"Vision 2020":
Public Citizen
Alliance For Nuclear Accountability
Nuclear Information and Resource Service:

For Immediate Release:  August 15, 2001

David Ritter, PC 202-454-5176
Wenonah Hauter, PC 202 454-5150
Diane D'Arrigo, NIRS 202 328-0002 ext 16
Bob Schaeffer, ANA 941 395 6773

Groups Protest Government Plan to Resume "Recycling" Radioactive Metals from Weapons

Flawed DOE Hearing Process Indicates Nuclear Waste
"Rad-Recycling" is a Foregone Conclusion

ARLINGTON, VA - Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and other public interest groups, along with representatives of the metals industries, will be speaking out tomorrow at Department of Energy (DOE) hearings against a plan to allow radioactive metals to be "recycled" into consumer products.

Despite adamant public opposition to this scheme, the DOE appears determined to disperse its nuclear energy and weapons wastes into commercial products and regular trash. The "scoping" hearings, which were announced with scant public notice, are required to get public comments on the process and content of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) on dispersing nuclear waste into commercial products and disposal as regular trash.

The Department of Energy wants to resume and expand its program to unload vast quantities of radioactive scrap metal into municipal landfills and to "recycle" or discharge it into everyday household products and industrial materials. Currently, many kinds of radioactive wastes and materials -with the exception of some metals - are being released from DOE nuclear weapons sites to commercial recyclers to be made into common household items or dumped as non-radioactive trash.  In 2000, DOE put bans on recycling some radioactive metals, but the policy under consideration could overturn those bans.

The PEIS process is flawed. The DOE initially contracted with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to perform environmental review, but SAIC is one of the companies that stands to profit from radioactive "recycling" at a major DOE nuclear site depending on the outcome of the review.  SAIC's history of conflicts of interest on radioactive recycling led to the forced termination of its Nuclear Regulatory Commission contract.  In late July, after environmental groups and others pointed out these conflicts, DOE cancelled its SAIC contract to do this PEIS.

"To make these hearings really meaningful, the public should be able to see, through documentation, how the DOE came to the original decision to hire SAIC as the contractor to perform the PEIS," said Wenonah Hauter, Director of Public Citizen's Energy & Environment Program.  "Further, all scoping meetings should have been postponed until another contractor was chosen and all documents relevant to contractor selection are publicly available well in advance of any hearing. Evaluating the contractor is a crucial part of an open process."

"It's become clear as this process transpires that the DOE really only wants to hear from its own employees and contractors who support this ludicrous plan that would allow nuclear waste to be recycled into household and industrial products, and dumped into municipal landfills," said David Ritter, policy analyst at Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.

Some members of the Paducah Citizen Advisory Board, a group watchdogging the site in the country with the most radioactive metal, were given just a few hours notice that DOE was connecting them by speaker phone to the Cincinnati hearing. Mark Donham, a board member said that such short notice "is completely absurd and an insult to our intelligence and sensibility."  Members of the public who previously joined the DOE's PEIS e-mail list to be kept up-to-date on the issue and process, were never notified or invited to participate by teleconference or telephone.

"The public hearings on the release of radioactive materials into public commerce should be extended and broadened to engage as many individuals as possible on this national issue," said Trisha Christopher, program assistant for Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. "The locations of the public hearings should accurately reflect those communities that will be affected, which could be everywhere."

"The overwhelming input at the DOE hearings has been against nuclear waste getting into our forks, zippers, toasters, playgrounds and more," reported Diane D'Arrigo, radioactive waste project director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "The call has been for DOE to expand the ban on nuclear metal recycling and to prevent any other atomic materials from getting into regular recycling or trash."

"If the DOE can get away with it, they are going to follow the polluter's golden rule: the solution to pollution is dilution," said Hauter. "That's the reason they have selected a seasoned nuclear lobbyist to facilitate the so-called public hearings."

Holmes Brown, hired to facilitate the DOE's PEIS hearings, has been a paid advocate for the interests of radioactive waste producers for well over a decade, receiving funding indirectly from the DOE to promote nuclear programs. Information on the contracts and conflicts-of-interest for Brown, ATL International, and SAIC have been requested by the public interest.

"DOE has also failed to supply records of what radioactive materials have been and are currently being dumped into unregulated disposal and 'recycled' into everyday products," stated Ritter. "We are urging the Department of Energy to stop dispersing any radioactive materials - such as concrete, soil, asphalt, plastics, wood, metals and more - into municipal landfills and the open marketplace, and to strengthen and expand its current bans on 'recycling' radioactive metal."

The DOE hearings are at 2-5 PM and 8-11 PM at the Hilton Crystal City, 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway, in Arlington, Virginia.  Public Citizen and NIRS representatives will be available to consult with the public and the media at both sessions.            -30-