— NASA scam declares SSFL exempt from cleanup

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – PEER

For Immediate Release:  Thursday, October 1, 2020
Contact:  Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028; Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

Nuclear Cleanup Scam on Supremely Contaminated Site

Historic Designation for Santa Susana Lab Excuses Remediation Obligations

Washington, DC — One of the nation’s most highly contaminated sites may escape cleanup by its designation as a cultural district for Native American artifacts, according to formal comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  This attempted maneuver seeks to expand a small loophole in a legally binding cleanup agreement to exempt the entire nearly 3,000-acre highly contaminated site, which includes a partial nuclear reactor core meltdown, from long overdue remediation.

Santa Susana Field Laboratory is a former nuclear reactor and rocket testing facility, home to a partial nuclear meltdown and numerous other radioactive accidents and toxic chemical releases.  It is located in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California, 30 miles northwest of downtown LA.

After a prolonged, tortured history, the site is now under a legally binding cleanup agreement requiring restoration of the site to its condition before it was polluted. There is a very narrow exemption for “Native American artifacts that are formally recognized as Cultural Resources.”

NASA, one of the site’s owners, has nominated the entire Santa Susana site as a Cultural District and declaring all 2,850 acres of soil, much of it extremely contaminated, exempt from cleanup as a purported “Native American artifact.”  This proposal adding the entire Santa Susana site to the National Register of Historic Places is now before the National Park Service.

“This scam by NASA has nothing to do with preserving cultural heritage but everything to do with weaseling out of expensive cleanup responsibilities,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the cleanup was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2017, but has yet to begin. “There no good reason why this designation couldn’t wait until after the cleanup was completed.”

The PEER comments also point out that the NASA nomination –

  • Falsely claims designation will keep “the area in a state similar to when [tribal] ancestors used and occupied the area.”
  • Omits that there are already protections for identified cave paintings and grinding stones but this plan would artificially increase by a factor of more than 200 the protected area’s size to precisely match the boundaries of the entire 2,850-acre Santa Susana site; and
  • Glosses over the formal opposition of Ventura County, a fact which, by law, should preclude designation.

“Failure to clean Santa Susana leaves surrounding communities at risk of toxic migration,” added Ruch, pointing out wildfires and other natural events can spread contaminants far offsite.  “Nuclear and chemical waste are not cultural artifacts we want preserved.”

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Read the PEER comments

View the opaque Federal Register Notice

https://www.peer.org/nuclear-cleanup-scam-on-supremely-contaminated-site/

— NRC deregulation of nuclear waste moves toward dumping in landfills

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – PEER

For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Contact:  Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028; Kirsten Stade kstade@peer.org

Deregulation of Rad Waste Disposal Plows Ahead

Decommissioned Reactors OK-ed for Landfills in Big Gift to Nuclear Industry

Washington, DC —The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is finalizing a year-long drive to functionally deregulate disposal of massive amounts of radioactive waste. NRC’s  plan would allow commercial nuclear reactors to dump virtually all their radioactive waste, except spent fuel, in local garbage landfills, which are designed for household trash not rad-waste,  according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Today marks the end of public comments for an NRC “interpretative rulemaking” that would, in effect, abrogate longstanding requirements that virtually all such waste must be disposed of in licensed radioactive waste sites meeting detailed safety standards and subject to NRC inspection and enforcement.  Instead, NRC would grant generic exemptions for unlicensed waste handlers.

NRC declares its “intent” that these newly exempt disposal sites would be limited to “very low-level radioactive wastes” – a term undefined by statute – which NRC considers to be “below 25 millirem per year.”  Yet, NRC’s definition would allow public exposure to the equivalent to more than 900 chest X-rays over a lifetime, create a cancer risk twenty times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable risk range, thousands of times the risk goal for Superfund sites, or enough radiation to cause every 500th person exposed to get cancer.

“Once an exempt entity accepts radioactive waste, it enters a regulatory black hole, with no one  accountable for it,” stated PEER Pacific Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that NRC’s plan eliminates the need for radiation monitoring, health physics personnel, design standards, and NRC inspections – all now required of licensed operators.  “Unlicensed radioactive waste dumps could operate in ways that endanger communities free from any NRC oversight.”

NRC’s cryptic justification merely indicates that the plan “would provide an efficient means by which the NRC may issue specific exemptions for disposal” but ignores impacts that would –

  • Transform many municipal dumps into radioactive repositories, with no safeguards for workers, nearby residents, or adjoining water tables;
  • Allow unlicensed radioactive waste dumps to expose the public to 2.5 times higher levels of radiation than the NRC now allows for licensed low-level radioactive waste sites, thus creating a strong incentive to send all the radioactive waste to unlicensed dumps; and
  • Eliminate the public’s ability to find out radioactive waste is being dumped near them.

