FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Markey Questions DOE’s Radioactive Recycling Proposal
Radioactive Scrap Metal Could be Turned into Consumer Products
WASHINGTON (January 11, 2013) – A Department of Energy proposal to
allow up to 14,000 metric tons of its radioactive scrap metal to be
recycled into consumer products was called into question today by Rep.
Ed Markey (D-Mass.) due to concerns over public health. In a letter sent
to DOE head Steven Chu, Rep. Markey expressed “grave concerns” over the
potential of these metals becoming jewelry, cutlery, or other consumer
products that could exceed healthy doses of radiation without any
knowledge by the consumer. DOE made the proposal to rescind its earlier
moratorium on radioactive scrap metal recycling in December, 2012.
The proposal follows an incident from 2012 involving Bed, Bath &
Beyond stores in America recalling tissue holders made in India that
were contaminated with the radio-isotope cobalt-60. Those products were
shipped to 200 stores in 20 states. In response to that incident, a
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesperson advised members of the public
to return the products even though the amount of contamination was not
considered to be a health risk.
“The public concerns associated with such a proposal cannot be
understated,” writes Rep. Markey to Secretary Chu. “If these metals are
being released to companies who will subsequently manufacture new
consumer products from them, DOE simply has no way to ensure that
different samples are not aggregated into more highly radioactive
The full letter can be found HERE.
The letter notes that in 2000, then-Energy Secretary Bill Richardson
first suspended DOE’s radioactive recycling efforts in response to
concerns raised by Rep. Markey and others that DOE would not be able to
assure public safety as radioactively contaminated metals could have
been turned into everything from baby spoons to jewelry to medical
devices that are implanted into the human body. In December 2012,
however, DOE proposed to do away with the ban on radioactive recycling.
In the letter from Rep. Markey, DOE is asked how it could assure
consumers that they will not be affected by higher doses of radiation
from products using aggregated radioactive scrap metal, among other