INEEL to recycle radioactive metal
Wednesday, September 13, 2000
By Anne Minard
Journal Staff Writer
POCATELLO - Idaho could soon contribute radioactively contaminated
metal to a newly revamped national recycling program.
The Department of Energy is studying ways to recycle radioactively
contaminated scrap metals for use at DOE sites, rather than disposing
of them as buried waste or in licensed receiving facilities.
DOE has maintained some recycling programs in the past, but
suspended them all in July, prohibiting the release of any metal
for recycling if it has detectable radiation. The suspension
will continue through the end of the year, when the department
expects to establish its recycling policy.
As a preliminary step, the DOE is seeking input from the metals
industry in a potential project to recycle up to 60,000 tons
of steel per year into waste containers or other items with restricted
uses by the department.
The metal would come from department facilities that have been
shut down and other environmental management activities across
the DOE's large industrial complex.
One DOE official in Washington estimated that nationally, upwards
of two million tons of scrap metal are in surplus storage and
would be eligible for such a program.
"What we have in inventory now is stainless steel and carbon
steel," said John Walsh, a spokesman at the Idaho National
Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. In all, the site holds
more than 2,000 tons of scrap metals that are both contaminated
The re-evaluation of recycling policies followed a court battle
waged last year by the Paper, Allied Industrial, Chemical and
Energy Workers International (PACE) union in Oak Ridge over a
radioactively-contaminated metals recycling program there.
While U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the lawsuit
could interfere with cleanup of a related Superfund site and
was therefore illegal, she outlined clear concerns resulting
from more than a year of full legal disclosure.
"The potential for environmental harm is great, especially
given the unprecedented amount of hazardous material the Defendants
(BNFL Inc.) seek to recycle," she wrote in the June 1999
document. She went on to write that BNFL had not provided evidence
of the safety of recycling nickel from a nuclear plant, as opposed
to other methods of disposal.
"The court is further concerned by the fact that no national
standard exists governing the unrestricted release of contaminated
metals," the finding reads.
Anne Minard covers science and the environment for the Journal.
She may be reached at 239-3168 or by e-mail at email@example.com.