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January 31st, 2013

Radioactive Metal in Our Homes — The Nuclear Family Is about to Get a Little More Radioactive

For the Presss: High Resolution Image of Wenonah HauterBy Wenonah Hauter

If I were to ask you to imagine that the frying pan you use to prepare meals was slowly dosing you and your family with radiation, what would you say? Or how about the steel water bottle you use to tote water? It’s not a far cry from reality if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy have their way.

This past December, the DOE released a proposal to recycle an initial 14,000 tons of radioactive metals from nuclear reactors and weapons facilities back into commercial production for consumer goods. If it gets approved, you can bet they’ll dump more of this toxic nightmare into the supply chain. 

Sadly, this is nothing new. Since the 1980s, the DOE and the NRC have been cooking up a scheme to recycle radioactive scrap metals back into consumer products. These radioactive metals, which wouldn’t be labeled as such under DOE provisions, could be used to manufacture any of a wide variety of products from metal water bottles to your children’s braces.

By the NRC’s own estimates in the 90s, the practice of recycling these materials into commercial use had a 1 in 286 risk of causing terminal cancer over the span of a lifetime. The DOE asserts that these products will be safe, and only contain a negligible amount of radiation — doesn’t that sound counter-intuitive?

As with radioactive wastewater from fracking, the nuclear industry has created an extremely hazardous byproduct that they have no way of safely or cheaply disposing — millions of tons of radioactive scrap metal. Instead of taking responsibility for its waste, it is trying to turn a profit from these materials and dupe the consumer under the guise of “environmentally friendly” recycling—all with our government’s support.

Nobody on the receiving end of these metals wants this. Recently the president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, Thomas Danjczek, expressed concern not only for the American consumer, but also for the steel plant workers who would be regularly exposed to these materials in large quantities. The integrity of metal recycling programs and American steel products is also at risk.

Consumers certainly don’t want radioactive products slowly poisoning us in our homes. Strong outcry from citizens and advocacy groups blocked this proposal from going through in the 90s and, until now, the DOE and NRC have been waiting for another chance to deregulate these hazardous materials.

That’s the good news — we have stopped this from happening before, and we can do it again. Please take action to protect our health by signing the petition to kill this lethal proposal.

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