DOE Proposes Unrestricted Recycling of Radioactive Metals Into Consumer Goods

In a stunning development, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed reversing a twelve year old policy that prohibits the use of recycled radioactive scrap metal materials in consumer goods.

In a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, CBG’s Dan Hirsch notes that the proposed policy change would “allow members of the public to be exposed to the equivalent of dozens of chest X-rays over their lifetimes from exposure to DOE nuclear waste, with no medical benefit and no informed consent.”  As the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has repeatedly determined, all doses of radiation increase the risk of inducing cancer and leukemia.  Hirsch goes on to conclude that the “American public should not be made into a kind of cheap disposal receptacle for DOE’s radioactive waste.”

The current policy banning the use of radioactive scrap metal in consumer products was put in place by former DOE secretary Bill Richardson after the public learned that the DOE had been shipping radioactive scrap metal from a partial nuclear meltdown site to metal recycling companies, and was planning to sell contaminated metals from the Oak Ridge nuclear facility to scrap yards for consumer use as well.  These and other actions produced an outcry which led Secretary Richardson to suspend the practice, and then issue an order requiring new rules be established barring release of metals with detectible contamination above background.

Secretary Richardson also ordered an end to the practice until the results of an NAS study were released and required that a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) be completed by DOE before it would even contemplate returning to radioactive scrap metal recycling.

Now, Secretary Chu is considering issuing an order to reverse DOE policy and allow radioactive scrap metal recycling even though a PEIS was never completed and the NAS study concluded that there was such public concern about such a practice that it should not be approved unless there were significant public processes initiated to create a consensus on its acceptability.

Read CBG’s letter to the Department of Energy here.