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Congress Should Not Let Radioactive Recyclers Off the Hook

Oct. 30, 2000

Congress Should Not Let Radioactive Recyclers Off the Hook

Coalition of Groups Calls on Lawmakers to Close Loophole Enabling Radioactive Waste Recyclers to Avoid Liability

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Time is running out for Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) to make good on their promise to prevent radioactive waste recyclers from escaping liability for damage caused by their recycled products.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, a coalition of about two dozen public interest, labor, environmental and consumer groups sent a letter to these Senate leaders requesting that they close a loophole exempting radioactive waste recyclers and generators from liability if they release radioactive products into the public domain. The groups include Nuclear Information Resource Service, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, Physicians For Social Responsibility, U.S. PIRG, Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth

Last year, Congress passed the Superfund Recycling Equity Act (SREA), which exempted certain recyclers from Superfund liability. Generators and recyclers of radioactive material could use this exemption to escape liability derived from “recycling” radioactive waste into consumer products.

On Nov. 19, 1999, in a colloquy published in the Congressional Record, Lott, Daschle and Lincoln agreed to close this loophole “at the earliest possible opportunity.” Now, in the final hours of this congressional session, these senators are failing to make good on their pledge.

“The senators should keep their word,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “We have very serious concerns about the consequences of permitting recyclers of radioactive waste to escape liability for dumping their dangerous waste into products that people will use daily. Failing to fix this supposedly unintentional loophole will impose enormous health and environmental costs on this and future generations.”

The letter was delivered to remind senators of their commitment and of the public s opposition to unleashing radioactive materials into the marketplace. Currently, radioactive materials from commercial nuclear power plants can be recycled on a case-by-case basis and used to make products. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) plans to set a standard for the amount of radiation that the public can be exposed to from these products.