Jan 24 2013
In a bizarre effort to recycle nuclear waste a federal government agency is proposing simply to incorporate it into everyday consumer products. The US Department of Energy or DOE last month put forth a plan to sell 14,000 tons of radioactive nuclear scrap metal from government facilities to various consumer manufacturing industries. It’s actually an idea that has been proposed before, and shot down by consumer safety advocates.
While the DOE is stressing that the radiation levels from the waste would be so low as to be harmless, critics at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) are calling the inclusion of radioactive material in products ranging from hip replacements to zippers and belt buckles an outrage.
Democratic Congressional Representative Ed Markey called the proposal “unwise” and urged for it to be “immediately abandoned.” In a letter sent to Energy Secretary Steven Chu last Friday, Markey went on to state ‘[contaminated products could] ultimately be used by pregnant women, children and other vulnerable populations.”
The current fight against this proposal has its roots in an earlier government nuclear recycling program that ran from the 1990s to the middle of 2000 in which the DOE’s own inspector general found radiation levels several times the allowed limits in one Tennessee facility which had received 3000 tons of radioactive material. In 2000, in response to public pressure, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson halted the release of radioactive waste from government and research facilities.
As part of this latest effort to recycle nuclear waste, a DOE draft document from last December names a number of facilities including the Los Alamos National Laboratory and more locally, the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC), 30 miles north of Los Angeles, California, near Canoga Park, as areas which could release contaminated materials to be used in consumer goods.
GUEST: Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Visit www.nirs.org for more information.
Public comments to the DOE on this proposal can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.