Wide use of recycled uranium

Peter Eisler revealed in USA Today June 25 that a review of federal documents shows that government agencies produced 250,000 tons of contaminated uranium as the result of reprocessing irradiated fuel and that between 1952 and 1999 it shipped this uranium to more than one hundred federal plants, private companies, and universities. The level of impurities in the shipments varied, and DOE does not know which shipments were the most contaminated. At some facilities, processing of the contaminated uranium concentrated dangerous isotopes, thus increasing the risk to workers handling the material. Although the recycled uranium posed a risk of soil and groundwater contamination, there has been little attempt to check for environmental contamination from recycled uranium, except at the enrichment plants.

Three examples of hot spots are the Mallinckrodt Chemical fuel production plant in Hematite, Missouri, the Harshaw Chemical plant in Cleveland, and the Sylvania-Corning plant in Hicksville on Long Island. State of Missouri investigators have wondered for years why wells near the Mallinckrodt plant were contaminated with technetium. Now they think they know. The Bush administration has no plans to assess health risks or to investigate possible environmental contamination at newly identified facilities where contaminants were concentrated. Ellen Livingston, senior environmental policy adviser at DOE, simply says that "We will make our records available, and we’ll provide people to help interpret them."