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Consent-based Siting

About the Consortium

Image of diverse group of people sitting in a meeting, looking engaged. One has a raised hand.

The Common Ground consortium aims to improve mutual understanding of better practices in consent-based siting processes for critical infrastructure, with an emphasis on consolidated interim storage of spent nuclear fuel.

Consent-based siting is “an approach to siting facilities that focuses on prioritizing the needs and concerns of people and communities” (DOE, 2023). Spent nuclear fuel refers to “fuel that has been withdrawn from a nuclear reactor following irradiation, the constituent elements of which have not been separated by processing” (Ibid).

Led by Dr. Kathy Araújo with Boise State’s Energy Policy Institute,** Common Ground will engage with communities and others in conversations to develop recommendations for consent-based siting processes that may be used with spent nuclear fuel and more broadly for critical infrastructure, including the electric grid and power plants, hydrogen, etc. We will draw from historical and current lessons on siting and related policy. The consortium focuses on improving the processes of consent-based siting in discussion with communities, Tribes, industry, policymakers, and technical experts to co-produce input and guidance.

**The Energy Policy Institute is the policy arm for the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a consortium of universities plus Idaho National Laboratory that focus on advancing energy research, education, and innovation. EPI is affiliated with the School of Public Service at Boise State University.

Major participants

We are one of twelve consortia, designated by the U.S. Department of Energy (see map). Common Ground is a collaboration of eight universities and the National Tribal Energy Association (NTEA), with additional cross-sectoral partners from government, industry and academia. This ‘networked learning’ hub includes Arizona State, Boise State, Colorado State, Idaho State, Montana State, University of Idaho, University of Wyoming, & University of Michigan plus NTEA. Additional partners include the National Association of State Energy Officials, Nuclear Energy Institute, Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, Western Interstate Energy Board, and Institute for Inclusive and Transformative Scholarship to ensure that State, industry, and key groups are factored.


Map of locations for consent-based siting awardee, partners or activity.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy. Locations for Consent-based siting awardees, partners or activity.

Partnering with communities and subject matter experts

Common Ground aims to build on lessons learned from historical and current experience with public engagement. By design, this project focuses on providing recommendations to the U.S. Department of Energy on consent-based siting processes and is not asked to designate a location or community for siting. In this 2 year project, we aim to have frank discussions and mutual learning with the public and subject matter experts that want to contribute to better understanding of consent-based siting. From this, we will develop general briefings that will be presented in public forums and writing. Quoting of individuals will only be done with their permission.

MethodsPicture of blocks that spell out methods, with many other letter blocks scattered around.

The project adopts a strategy to improve approaches to consent and participatory decision-making for different kinds of people and communities across geography, experience, and sector. It utilizes the qualitative strengths of interviewing/case analysis/historical record review for briefings, with geospatial modeling of siting considerations. Mutual gains approaches and ethnographic observation, Delphi ranking and pairwise comparisons may be used in discussions.

Seed Grant Opportunity

A new round of submissions will be opening shortly. Check back soon for additional information.

We are pleased to announce a call for seed grant applications to support research and/or public discussions on consent for temporary storage of nuclear waste.

This program is supported by the Common Ground consortium, a community network of universities and a national tribal organization plus public and private sector partners. Common Ground focuses on mutual learning to provide feedback to the U.S. Department of Energy on ways to improve consent-based processes.

The call and additional information can be found here.

Anticipated Outcomes of the Consortium

A group of professionally dressed men and women gathered around a computer, discussing an idea
  • A network-of-networks consisting of people wanting to engage
    in forward thinking tied to consent-based siting of consolidated interim storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel & nuclear waste
  • Articles & briefings for communities, policymakers & industry
  • A knowledge repository, course modules & tools, including
    a framework for consent-based decision-making
  • Improved understanding across geography, experience and sector from different forms of knowledge-holders
  • Identification of better practices
  • Opportunity to restore trust and confidence with shared problem-solving
  • More informed communities, training, and writing

Additional information

See these additional resources for more information.

News Articles about the project

Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future

Federal Register Notice (FRN)

  • 80 FR 79872, Invitation for Public Comment To Inform the Design of a Consent-Based Siting Process for Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal Facilities, December 23, 2015.
  • 82 FR 4333, Request for Public Comment on Draft Consent-Based Siting Process for Consolidated Storage and Disposal Facilities for Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Wastes, January 13, 2017.
  • 86 FR 68244, Notice of Request for Information (RFI) on Using a Consent-Based Siting Process to Identify Federal Interim Storage Facilities, December 1, 2021.

National Academy of Engineering

U.S. Department of Energy


This project is being funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy:

U.S. Department of Energy. Nuclear Awardee logo




**Logo was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy to indicate receipt of DOE funding. Not an endorsement by DOE.

This webpage will be periodically updated. Last update: October 30, 2023.