The fences of the National Reactor Testing Station : intersections of popular culture and nuclear waste in eastern Idaho
Collier, Patrick Michael
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In the spring of 1949, Idahoans made a decision that forever altered the character of Eastern Idaho. The decision to embrace the US Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC) latest project, the National Reactor Testing Station, was a momentous one. Idahoans living near the proposed site counted on this decision to bring a treasure trove of economic benefits to the surrounding rural communities. By the 1970s as increasing information about the costs of the AEC's nuclear waste disposal programs became public many in Idaho found themselves shifting from overwhelming support of the AEC to a sort of middle ground. These Idahoans were careful to make clear that they supported the broad nuclear project within the state what they opposed was the AEC's nuclear waste disposal in the state of Idaho. This meant that in Idaho a total opposition to nuclear research never materialized at a time when anti-nuclear sentiment rose sharply throughout the broader US. The overwhelming opposition to Yucca Mountain Waste repository by the people of Nevada is the contrast to Idahoan's unique position of opposition balanced with accommodation. By tracing the history of these two projects and showing how Idahoans reacted in complex ways to the mounting information about the problems surrounding the AEC's nuclear waste disposal programs, important lessons are revealed about the ways local knowledge, scientific knowledge, and mass media interacted in the American West to create different environmental ethics.