23 November 2014

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just released an environmental assessment (EA) for allowing radioactive waste metal to be mixed with the nation’s scrap metal stream. Talking points are below.

In 2000 under President Clinton, a contaminated metals moratorium was put in place, disallowing radioactive metal from being mixed with the nation’s scrap metal stream. Outspoken public concern over proposals to add radioactive metals into our scrap metal led to this moratorium. The EA proposes to change that moratorium.

Americans clearly did and do not want ourselves, and particularly our children, to be arbitrarily exposed to unknown amounts of deadly radioactivity for no better reason than the convenience and profit for a few.

The DOE is taking shortcuts! Implementation of this sweeping proposal should require preparation of a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and public hearings, which the DOE is trying to avoid. After spending over a year preparing the EA, the public was give 30 days to comment, right over the holiday season! The deadline was extended 30 days because the email address provided for comments was invalid. Nonetheless, the current deadline of Feb. 11 is far too short for the American public to have full discourse on this far-reaching proposal. Tell the DOE they need to extend the deadline!

• Nothing has changed since 2000 that would justify lifting the moratorium. Rather, the National Academy of Sciences has acknowledged that there is no safe level of exposure to radioactivity, and it has since been learned that women are more vulnerable to radioactivity than men. Children have long been known to be more vulnerable than adults. The EA contains no assessment of the impact of radioactivity on women or on children.

• DOE cannot claim a “finding of no significant impact” from this action because there is no estimate of the total amount of radioactivity that would be released.

• Doses in millirems, which DOE claims establish the regulatory exposure limit, can’t be measured because they are calculations. There is no safe level of radioactivity.

• There has not been a full economic analysis of how much government money, if any, would be saved.

• There has not been a full economic analysis of the health costs incurred by putting the public at this unnecessary, preventable risk. No amount of profit or cost saving can justify the accompanying health risks.

• This action would hinder the intent of the Presidential orders on recycling by tainting and poisoning metal, potentially increasing the demand for new metal mining.

PIKETON CONNECTION: This EA has been motivated by a desire to “recycle” radioactive metals. The dismantling of the gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant at the DOE’s Portsmouth nuclear reservation near Piketon, Ohio, is creating massive amounts of radioactive waste metal — the buildings cover 93 acres. Site manager William Murphie has been advocating for a metal smelter to be built at Piketon. There would be no use for this smelter unless radioactive metals could be put into commerce. A smelter could also bring in radioactive metals from across the country, turning the Piketon site into a virtual waste dump for contaminated metals and potentially polluting the entire area.

Comments on the Department of Energy’s environmental assessment for adding radioactive metal to our commercial metal stream can be sent to Comments