Study could lead to greater radioactive waste content in household products

A US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) study of international standards for the recycling of radioactive waste could lead to an increase in the levels of radioactive material in household goods, a consumer group has claimed.

Public Citizen argues that the NRC’s decision to order a study of the international recommended regulations for using radioactive waste in the production of carbon steel, stainless steel, nickel, copper and aluminium goods reflects the fact that the Commission is in favour of such recycling.

The group says that a recent NRC document claimed there could be “adverse effects for international trade” if the current practice of assessing the suitability of radioactive waste on a case by case basis are retained.

The NRC is in the process of setting a standard for the amount of radiation consumers can be exposed to from household products containing radioactive waste. The Commission recently directed its staff to ask the National Academy of Science (NAS) Board on Energy and Environmental Systems to conduct a study on the recycling of radioactive materials.

A key component of the NAS study is an analysis of the way other countries are proposing to recycle the waste. Public Citizen says the international recommendations will probably favour recycling the waste because the International Atomic Energy Agency – whose mission is to promote the use of nuclear technology – is involved in setting recycling standards in other countries.

“Despite widespread public opposition, the nuclear industry is pushing the government to permit more recycling of contaminated waste from nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons facilities because it is far less expensive to sell the waste than it is to isolate it from humans and the environment,” Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program said.

“Government agencies charged with protecting people from exposure to radioactive waste instead appear to be helping the nuclear industry to find a way to release the material into products that are distributed nationwide.”

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