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[cdn-nucl-l] Fw: US radiation safety limits not based on science
----- Original Message -----
From: Michael C. Baker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Multiple recipients of list ans-pie <email@example.com>
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2000 9:04 AM
Subject: US radiation safety limits not based on science
> US radiation safety limits not based on science - GAO
> USA : July 17, 2000
> WASHINGTON - A disagreement between federal
> agencies over what level of radiation exposure is safe
> for humans was not based on scientific evidence and
> could cost taxpayers billions in unnecessary spending,
> said a congressional study.
> The study, by the General Accounting Office (GAO), raised
> questions about what standards should be used when
> cleaning up decommissioned nuclear power plants and
> weapons facilities as well as building the proposed Yucca
> Mountain nuclear-waste storage site in Nevada.
> Current standards assume there is no safe level for
> radiation exposure, but many scientists say that radiation
> is harmless below a certain threshold, the report found.
> Research on low-level radiation is ongoing. Current
> standards of acceptable radiation exposure are based on
> extrapolations from studies on much higher doses.
> The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which
> oversees the nation's nuclear power plants, says exposure
> should not exceed 25 millirem per year, while the
> Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a standard
> of 15 millirem, with ground water levels not to exceed 4
> The difference between the two levels is relatively small. A
> routine chest X-ray contains 6 millirem, and Americans are
> exposed to an average of 300 millirem each year, the report
> Dosages above 30,000 millirem are known to cause cancer,
> and levels of 400,000 millirem, associated with an atomic
> bomb explosion, can cause death in days or weeks.
> Although the difference between the NRC and EPA
> standards is small, it could mean millions of dollars in
> cleanup costs.
> The Nevada Test Site, where atomic bombs were detonated
> for more than four decades, would cost $131 million to
> clean up to the NRC's standards. It would cost $240 million
> to clean the site to meet the EPA's 15 millirem level, and
> more than $1 billion to approach 4 millirem.
> "The question is, is it justified to spend the money if you're
> not sure there's going to be some benefit derived from
> spending that money?" said Wayne Fitzgerald, lead
> investigator on the report.
> Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican, said
> Congress should force the two agencies to come up with a
> uniform standard or give responsibility to one agency.
> Domenici said the cost to achieve the EPA's 4 millirem
> level may be prohibitive.
> "The more we look at it, the more we're going to come to
> the conclusion that it's absolutely irrational," Domenici said.
> A bill that would limit the EPA's authority to issue radiation
> standards was vetoed by President Bill Clinton in April. An
> attempt to override the veto failed by one vote in the Senate
> in May.
> Story by Andy Sullivan
> REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
> Michael C. Baker
> Environmental Technology Group
> Los Alamos National Laboratory
> Mail Stop J594
> Los Alamos, NM 87545
> (505) 667-7334 (phone)
> (505) 665-8346 (fax)
> (505) 996-3519 (pager)