in the facility.