DOE: “Recycling” Radioactive Materials is NOT OK!

Tell DOE: “Recycling” with radioactive materials is NOT acceptable!


The Department of Energy (DOE) is considering a plan to allow radioactively-contaminated metal from nuclear weapons facilities to be “recycled.” This would allow this toxic metal to be mixed with clean recycled metal and enter into normal commerce—where it could be turned into anything from your next pants zipper to baby toys. Act below to stop this outrage!


This DOE action is just the foot in the door….if it’s allowed to occur, expect more efforts to deregulate radioactive materials from both DOE and NRC.

We’ve fought this battle before. In the late 1980s, NRC adopted a policy it called “Below Regulatory Concern (BRC),” that would have allowed about 30% of the nation’s “low-level” radioactive waste to be treated as normal garbage and dumped in landfills, be burned in incinerators, and yes, be recycled into consumer products. According to the NRC’s own calculations, its BRC policy posed a 1 in 286 risk of fatal cancer over a person’s lifetime.

NIRS and our allies responded with one of our largest organizing campaigns ever. Grassroots activists succeeded in getting hundreds of towns, cities and counties to adopt anti-BRC resolutions. The texts of those resolutions were sent up the chain to Governors, state legislators and Congressmembers. They responded: 15 states passed laws banning BRC within their borders. Hearings were held in the House and in 1992, Congress officially overturned the BRC policy.

But both NRC and DOE have been trying to implement the concept piecemeal ever since. In the late 1990s, DOE proposed a similar program to deregulate radioactively contaminated metal. Instead, DOE was forced to suspend the idea indefinitely—a suspension that stands today and that DOE is now trying to lift. Even DOE admits this program was defeated due to “public concern.”

Nothing has changed since 2000 that would justify lifting its current ban. Rather, just the opposite: since then the National Academy of Sciences has acknowledged that there is no safe level of radiation exposure, and we’ve learned that women are even more vulnerable to radiation than men (while children have long been known to be more vulnerable than adults). The DOE’s proposal flies in the face of what our society values most: protecting our children. It must be stopped before it starts.

Act now: Tell DOE to withdraw its proposal. At the same time, point out that DOE cannot take shortcuts; implementing this proposal would require preparation of a full Environmental Impact Statement—something DOE is trying to avoid.

We hope you will contribute to NIRS this holiday season after you take action. Your tax-deductible donations pay for more outreach, more organizing, more education, more action. We can’t do our work without your support, it’s that simple. Thank you!

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