Casey Zivin


Since the advent of nuclear power in the United States in the mid-20th century, the federal government has struggled to find a suitable location to store the hazardous waste associated with nuclear power generation. In 1991, in an attempt to solve the problem of storing nuclear waste, the federal government created grant programs which offered funding to states and Native American tribes who volunteered to store nuclear waste on their lands. One tribe in particular, the Skull Valley Goshute of Utah, viewed storing nuclear waste as an opportunity to infuse their reservation with monies. Further, because tribes enjoy sovereign status in the United States, the Goshute believed their application could overcome state and federal opposition. However, the Goshute’s application to store nuclear waste on their reservation was denied by the federal government which used its powers under the Federal Trust Doctrine to rule that storing nuclear waste on the Goshute reservation would adversely affect the health and well-bring of the Goshute tribe. This Note explores the conflict between the Federal Trust Doctrine and tribal sovereignty and how the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) handled this conflict in the siting of cellular towers on Native American land. Further, a proposal for a nuclear waste facility siting system based on the FCC’s Cellular Tower Construction Notification System is presented as a solution to the United States’ nuclear waste storage problem. This new siting system would allow tribes to enter in to lucrative contracts to store nuclear waste on their land while allowing the tribes to maintain their full sovereign rights. In order for this new siting system to work, the conflict between the Federal Trust Doctrine and tribalsovereignty must be reconciled by acknowledging that tribes have full self-determination limited only by externality moderations approved by the tribes.



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