At present, the U.S. has 104 commercial nuclear power plants, many of which are beginning, or will soon start, the decommissioning process.  Removing the need for licensed sites to handle the staggering amounts of debris from old reactors would be a major cost savings for that industry.

“NRC’s deregulation will make it nearly impossible to trace recycled radioactive waste flowing through the stream of American commerce,” added Ruch, noting that it may also create a market for the U.S. to import radioactive waste for cheaper disposal. “This plan would plunge the U.S. into the wild, wild West of radioactive waste disposal, on a par with a Third World nation.”

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Read the PEER comments

View the NRC proposal 

https://www.peer.org/deregulation-rad-waste-disposal-plows-ahead/

— EPA tells public “no harmful health effects” from significant radiation exposure

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – PEER

For Immediate Release: Oct 16, 2017
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

PRUITT’S EPA: LEARNING TO LOVE RADIATION

Public Told “No Harmful Health Effects” from Significant Radiation Exposure


Washington, DC — In a startling public health reversal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now declaring that radiation exposures equivalent to as many as 5,000 chest x-rays “usually result in no harmful health effects,” according to an agency document posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). For decades, EPA had taken the position that “There is no known safe amount of radiation” and is responsible for enforcing laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, which prohibits public radiation exposure at levels the agency now says is safe.

In a September 2017 document titled “Questions & Answers for Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies,” EPA declares, in a FAQ format, the following:

“How much radiation is safe? How much is considered low risk?
According to radiation safety experts, radiation exposures of 5–10 rem (5,000–10,000 mrem or 50–100 mSv) usually result in no harmful health effects, because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk…”

EPA does not specify which “radiation safety experts” it is now relying upon but it is notable that –

  • The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, and EPA itself, have long estimated that 10,000 millirems could be expected to induce excess cancers in every 86th person exposed;
  • Those health effects are for a one-time exposure but EPA is rolling out a new approach that would allow daily public exposure at highly elevated levels every day for up to a year; and
  • EPA’s longstanding scientific estimate is that 10,000 millirems would produce a risk at least 100 times higher than EPA’s acceptable risk range on radiation exposure to the public.

“I knew that under Scott Pruitt EPA is in climate denial but now it appears to be in radiation denial, as well,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that EPA’s new advice contradicts its own 2007 advisory on the same topic which concludes “There is no known safe amount of radiation…the current body of scientific knowledge tells us this.” “This appears to be another case of the Pruitt EPA proclaiming conclusions exactly opposite the overwhelming weight of scientific research.”

EPA’s new approach is encapsulated in a policy with the paradoxical title of “Protective Action Guides” that allows public exposure to radioactivity following a nuclear release at levels many times the maximum limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act. It was finalized on the very last day of the Obama presidency but apparently has been embraced by the Trump team, as this health non-warning was issued just days ago.

“This signals that in the event of a Fukushima-type accident EPA will allow public consumption of radiation-contaminated drinking water for months,” added Ruch, noting that PEER is preparing to legally challenge the new drinking water Protective Action Guides. “Dr. Strangelove is alive and lurking somewhere in the corridors of EPA.”

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Read the new EPA radiation exposure advisory

View summary of radiation exposure implications

See EPA side-by-side displays of contradictory 2007 and 2017 advisories

Look at EPA’s new radiation Protective Action Guide for drinking water 

https://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/pruitt%E2%80%99s-epa-learning-to-love-radiation.html

— Details on the EPA plan; agency hid proposed increases to “avoid confusion”; PAG levels 100s-1000s times Clean Drinking Water standards

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

For Immediate Release: Dec 22, 2016
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

RADICAL DRINKING WATER RADIATION RISE CONFIRMED IN EPA PLAN

EPA Hid Planned Exposure Levels 1,000s of Times Safe Drinking Water Act Limits


Washington, DC — In the last days of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to dramatically increase allowable public exposure to radioactivity to levels thousands of times above the maximum limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to documents the agency surrendered in a federal lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These radical rollbacks cover the “intermediate period” following a radiation release and could last for up to several years. This plan is in its final stage of approval.

The documents indicate that the plan’s rationale is rooted in public relations, not public health. Following Japan’s Fukushima meltdown in 2011, EPA’s claims that no radioactivity could reach the U.S. at levels of concern were contradicted by its own rainwater measurements showing contamination from Fukushima throughout the U.S. well above Safe Drinking Water Act limits. In reaction, EPA prepared new limits 1000s of times higher than even the Fukushima rainwater because “EPA experienced major difficulties conveying to the public that the detected levels…were not of immediate concern for public health.”

