Radioactive Waste Smelting: Partial Halt, No Safety

Radioactive Waste Smelting: Partial Halt, No Safety

WASHINGTON - The public is not protected by the government's decision to temporarily stop the sale of some radioactively contaminated metals on the free market, Ralph Nader's Public Citizen said. The Energy Department (DOE) postponed the release of 16,000 tons of "volumetrically" contaminated nickel and steel, but will permit 121,000 tons - contaminated on the surface - to be recycled into household products such as baby carriages, zippers, frying pans, tableware and braces for teeth. (Volumetrically contaminated waste is contaminated throughout by radioactive particles.)

Widespread protests forced the DOE's partial reversal. But the NRC still intends (for the third time) to create an acceptable national standard for the amount of radiation that can be contained in a product made from recycled radioactive waste. DOE claims that both kinds of nuclear waste, left from nuclear weapons factories, can be cleaned enough to be "considered safe."

- New York Times, Jan. 12, 2000.