Fall-Out: New York v. United States and the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Problem

Dreilinger, Samantha | January 1, 2010

For over thirty years, the United States has failed to solve its low-level radioactive waste problem. Working independently, state governments have not developed a single new disposal site for low-level radioactive waste. Congress’ best efforts to address the growing quantities of waste included passing a law that, in part, required states to accept responsibility for all low-level radioactive waste. Unsurprisingly, most states opposed this provision and were relieved when the Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional in New York v. United States. As the states and the federal government remain at an impasse, low-level radioactive waste accumulates in countless makeshift storage facilities across the country. The amount of low-level radioactive waste generated by corporations across the country continues to increase, making it imperative that the United States resolve its low-level radioactive waste dilemma. Ironically, New York v. United States, the Supreme Court opinion that has allowed states and the federal government to largely ignore the low-level radioactive waste problem, also provides a promising potential solution.