When EPA published for public comment the proposed “Protective Action Guides,” it hid proposed new concentrations for all but four of the 110 radionuclides covered, and refused to reveal how much they were above Safe Drinking Water Act limits. It took a lawsuit to get EPA to release documents showing that –

  • The proposed PAGs for two radionuclides (Cobalt-60 and Calcium-45) are more than 10,000 times Safe Drinking Water Act limits. Others are hundreds or thousands of times higher;
  • According to EPA’s own internal analysis, some concentrations are high enough to deliver a lifetime permissible dose in a single day. Scores of other radionuclides would be allowed at levels that would produce a lifetime dose in a week or a month;
  • The levels proposed by the Obama EPA are higher than what the Bush EPA tried to adopt–also in its final days. That plan was ultimately withdrawn; and
  • EPA hid the proposed increases from the public so as to “avoid confusion,” intending to release the higher concentrations only after the proposal was adopted. The documents also reveal that EPA’s radiation division even hid the new concentrations from other divisions of EPA that were critical of the proposal, requiring repeated efforts to get them to even be disclosed internally.

“To cover its embarrassment after being caught dissembling about Fukushima fallout on American soil, EPA is pursuing a justification for assuming a radioactive fetal position even in cases of ultra-high contamination,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called for the PAGs to be withdrawn on both public health and legal grounds. “The Safe Drinking Water Act is a federal law; it cannot be nullified or neutered by regulatory ‘guidance.’”

Despite claims of transparency, EPA solicited public comment on its plan even as it hid the bulk of the plan’s effects. Nonetheless, more than 60,000 people filed comments in opposition.

“The Dr. Strangelove wing of EPA does not want this information shared with many of its own experts, let alone the public,” added Ruch, noting that PEER had to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force release of exposure limits. “This is a matter of public health that should be promulgated in broad daylight rather than slimed through in the witching hours of a departing administration.”

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View ultra-high proposed PAG allowable concentrations

(and explanation for the chart)

See briefing memo explaining why EPA wants water PAGs

Read letter of opposition from New York Attorney General

Revisit PEER lawsuit

– Obama approved raising permissible levels of nuclear radiation in drinking water. Civilian cancer deaths expected to skyrocket

PEER — Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility — is an exceptional organization. It protects whistleblowers and facilitates the release of government agency documents related to the public welfare and safety. They are heroes, operate on a shoestring budget, and are well worth financially supporting.

This information is from 2013 but very timely. Most people don’t know about this decision.

Global Research, September 19, 2014
Peer.org 14 April 2013
Rollback in Nuclear Radiation Cleanup

by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

The White House has given final approval for dramatically raising permissible radioactive levels in drinking water and soil following “radiological incidents,” such as nuclear power-plant accidents and dirty bombs. The final version, slated for Federal Register publication as soon as today, is a win for the nuclear industry which seeks what its proponents call a “new normal” for radiation exposure among the U.S population, according Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the radiation guides (called Protective Action Guides or PAGs) allow cleanup many times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted. These guides govern evacuations, shelter-in-place orders, food restrictions and other actions following a wide range of “radiological emergencies.” The Obama administration blocked a version of these PAGs from going into effect during its first days in office. The version given approval late last Friday is substantially similar to those proposed under Bush but duck some of the most controversial aspects:

In soil, the PAGs allow long-term public exposure to radiation in amounts as high as 2,000 millirems. This would, in effect, increase a longstanding 1 in 10,000 person cancer rate to a rate of 1 in 23 persons exposed over a 30-year period;

  • In water, the PAGs punt on an exact new standard and EPA “continues to seek input on this.” But the thrust of the PAGs is to give on-site authorities much greater “flexibility” in setting aside established limits; and
  • Resolves an internal fight inside EPA between nuclear versus public health specialists in favor of the former. The PAGs are the product of Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for air and radiation whose nomination to serve as EPA Administrator is taken up this week by the Senate.
  • Despite the years-long internal fight, this is the first public official display of these guides. This takes place as Japan grapples with these same issues in the two years following its Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“This is a public health policy only Dr. Strangelove could embrace. If this typifies the environmental leadership we can expect from Ms. McCarthy, then EPA is in for a long, dirty slog,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the EPA package lacks a cogent rationale, is largely impenetrable and hinges on a series of euphemistic “weasel words.”

“No compelling justification is offered for increasing the cancer deaths of Americans innocently exposed to corporate miscalculations several hundred-fold.”

Reportedly, the PAGs had been approved last fall but their publication was held until after the presidential election. The rationale for timing their release right before McCarthy’s confirmation hearing is unclear.

Since the PAGs guide agency decision-making and do not formally set standards or repeal statutory requirements, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and Superfund, they will go into full effect following a short public comment period. Nonetheless, the PAGs will likely determine what actions take place on the ground in the days, weeks, months and, in some cases, years following a radiological emergency.

Copyright Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) 2014