By William Boardman
Is that a Fukushima in your pants, or are you just hot all the time?
In something of a stealth maneuver during the 2012 holiday season, the US Department of Energy set about to give every American a little more radiation exposure, and for some – a lot, by allowing manufacturers to use radioactive metals in their consumer products – such as zippers, spoons, jewelry, belt buckles, toys, pots, pans, furnishings, bicycles, jungle gyms, medical implants, or any other metal or partly-metal product.
The Energy Department announced its plan in the Federal Register on December 12th, and invited comment for 30 days, through January 11, 2013. […]
Rep. Markey’s letter illustrates this concern, as he notes that the Energy Department is proposing to release contaminated metals into the marketplace, as long as, quoting from the document, it “… can be shown that the release will result in less that 1 millirem (mrem) above background to a member of the public in any calendar year.” [One millirem is a tiny amount of radiation.]
Nevertheless, Rep. Markey expresses doubt about even this low standard: “I believe this standard, even it were the appropriate standard, will be impossible to assure or enforce.” [emphasis added]
There is no federal agency with responsibility for such oversight or enforcement. This regulatory vacuum was illuminated by the discovery in 2009 of thousands of contaminated consumer products from China, Brazil, France, Sweden and other countries, as reported by Mother Nature Network:
“The risk of radiation poisoning is the furthest thing from our minds as we shop for everyday items like handbags, furniture, buttons, chain link fences and cheese graters. Unfortunately, it turns out that our trust is misplaced thanks to sketchy government oversight of recycled materials.
“The discovery of a radioactive cheese grater led to an investigation that found thousands of additional consumer products to be contaminated. The source is recycled metals tainted with Cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope that can cause cancer with prolonged exposure.”
Nuclear engineer Arnie Gunderson echoed Markey’s warning in his January 13th podcast, pointing out that the nuclear industry has been trying to do something like this for decades. The reason, he explained, was that radioactive materials are now liabilities for those who own them, are responsible for protecting them and, eventually, storing them safely. But, if they can sell the material, the liability instantly becomes an asset.
Read more at Nuke the People?
◇See also Markey Questions DOE’s Radioactive Recycling Proposal
This development confirms how undesirable radioactive materials are–and we can’t overemphasize Arne Gundersen’s observation about the DOE-enabled alchemy whereby the liability (having to store safely) is transformed into an asset (sales everywhere).