Objective. Inequity in the distribution of environmental burdens among social groups, for example, minority and disadvantaged segments of the population, is an important topic in policy research. This research has largely focused on hazardous waste facilities and Superfund sites. Yet federal mandates to the states raise similar concerns over the social distribution of low-level radioactive waste facilities (LLRWFs). This study seeks to provide the first evaluation of equity in the distribution of LLRWFs within a state.

Methods. We use data from the 1990 Census to compare selected characteristics of tracts with low-level radioactive waste facilities to tracts without, tracts nearby LLRWFs to those more distant, and tracts with LLRWFs, which may be more, and less, undesirable to other tracts.

Results. Findings suggest that communities with LLRWFs differ from other tracts in their residents' racial composition, socioeconomic status, industrial employment, and housing characteristics. LLRWFs more likely to be viewed as undesirable are even more likely to be located in areas with fewer white and affluent populations.

Conclusions. Despite difficulties in assessing the relative risks and benefits of LLRWFs, our results support concern for environmental justice issues in the future siting of LLRWFs and in mandated state planning for low-level radioactive waste long-term storage.



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