NorthWest Interstate Compact History


In 1980, Congress enacted legislation authorizing states to form interstate compacts and develop new regional disposal facilities for low-level radioactive waste. The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980, amended in 1985, resulted efforts from the work of three governors of states with existing commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities – Washington, Nevada, and South Carolina, known as the “sited states” – to create a more equitable policy of low-level radioactive waste disposal across the nation.

The Policy Act is a compromise between states with existing facilities, and states or compacts without disposal facilities. As part of the bargain, the sited states agreed to accept waste until January 1993. In return, states and compacts without disposal capacity agreed to acquire it by January 1993, either through the siting of a disposal facility of their own or through disposal contracts with other states or compacts. All states and compacts were to have either operational disposal sites or storage, or other interim waste management programs in place. 

Compact Legislation Ratified

Congress ratified the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management in 1985. The guiding policy of the compact is the protection of health and safety through the cooperative effort of the party states, and economical management of low-level radioactive wastes within the compact region.

The original seven member states were Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The eighth state, Wyoming, joined the Compact in March of 1992.

Site Closed to Out-of-Region Waste

As allowed by the Policy Act, the Richland, Washington, disposal site stopped accepting out-of-region LLRW as of January 1, 1993, except for that volume agreed to in the Rocky Mountain Compact contract (PDF).

Contract with Rocky Mountain Compact

A 1992 agreement between the Northwest and Rocky Mountain compacts allows low-level radioactive waste from Rocky Mountain Compact states to be disposed at the US Ecology site in Washington. Waste volumes are limited to 6,000 cubic feet per year, plus 3 percent per year growth factor. A one-time allowance (completed) of 140,000 cubic feet for waste from the Fort St. Vrain reactor was included. The contract term runs until site closure.

This contract is intended to protect and support the national compacting process through site consolidation. Rocky Mountain Compact states generate very small volumes of waste, making a disposal site in that region uneconomical. The contract sets an example for states that have, as yet, been unable to form compacts or develop contracts for waste management.