[GRRN] Fw: Radiated Recycled Products

Bill Sheehan (zerowaste@grrn.org)
Tue, 21 Sep 1999 04:35:21 -0400

----- Original Message -----
From: <SK251@aol.com>
Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 1999 2:56 AM
Subject: Radiated Recycled Products

I'm very concerned about the possibility that the federal
government may approve "recycling" of "slightly"
radioactive scrap metal at nuclear reactors and
laboratories. I've been hearing about this for a while, but
an article in Sunday's San Francisco Examiner made it
more immediate. Apparently the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission suggested at a San Francisco meeting on
Wed/Thurs that this would be appropriate. The incentive,
of course, is that then utilities, etc., don't have to pay fees
for sending to low level nuclear waste dumps. They put a
public benefit spin on it by saying that it would "save
taxpayer money" from nuclear power plant decommissioning costs (which they
pass on to their ratepayers instead of their shareholders).

I am horrified by this idea! Just imagine - we could have
radioactive metals in our silverware, frying and cooking
pans, soup cans, jewelry, baby carriages, and on and on.
Apparently this is not just a proposal; some radioactive
metal already has received authorization to be recycled.
The article reports that in 1994 the Energy Dept. allowed
Lawrence Berkeley Lab to send "140 tons of copper wire
slightly contaminated with radioactive Cobalt-60 to a local
scrap metal recycler." Of course, they say that even if
the copper were used to make jewelry that is worn every
day, "it would have only a minute chance of giving anyone
cancer" and claim that allowing radioactive steel to be
recycled into everyday products would "only" give
people the equivalent of one extra chest x-ray per year.
(What about babies and children? And, of course, we
know how accurate and reliable these assessments have
been over the years.) And if it's been approved once, do
you think that's the only time?

Besides the incomprehension that I have that anyone
would think this is a sane thing to do, I am also concerned
about the repercussions on the recycled product markets.
Already, many people shy away from some recycled
products because of perceived contamination issues.
("You want me to blow my nose on tissue made from
garbage?" "Just exactly what is recycled toilet paper
recycled from - used toilet paper?") If people find that now
some of these contamination fears are all too real, I am
concerned that they will assume that all recycled products
present similar risks and we will have even more of an
uphill challenge than we've already had.

Has CRRA taken a position on this? Has NRC? Is anyone
organizing a response to this? The article says that the
steel mills are not too keen on it, but I think that recyclers
at all levels should be very concerned, too.

Susan Kinsella
Susan Kinsella
Susan Kinsella & Associates
4 Cielo Lane #1B
Novato, CA 94949
Phone/Fax: 415/883-6264
E-mail: susan@kinsella.org and seek251@aol.com