Nuclear Waste Transport and Residential Property Values: Estimating the Effects of Perceived Risk

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Nuclear Waste Transport and Residential Property Values: Estimating the Effects of Perceived Risk

by Jeff Smith

This paper attempts to use a current, highly publicized case regarding spent nuclear fuel shipments in South Carolina to test the effects on residential property values. As the title implies, the premise is that perceived risk may be all that’s necessary to affect human behavior, whether the perception is true or not. The authors cite previous studies that have empirically proven that environmental disamenities (hazardous waste sites, garbage dumps, etc.) reduce residential property values. Several other studies cited show that housing markets respond to both the introduction and elimination of disamenities. The authors associate this to the possibility of changing risk perceptions. What is the bottom line from these studies? “Sticky” housing prices may be associated with the differing perceptions of risk by experts and lay persons. Looking specifically at housing prices and nuclear material, this paper uses several studies that failed to establish a link between property values in the vicinity and nuclear power plants that were in close proximity to the houses. This is presumably due to the positive economic affect associated with the plant, such as increased tax base and high paying jobs. However, the authors study nuclear waste storage and transport, an area that may show a negative relationship because there are no offsetting economic benefits, such as well-paying jobs or larger tax revenues. The study focuses on shipments through three counties in South Carolina: Aiken, Beasley and Charleston. Shipments consisted of highly radioactive spent fuel rods, which were previously loaned to foreign governments under the condition that the rods be returned to the U.S. once they were spent (to prevent use of the rods in nuclear weapons).…...

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