by John Weingart
Rutgers University Press, 2007
Paper: 978-0-8135-4237-9
Library of Congress Classification TD898.12.N5W45 2007
Dewey Decimal Classification 363.728909749


It is an unenviable task, but one that all state governments face: finding a final “resting place” for low-level nuclear waste from power plants, hospitals, university laboratories, and other industries. John Weingart was the official in New Jersey who for many years led this onerous charge. This book is the story of how he and a commission appointed by the governor, instead of imposing a top-down solution, designed an approach that would confront public fears by seeking a community that would volunteer to host a disposal facility. Initially, this novel approach was surprisingly successful, as leaders in a dozen municipalities stepped forward to say they might be interested. Once their interest became known, however, the process in each town derailed. Residents demanded assurances of zero-percent risk and expressed profound distrust of government assertions and promises.

Waste Is a Terrible Thing to Mind is a compelling, suspenseful, and amusing insider’s account of New Jersey policy and politics, but it is also a larger saga of the challenges facing society in the post–9/11 era when the public’s distrust of government is increasing at the same time that its sensitivity to health and safety threats is heightened.

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"Written with a wry sense of humor, it is a pleasure to read and could provide the blueprint for future efforts to find locations for controversial land uses."
- Marie Curtis, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Lobby

"A penetrating look at one state's struggle with radioactive waste ... offering some tantalizing reflections on the public understanding of science and how we, in a democratic society, deal with complexity and uncertainty."
- Jay Kaufman, State Senator, Massachusetts State Legislature

"A provocative story, laced with humor, demonstrates how public distrust of government can make it impotent. It should be read by anyone working on public policy issues, especially planning, growth, and the environment."
- Harriet Keyserling, Former Energy Committee Chair, South Carolina State Legislature

"Readers interested in environmental policy, land use and how governments make decisions will learn much from this fine reflective insider's account. It's also a primer on how to survive and thrive in state government."
- David N. Kinsey, Visiting Professor, Woodrow Wilson School Princeton University

"... a fascinating case study of how a government agency creatively tried to solve an intractable public issue. Although the agency failed in its quest to recruit a town to host a low-level radioactive waste site, Weingart's detailed and often humorous narrative of the agency's efforts is a clear winner."
- Jack Sabatino, Judge, New Jersey Superior Court

"... a very engaging and sometimes discouraging case study about the pitfalls and perils of trying to site a controversial facility the right way."
- Gregg Larson, Administrator, Center for Biometric Research, University of Minnesota

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