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Hot Metal May Find Its Way To Your Dinner Table

The amount of radioactive metal that already enters manufactured goods is 
difficult to pinpoint. ''We just don't keep that kind of data,'' says Bob 
Nelson, chief of the low-level waste and regulation issues section in the 
NRC's Division of Waste Management.

Vince Adams, who heads the DOE's National Center of Excellence for Metals 
Recycle, a center committed to recycling as much metal as possible from 
decommissioned DOE facilities, says that Oak Ridge has released 2,610 tons 
in the past decade. All the other DOE sites together released 11,129 tons 
in that time.

Loiselle says that companies tend to protect their data, but he estimates 
the industry received 15,000 tons of metal from the DOE and commercial 
reactors during 1996. Approximately half that metal was recycled.

Those thousands of tons are nothing compared with the heaps of metal we 
could see as more and more nuclear reactors tumble to the ground in the 
next twenty years.

The sheer volume of available radioactive metal is astonishing. ''DOE has 
3,000 to 4,000 facilities that are in D and D [Decommission and 
Decontamination] state,'' says Loiselle. ''There are 123 commercial nuclear 
power plants. Thirteen of these are entering the decommissioning pipeline. 
As these plants come down, we will be seeing lots of metals and equipment.''

According to Adams, the DOE's database shows 1,577,000 stockpiled metric 
tons for both the DOE and the NRC combined.

''And that is dwarfed by what we've got coming,'' says Jane Powell, program 
manager of the DOE's metal recycling center. She points to all the metal at 
the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge that was used for the Manhattan 
Project. That plant now sits idle, awaiting demolition crews. ''They have 
one tunnel there that is a half-mile long,'' says Powell. ''We joke and say 
you can see the curvature of the earth. You can actually look down and see 
where the light stops. We are going to have metal coming out of our ears.''

That could mean substantial profits for the radioactive metal industry. 
''We've got metal. We've got a need for it,'' says Powell. ''We need to 
make it economically viable so that going out and getting virgin metal 
isn't the answer. We are going out in the real world to create a business. 
It is a business.''

The NRC is planning on unveiling its proposed new standard in October, 
explains Robert Meck, who is currently conducting research on the standard 
for the NRC. The standard, he says, will use millirem doses. It will 
involve ''the concept of an average member of the critical group--a group 
of individuals who can realistically be expected to have the highest 
dose,'' he explains. The standard will not invoke ''the worst case 
imaginable. It's really a concept that makes it applicable to the real world.''

This approach downplays risks to the sick, the elderly, the young, and 
those who are particularly sensitive because they are exposed to abnormal 
amounts of radioactive material through their work. It also fails to 
specify a maximum dose any member of the public would be allowed to receive.

''After age forty-five, there is a much more dramatic association of 
radiation with cancer,'' says David Richardson, a postdoctoral research 
associate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who assisted 
with a recent study of Oak Ridge nuclear workers sponsored by the Centers 
for Disease Control. ''This is very low-level radiation. What we're looking 
at is cancer death.''

This study adds evidence to Alice Stewart's 1950s research that discovered 
cancer incidence rose sharply among children whose mothers were exposed to 
X-rays while pregnant.

A dose-based standard would also change the way the regulators see 
radioactivity. No longer would they measure how much radioactivity each 
piece of metal gives off. Rather, the regulators would use a theoretical 
estimate of how much damage a piece of radioactive metal does to the human 

''Each of the objects could meet government standards on its own, but 
there's no limit to the number of objects a person could be exposed to,'' 
says D'Arrigo of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

''You should err on the side of safety and not expose the public,'' says 
Wing, who led a DOE-funded study on nuclear workers at Oak Ridge that 
concluded low-level radiation exposure is four to ten times more dangerous 
than previously believed. He says the plan to allow more radioactive metal 
into the manufacturing process is ''like a massive experiment.''

While the DOE and the radioactive metal recyclers await a new NRC standard 
for releasing more hot metal in the United States, the stuff already 
appears to be causing trouble overseas.

''Our fear is that entrepreneurs have found a way to market it into 
countries that don't have our strict standards,'' says Kittrell of the 
American Environmental Health Studies Project.

In June 1996, Chinese officials in Tianjin, a port city 100 miles southeast 
of Beijing, stopped a seventy-eight-ton shipment of radioactive scrap metal 
from the United States. Some of the scrap was thirty times the official 
Chinese safety limit for radioactivity.

According to an article in European Business Report, the metal came from 
discarded equipment that had belonged to a U.S. fertilizer company.

An April 4, 1994, article in The Advocate, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, paper, 
suggests such exports may be widespread. ''Radioactive metal is being 
welcomed by smelters in China, where a booming economy is driving up the 
demand for steel,'' reporter Peter Shinkle wrote. Shinkle discovered that 
three major U.S. oil companies--Texaco, Mobil, and Phillips--were exporting 
large shipments of oil-field pipe and equipment ''encrusted with radium, a 
radioactive material that is carried to the surface in oil production.''

Shinkle spoke with representatives of the three companies. All shared their 
discovery of the large Asian market for radioactive metal.

''Since 1993, the three companies have shipped some 5.5 million pounds of 
radioactive steel scrap to China from Louisiana and Texas,'' Shinkle found.

