WASHINGTON — Newly obtained government documents are prompting concern among critics that Environmental Protection Agency officials are seeking to use the organization’s new guide for nuclear-incident response to relax public health standards, but the agency is denying the claim.
The Freedom of Information Act release comes as the agency has yet to finish collecting public comments on the so-called protective-action guide, which it issued in April after years of internal infighting and public controversy. The document is meant to give federal, state and local officials advice on responding to a wide range of radiological incidents, such as “dirty bomb” attacks, nuclear power plant meltdowns and industrial accidents.
The documents obtained by Global Security Newswire show EPA officials have suggested at meetings around the world that the new guide could allow for the use of long-term cleanup standards dramatically less stringent than those the agency has enforced for decades at hundreds of sites throughout the United States, critics say.
In some cases, EPA officials have not only suggested that a drastic event akin to the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan would necessitate more flexible guidelines, but also have made statements that critics say challenge the very science behind the agency’s everyday radiation rules.
As it was, watchdog groups already were raising alarms over comments that Paul Kudarauskas, an official with the EPA Consequence Management Advisory Team, made earlier this year suggesting events like Fukushima would cause a “fundamental shift” to cleanup.
Kudarauskas in March said that U.S. residents are used to having “cleanup to perfection,” but would have to abandon their “not-in-my-backyard” mentality in such cases. “People are going to have to put on their big-boy pants and suck it up,” the EPA official said.