Recycling nuclear waste


Recycling nuclear waste

Your Summer 2005 Earth Island Journal had a piece by Natale Servino about “reusing” nuclear waste in the United Kingdom. It’s true, but hey! The US has been and continues to push putting nuclear waste in with regular trash for dumping, incinerating or – yes – even “recycling” into everyday household items.

This threat has been building for decades and the public has been pushing back quite successfully, but as more nuclear waste is created, the pressure continues to build. Rather than admit that radioactive soil, concrete, metal, plastic, asphalt, buildings, tools, equipment, chemicals, and more are waste, and pay to try to isolate that waste from the environment, the waste generators want to sell it into the marketplace as if untainted.

No fewer than five US federal agencies (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Departments of Transportation, Energy and Defense), three international agencies (International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations, Euratom for the European Commission, Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), and numerous state agencies including the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the California Department of Health Services are working to legalize this completely unacceptable deregulation of nuclear waste in their respective jurisdictions. The nuclear power and weapons industries that make the waste have strong influence over these so-called regulatory agencies.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is expected to resume its rulemaking to streamline the release of radioactive waste into commerce by 2007. The Environmental Protection Agency could allow nuclear waste to be dumped as less-regulated hazardous waste, or as regular garbage, at any point. The NRC and Department of Transportation have already adopted new exemptions for transporting nuclear materials, and five organizations are suing them (Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Committee to Bridge the Gap, and Redwood Alliance). The Department of Energy bans the recycling of radioactive metal, but appears intent on reversing that ban, so that metals contaminated from enriching uranium for nuclear power and weapons and other nuclear weapons wastes can be sold into commerce instead of isolated as waste.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, 16 states passed laws and regulations requiring nuclear waste to be kept at licensed facilities. States should be made to adopt and enforce such laws. Localities should pass resolutions, ordinances, and signed agreements with waste handlers requiring licensed regulatory control over man-made radioactive waste to keep it out of regular or hazardous trash dumps and, above all, out of the recycling supply and our day-to-day lives.
Our organization wants to assist concerned parties (as we have with folks in UK, Japan, and elsewhere) to prevent radioactive waste from going to unlicensed waste sites or being made into roadbeds, playgrounds, baby toys, zippers, furniture, cars, tableware, belt buckles, and beverage containers, and basically poisoning the recycling supply.

Diane D’Arrigo
Nuclear Information and
Resource Service
Washington, DC


On the wrong track

NASCAR (“NASCAR Goes Green?” Autumn 2005 EIJ) is like WalMart. They want to put a racetrack in every town, hamlet, and city in the US.

At a time when we should be discouraging this type of “growth,” for pollution, energy, and habitat destruction reasons, NASCAR is forcing it down our throats.

WalMart would be proud.

Tom Louderback

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