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Consent-based Siting Project

About the Project

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

The Common Ground project and consortium aim to improve mutual understanding of better practices in consent-based siting processes, 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 Spent nuclear fuel refers to “fuel that has been withdrawn from a nuclear reactor following irradiation, the constituent elements of which have not been separated by processing” (Ibid).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 connects a number of stakeholder groups wanting to engage in discussions about consent-based siting for spent nuclear fuel with those who have historical experience in nuclear technology/fuel cycle and/or are practitioners in nuclear waste and related policy. The consortium focuses on improving the processes of consent-based siting by engaging with communities, Tribes, industry, policymakers, and technical experts, as well as other groups to co-produce input and guidance. Insights may be used more broadly for energy facilities as well as critical infrastructure/process, including nuclear waste, the electric grid and power plants, hydrogen, etc.

**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 experience with public engagement and decisions relating to critical infrastructure. 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 a number of communities and subject matter experts that want to contribute to better understanding of consent-based siting for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel. 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 participatory decision-making 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 are used in community decision-making, with analytics based on scenarios, risk assessment, and fuzzy logic.

Anticipated Outcomes

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.