6. RADIOACTIVE WASTE: AS CLOSE AS YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Radioactive waste may be joining old tires, banana
peels, and other regular garbage at your local landfill. Radioactive waste may
be sent to both solid waste and hazardous waste incinerators. Radioactive waste
may be flushed down the drain to sewage treatment centers. Radioactive paper and
metal may be recycled into consumer products.
All of this will happen if
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
and the nuclear industry implement their latest plan deregulating low level radioactive
waste to "Below Regulatory Concern," (BRC). BRC means that the formerly
regulated radioactive waste will not require government regulation for radioactivity.
With the stroke of a pen, waste that the government currently regulates as radioactive
will become common trash. No labeling, no warning, no notification, no disclosure.
Simply a cheaper way to dump radioactive waste which is nothing more than another
outright subsidy to the nuclear power industry.
If the nuclear power industry
application is approved by the NRC, as much as one third of the volume of what
is currently considered "low level" radioactive waste from U.S. nuclear
power plants will become regular garbage. Waste that is currently considered "mixed"
radioactive and hazardous waste will be treated as hazardous only.
The plan also would allow the Department of Energy to take advantage
of BRC levels in its massive, $100 billion cleanup effort at the badly
contaminated weapons plants across the country.
The proposed BRC policies of NRC and EPA are especially
frightening because they will: increase radioactive contamination of the environment,
expose workers and the public to increased radiation levels, put the nuclear industry
in the driver's seat to determine amounts of "acceptable" radiation
exposure, and strip away state and local rights to protect the public from radiation
or to recoup costs in the event of future contamination problems. While the NRC
continues to promote deregulation in the United States, it also is pushing the
international radiation community to accept its BRC standards. However, it should
be noted that at an international conference in October, 1988, "there was
virtual unanimity that the NRC's BRC level was too high."
radioactive waste to "Below Regulatory Concern" could quite possibly
be the largest and most dangerous step in recent government history of "defining
away" tough problems like radioactive waste and radiation risks. Barry Commoner
calls it "linguistic detoxification."
Unfortunately, once radioactive
waste is deregulated, no records will be kept on the type of waste disposed of,
the place of disposal, or the radioactivity contained in the waste. Further, a
decision to implement BRC policies would result in irretrievable releases of radiation.
Dr. Martin Steindler, a member of the NRC's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste,
warned NRC staff members that if they make mistakes in their decisions on BRC
levels, or if they find out later that risks were underestimated, it will be too
late to do anything about it. Future generations will suffer the consequences
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: TINA RICH
SOURCE: THE WORKBOOK Box 4524 Albuquerque, NM 87106
DATE: April/June 1989
TITLE: "NIMBY, NUKEWASTE IN MY BACKYARDT'
AUTHOR: DIANE D'ARRIGO
COMMENTS: The proposed deregulation of radioactive waste "is
getting nowhere near the amount of media attention it deserves"
according to investigative author Diane D'Arrigo. She noted that the
issue had not aired on any network TV news nor been mentioned in the
newsweeklies nor The New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal,
or the Washington Post. She added that the Nuclear Information and Resource
Service (NIRS) in Washington, D.C., has worked for more than four years
to "alert the public to the plots to deregulate radioactive waste"
and that when the public becomes aware of the issue, the knowledge has
led to action. As a result of local awareness and protest, "Over
50 local and state laws and resolutions have passed prohibiting deregulation
of radioactive waste and calling for a reversal in federal policy"
on such deregulation. Local protest notwithstanding, on June 27, 1990,
the NRC issued the very policy D'Arrigo tried to warn the public and
press about. It officially made it possible for the nuclear industry
and others to reclassify low-level radioactive materials as "below
regulatory concern" and dispose of them as if they were regular
garbage. For more information about the National Information and Resource
Service and its efforts to fight nuclear deregulation efforts, write:
NIRS, 1424 16th Street NW, Suite 601, Washington, D.C. 20036.