Governor Davis Should Protect Californians From Radioactive Waste “Recycling” and Deregulation

Sept. 26, 2002

Governor Davis Should Protect Californians From Radioactive Waste “Recycling” and Deregulation

Protective “Radiation Safety Act” Needs Governor’s Signature to Prevent Radioactive “Recycling” into Consumer Products

WASHINGTON, D.C. – California Gov. Gray Davis should take advantage of an exceptional opportunity to make his state a leader in protecting the public from the dangers of nuclear radiation, Public Citizen told the governor today.

In a letter to Davis, the consumer group urged him to sign California Senate Bill 1970, the Radiation Safety Act of 2002, which would render illegal a new state policy that allows radioactive waste to be disposed of as though it were household garbage, without notification to adjacent communities. The bill would prohibit any generator or owner of radioactive waste from disposing it anywhere except at a specified licensed facility. The bill also would prohibit the recycling of radioactive material. If passed into law, the act would make California one of the most protective states in the nation for the regulation of radioactive wastes.

“Californians don’t want radioactive materials in their landfills, and they don’t want nuclear waste being recycled into their frying pans, bedsprings and bicycles. But the nuclear industry is willing to do anything to stay out of bankruptcy court,” said Jane Kelly, director of Public Citizen’s California office. “Governor Davis must choose between protecting his constituents from added radiation exposures and coddling the nuclear gang as they attempt to sweep their atomic waste under someone else’s carpet.”

The bill passed the state legislature by wide margins and now sits on Davis’ desk. Davis has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the bill.

The substantive public health and safety provisions in the bill represent a major improvement in California’s state radiation and waste disposal laws. The Department of Health Services (DHS) last year enacted a policy permitting the disposal of radioactive waste in community landfills and the recycling of waste into consumer goods. Also under this policy, which has been blocked by lawsuits, structures (such as a trailer) from a nuclear reactor site could be sold or donated to a school. This has already occurred once, when a company donated a trailer laden with asbestos to a Los Angeles-area school. Under the Radiation Safety Act, this would be illegal.

The nuclear industry is pushing Davis to veto the bill because it’s far cheaper to dump radioactive waste in landfills or send it to recycling facilities than to send it to licensed disposal facilities. Corporations with nuclear activities in California have lavished Davis with over $330,000 in contributions since 1998. The industry often downplays the known health risks of radiation.

“Governor Davis has a prime opportunity to help stem the current tide of awful ideas coming from alleged nuclear ‘regulators,’ both state and national,” said David Ritter, policy analyst with Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “This legislation is a perfect application of the precautionary principle, ensuring that the government does no harm to its own citizens. Regulators shouldn’t be attempting to mislead the public that it’s okay if something is ‘slightly radioactive.’ Any additional radiation exposure is unacceptable. If Californians don’t want their local store shelves and their homes filled with radioactive products, they need to call the governor and tell him to sign this bill.”

Click here to view the letter online.