The Department of Energy is proposing to allow the sale of tons of scrap metal from government nuclear sites—an attempt to reduce waste that critics say could lead to radiation-tainted belt buckles, surgical implants and other consumer products.
The department, in a document released last month, said the recycling proposal is in line with its policy of “reusing materials whenever possible.”The approximately 14,000 tons of metal under review for possible initial release is only a fraction of the tens of millions of tons of metal recycled annually, it said. Smaller amounts could be eligible for release in future years.
Selling the metals could bring in $10 million to $40 million a year, the DOE estimates.
While the metal would come from “radiological areas” such as research laboratories and nuclear-weapons-related facilities, any contamination would be so low that a member of the public would be exposed to a “negligible individual dose” of additional radiation, the DOE said. The allowable annual radiation dose to an individual from a given shipment of the scrap metal would be half the estimated amount of radiation a person gets flying cross-country, or even less, the document said.
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