Dilution [Blending] Is Not the Solution to Pollution: Questionable Revisions to Long-Standing Radioactive Waste Policies

Abstract

One day, a farmer near the village of Meet Halfa, Egypt, found a strange looking metal object in a field. Curious about the shiny object, the farmer brought it home to his family. The entire family believed the item was a precious metal. Over the next seven weeks, the family kept the metal object in the house, each handling the object with differing frequency. Unknown to the family, the object was an industrial gamma radiography source used in the field to test pipe welds. The source had been lost for some time by its handler. One month after the farmer brought the source home, his nine-year-old son was dead due to bone marrow depression and extensive inflammatory skin lesions. A few days later, the farmer died similarly, still unaware that he was a victim of radiation exposure.

The incident in Meet Halfa is a strong reminder of the need for effective protection against public exposures to radiation. The provision of safe and available disposal capacity is one such effective protection. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is developing a new policy favoring blending of radioactive waste to change its waste classification.

This Comment criticizes the NRC’s blending proposal because it puts the environment at unnecessary risk without proper justification, especially given that there is a newly licensed facility authorized to provide disposal for Class B and Class C waste originating outside the Texas Compact. Dilution under another name is still not the solution to pollution.  Whatever its name, the blending proposal undermines the entire LLRW disposal classification system, risking the environment and future generations.