New bomb waste factory packages radioactive glass

Radiation panel seeks special prosecutor

* The United States has recently opened a factory at the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina that will package the most highly toxic radioactive wastes in a safe form for long term storage. Savannah river is a former nuclear weapons production site that still fills tritium into nuclear weapons, and is under consideration by Congress as the site for a new plutonium fabrication facility.

The new Defense Waste Processing Facility at Savannah River processes liquid waste that had been stored in deteriorating steel tanks and solidifies it into high-strength, radiation absorbing glass. This new process involves mixing deadly radioactive waste with molten glass, pouring it into stainless-steel cylindrical logs 10 feet high and two feet in diameter, and sealing the cylinders with a huge jolt of electricity. The repackaged radioactive waste will have to be stored for thousands of years, and government officials still do not have a permanent site for it. Each of the glass logs produced over the life of the plant will cost $1.4 million, based on the cost of designing and building the plant and training the workers. The repackaged waste is just as deadly locked into glass as it was as a liquid, but will be much easier to handle and would take up less storage space than current methods. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary said that the plant would "create a new legacy from the Cold War," a legacy of environmentally responsible handling of dangerous materials.

Radiation panel seeks special prosecutor

The Task Force on Radiation and Human Rights has asked Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal actions and civil right violations in government-sponsored human radiation experiments. The task force based its request on the massive report by a special White House advisory committee on experiments conducted between 1944 and 1974. The report "cited numerous radiation experiments or coverup efforts that suggest, in some instances, rather strongly, that federal criminal laws were violated." The radiation victims' group described in the report, composed mainly of experiment subjects and their families, want the federal government to pick up their medical expenses, as well as consider criminal sanctions against those who conducted the experiments. According to the report, some of the experiments were "ethically troublin, [because they] were conducted on institutionalized children, seriously ill and comatose patients, African-Americans and prisoners," suggesting "constitutional and civil rights abuse on a massive scale." The task force was quoted as saying, "How the Justice Department reponds [to the request for a special prosecutor] will say as much about whether there exists a double standard when questions of criminality are raised - one for a private citizen; another for government officials accused of wrongdoing."

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