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Contacts: Diane D'Arrigo, NIRS 847-869-7650
Wednesday, December 8, 1999 Lea Foushee, NAWO, 847-869-7650
11:00 a.m. David A. Kraft, NEIS, 847-869-7650
"Environmental groups have met with NRC three times in the past decade on this issue under different names. We and an overwhelming majority of the public told NRC this policy is totally unacceptable. Just what part of 'NO!' does the NRC not understand?" asked Diane D'Arrigo, national Radioactive Waste Campaign director for the Washington-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). "People just won't put up with more radioactivity in their homes and possessions."
Under discussion for the fifth time in 18 years is an NRC proposal that would essentially make available for "unrestricted use" large quantities of what is currently classified as hazardous "low-level" radioactive waste. "Unrestricted use" means that the solids could be re-used as raw materials for such familiar consumer products as cars, appliances, medical implants, jewelry, toys, and cookware. Other uses in the building/construction trades and agriculture are possible.
While NRC has viewed such wastes in the past as "below [their] regulatory concern," "low-level" exposures do not necessarily mean "low-hazard." Evidence exists suggesting that small doses of radiation over long periods of time can in some cases be more harmful than large doses received all at once. Such chronic low-level doses could come from multiple sources of de-regulated radwastes.
"Mother Earth will survive our nuclear trash over geological time, but we as one strand in the web of life will not. Nuclear radiation and nuclear waste are damaging the human genome for future generations," said Lea Foushee, secretary/treasurer for the North American Water Office, based in Lake Elmo, MN.
Critics in the environmental community contend that NRC is abdicating its regulatory responsibility to save the nuclear industry money on radwaste disposal costs. They also point out that NRC has consistently failed to adequately incorporate the comments and wishes of the public in the final outcomes in each of the four previous rulemakings in the past, prompting the decision to boycott the current "enhanced participatory rulemaking" process.
Opponents of the NRC's rule point out that if adopted, it could mean:
A statement delivered to the NRC by environmental activists boycotting the meeting in Chicago states, "Our call to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is to fully regulate and isolate radioactive wastes and materials and anything they contaminate, no matter what level. The radioactive legacy of atomic weapons and energy production should be isolated from the public and the environment.
"We don't want nuclear power and weapons wastes "released," "cleared," deregulated," exempted, generally licensed, designated "de minimis," "unimportant," or BRC-below regulatory concern, or by any other creative, direct or deceptive means, allowed out of nuclear facilities and into the marketplace or the environment, at any level."
"This proposal amounts to little more than linguistic de-toxification, and we will fight it," asserts David A. Kraft, director of the Evanston-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, Illinois' nuclear industry watchdog group. "The "R" is supposed to stand for 'regulate.' If the folks at NRC don't have the stomach for regulating the nuclear industry and protecting the public, they should get jobs in hotel management," Kraft contends.
The public comment period for the rulemaking ends on December 22, 1999. Those commenting should refer to NRC's Radioactive "Release" rulemaking 64 FR 35090, 6-30-99; ATTN: NRC Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff. Comments should be mailed to NRC Chair Richard Meserve, Attention: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff, U.S. NRC, Washington, D.C. 20555
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