SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1992

Use of Geographic Information System Technology for Siting a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility


A geographic information system (GIS) was used for siting a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility for the state of New York. The New York State Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Act, passed in 1986, established a framework for developing a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility that will accept only New York's waste. Under the terms of the law, the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Siting Commission bears the responsibility for selecting an appropriate site and disposal method for the facility

A stepwise screening process that effectively applies a systematic GIS methodology to assist in the selection of one or more suitable sites was used. Such a process allows clear documentation and traceability for the siting methodology. The process is designed to balance geologic, hydrologic, and environmental considerations with social, economic, and political needs, while incorporating ideas and recommendations identified through a public involvement program. The process provides a number of key decision-making points where public involvement can be solicited and also allows for public education efforts to gradually build as the focus of the screening process narrows down to the more local level, where the degree of public interest and concern is expected to be the greatest. The Commission and its consultant team have completed the following three steps in the screening process: Step 1—Statewide exclusionary screening to eliminate areas where regulatory or legal constraints prohibit the development of a low-level waste disposal facility. Step 2—Screening of the remaining areas using additional criteria to identify ten candidate areas with the greatest potential for suitable sites. Step 3—Detailed screening of the candidate areas, limited on-site observations, and comparative evaluations to identify five potential sites that may be suitable for waste disposal.

Spatial information used in site screening is being carried forward and will be supplemented with the site-specific data from detailed on-site characterization studies. The GIS and database management technologies will be used to manage the voluminous data that will result from characterizing five sites and will support decision-making on the selection of a preferred site for licensing.

Author Information

Connolly, KJ
Roy F. Weston, Inc., Seattle, WA
Dressen, AL
Roy F. Weston, Inc., Seattle, WA
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Developed by Committee: D18
Pages: 262–271
DOI: 10.1520/STP24202S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5188-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1471-5