Takoma Park, MD — May 14 - Radioactive materials are being released from nuclear weapons facilities to regular landfills and could get into commercial recycling streams, finds a new report released today by Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).
The report: Out of Control — On Purpose: DOE's Dispersal of Radioactive Waste into Landfills and Consumer Products — was commissioned to track if and how the Department of Energy (DOE) releases some of the radioactive wastes from nuclear bomb production.
The report authors, led by Diane D'Arrigo, NIRS' Radioactive Waste Project Director, researched seven sites and the DOE national headquarters. The seven sites were: Oak Ridge TN, Rocky Flats CO, Los Alamos NM, Mound and Fernald OH, West Valley NY, and Paducah KY.
"People around regular trash landfills will be shocked to learn that radioactive contamination from nuclear weapons production is ending up there, either directly released by DOE or via brokers and processors," D'Arrigo said. "Just as ominous, the DOE allows and encourages sale and donation of some radioactively contaminated materials."
The report tracked the laws, guidance and technical justifications that DOE uses to rationalize allowing radioactive scrap, concrete, equipment, asphalt, plastic, wood, chemicals, soil, and more out to landfills, commercial businesses and recreation areas, recycling and reuse in places unprepared to handle radioactivity. Applauding DOE's ban on recycling of radioactive metal from nuclear weapons, the report cautions there are loopholes and it is again threatened.
"DOE is ignoring public opposition to unnecessary exposures and releasing radioactivity even though the U.S. Congress revoked such release policies," said Mary Olson, director of the NIRS Southeast office and a co-author of the report. "DOE is using its own internal guidance to allow radioactive weapons wastes out of control, claiming the doses to people will be 'acceptable' even though they are not enforced or tracked."
Under the current system, the DOE and other nuclear waste generators release materials directly, sell them at auction or through exchanges or send their waste to processors who can then release it from radioactive controls to landfills, to recyclers or for reuse.
The report found that the State of Tennessee is a leader in licensing processors that can release radioactive materials for the nuclear waste generators.
"Tennessee is serving as a funnel to bring in nuclear weapons and power waste from around the country to disperse into the landfills and recycling without public knowledge," D'Arrigo said.
The waste is processed by state-licensed companies and in some cases "redefined" as "special" then released to regular landfills. This free release also opens up the potential for the materials to enter the recycling stream to make everyday household and personal items or to be used to build roads, schools, and playgrounds.
"As long as DOE and other nuclear waste generators can slip their contamination out — letting it get Out of Control — On Purpose — there is really no limit to the amount of additional radiation exposure members of the public could receive," D'Arrigo concluded. "Only an informed, outraged public can force DOE and agreeable states to shift the goal from dispersal to isolation of radioactive waste."
A copy of the full report can be found on the NIRS web site at: http://www.nirs.org/radwaste/outofcontrol/outofcontrol.htm
The report authors and contributors include: Diane D'Arrigo, NIRS' Radioactive Waste Project Director Mary Olson, Director, NIRS Southeast Office Cindy Folkers, NIRS, Health and Environment Project Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, Radioactive Waste Management Associates, NYC