Radioactive Scrap Metal in Your Mouth?

NASHVILLE, TN -- Tennessee's Dept. of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has approved an experimental process to reuse radioactive waste metals at the state's Oak Ridge nuclear weapons complex and sell the metal for use in consumer goods. The State's action allowing so-called "recycling" of radioactive metals "may well be a violation of federal law," according to two U.S. Reps. who have protested to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

Reps. John Dingle (D-MI) and Ron Klink (D-PA) charged that the DOE deliberately used Tennessee's DEC to avoid public scrutiny and to skirt federal rules that would forbid the project.

A May 1998 accident at a Spanish smelter sent a cloud of radioactive Cesium-137 across Europe. More than 200 groups have protested to the White House demanding a halt to the scheme.

"This is not a done deal," says Diane D'Arrigo at NIRS. While the scientific community agrees that no level of radiation exposure is known to be harmless, the Tennessee DEC trotted out the old yarn that the radiation exposure from the hot metals "would be so low it would pose no danger."

If the plan goes ahead, the metals could find their way into forks, frying pans, toys, teeth braces, false teeth, even hip joint replacements. (see spring '98 Pathfinder.)

--Nashville Tennesseean, Aug. 11 & 13 1999;
Nuclear Information & Resource Service press release, Aug. 12, 1999.