''We have every reason to believe they handle it safely in China,'' Pierre 
DeGruy, spokesman for Texaco Exploration and Production Inc., told The 
Advocate. ''The radioactive material reached a high reading of 2,000 
microrems per hour, DeGruy said. That's about 400 times the background 
radiation levels from natural sources in Louisiana,'' The Advocate reported.

The companies all told Shinkle that they planned to keep selling 
radioactive scrap to China.

'''They need steel, and they're looking to get it any way they can,' said 
Larry Wall, spokesman for the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. And 
the oil companies can sell the metal to the Chinese rather than paying for 
its costly cleaning or disposal at radioactive waste facilities in the 
United States.''

Texaco and Phillips Petroleum say they no longer send the metal overseas. 
They now reprocess it here in the United States. Mobil spokesman Bill 
Cumming says the company has not exported metal to China since 1996, but 
might again in the future. ''It remains a legal option for us to do so,'' 
he says.

Nina Sato, a Japanese journalist and author of the book We Are All Exposed, 
gave the only talk at the Beneficial Reuse conference that strongly 
criticized the recycling of radioactive metal. Her reason: It is showing up 
in Taiwanese buildings. ''In the past two days, we have heard about how 
recycle and reuse are good things,'' she began. ''My stories talk about 
when it turns out to be a disaster.''

As of January 1998, says Sato, there were 178 buildings known to be 
contaminated with radiation in Taiwan. The buildings contained 1,573 
apartments. Residents began to find radiation contamination in steel pipes 
and fittings.

According to news reports on the incidents, some Taiwanese officers knew 
about the apartments constructed out of radioactive steel bars, but 
concealed that information from tenants for more than a decade. The 
apartments showed some background radiation levels at more than 1,000 times 
that of most buildings in Taiwan. The people who lived in the apartments 
suffered from congenital disorders, various cancers, and unusual 
chromosomal and cytogenetic damage, reported The Lancet..

''Taiwanese are still living in the buildings because it's not easy to move 
out,'' says Sato. She cites high housing prices in Taiwan and the 
impossibility of selling an apartment once people know it has radioactive 

So the inhabitants tend to come up with practical, if questionable, 
solutions. ''Sometimes it's only in the kitchen,'' says Sato. ''You just 
close the kitchen. Sometimes it's only one bedroom. You close the bedroom.''

Sato says radioactive metal is coming into Asia from former Soviet bloc 
countries and from the United States. ''The worst thing is,'' she says, 
''Russian metal is very cheap.''

Sato is afraid of accidentally buying a contaminated product. ''When I go 
to the department store, I always bring my Geiger counter,'' she says. 
''Frying pan, tatatata,'' she imitates the sound of a Geiger counter going 
off. ''I'm afraid it's made in China.''

''In the future, radiation will be with you all the time,'' says Sato. 
''Because no one tried to stop it. All they talk about is money, money, 

Sato's speech did not dampen enthusiasm at the conference. As Shankar Menon 
ended his talk, he displayed an overhead slide: This Is a Radioactive 
World. He added, ''This is something we have to put up with, like traffic.''

Study: Nasal Radium Put Vets At Risk

WASHINGTON, Jul 28 (AP)  Navy submariners treated with nasal radium in the
1940s, 1950s and 1960s may have a higher cancer risk than veterans who did
not get the treatment, a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs found.

The study represents one of the strongest acknowledgments by the U.S.
government to date that nasal radium, which was administered to as many as
2 million civilians as well as thousands of people in the military, could
pose health risks.

Nasal radium was given mostly to military submariners, divers and pilots
who were troubled by atmospheric pressure changes and to children who
suffered from colds, tonsillitis, ear infections and sinus or adenoid

The VA study found a 47 percent increased risk of deaths from head and neck
cancers in submariners who were treated with radium, compared with those
who were not treated.

There was also a higher, overall death rate.

The study, released Tuesday by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., compared
deaths among 1,214 submariners who had the treatment with deaths among a
control group of 3,176 randomly selected veterans who were not treated.

The treated veterans were identified from a log kept at the U.S. naval base
in Groton, Conn., where submariners are trained. Many received the
treatment there to help them cope with drastic changes in pressure from
being submerged underwater.

The VA said the findings were not statistically significant due the
relatively small number of deaths: 307 in the treated group vs. 605 in the
untreated group.

Even so, "this finding does suggest that WWII veterans who received (nasal)
irradiation while in submarine school may be at increased risk for deaths
due to head and neck cancers," it found.

The study, which only dealt with submariners, is the only one to date on
veterans. Other studies have found increased incidence of cancer in treated

Nasal applicators containing 50 milligrams of radium were typically used to
shrink tissues at the entrance of the Eustachian tubes. Those tubes help
drain and balance pressure on the inner and outer ear.

A typical regimen involved three to four treatments, of six to 12 minutes
each, a few weeks apart.

Years later, radium patients have complained of tumors, thyroid and immune
disorders, brittle teeth and reproductive problems.

Radium treatments were gradually abandoned with the development of
antibiotics, the use of pressurized aircraft cabins in the military and
increasing questions about radiation's health effects.

The VA is conducting a follow-up study on the health of living veterans who
had radium treatments. That is due sometime early next year.

Under a law passed by Congress in 1998, the department is also offering
free medical examinations and treatment to veterans who have head or neck
cancer and were treated with radium.

Reprinted under the Fair Use 
doctrine of international copyright law.
           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)
                      Unenh onhwa' Awayaton
            UPDATES: CAMP 

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