More than 100 Groups Call on EPA to Withdraw Dramatically Weakened Radiation Guides

mp3 – 092713



Runs 9/27/13 through 10/4/13

(THEME UP AND UNDER)  This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety.  Here is this week’s top headline:

  • More than 100 Groups Call on EPA to Withdraw Dramatically Weakened Radiation Guides

Over 100 environmental organizations recently called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to withdraw EPA’s controversial new Protective Action Guides (PAGs), which would allow exposure to very high doses from radiation releases before the government would take action to protect the public.  For example, following a release, EPA proposed relaxing its long-term cleanup standards.  It would allow leaving Plutonium-239 in soil used by farmers at levels over 3 million times than that currently allowed.

The PAGs are intended to guide the response to nuclear power reactor accidents, such as Fukushima in Japan, Chernobyl in the Ukraine and Three Mile Island in the U.S., explosions of dirty bombs, radioactive releases from nuclear fuel and weapons facilities, nuclear transportation accidents, and other radioactive releases.

Although official estimates of the health risks from radiation exposure have gone up substantially since the old PAGs were written in 1992, the new EPA guidance contemplates radically increased allowable exposures in the intermediate and long-term periods after radiation releases.  Diane D’Arrigo of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said, “Even though EPA now admits radiation is more harmful than previously thought, it is weakening rather than tightening radiation protections.”

The environmental organizations raised their concerns about the new PAGs in written comments to EPA.  They addressed EPA’s proposal to dramatically increase the permitted concentrations of radioactivity in drinking water, by as much as 27,000 times for Iodine-131, compared to EPA’s current Safe Drinking Water Act limits.  The PAGs are supposed to safeguard water supplies and provide information about how to treat contaminated water or how to provide alternative drinking water supplies after the immediate emergency has passed.  The EPA proposal does not meet the basic protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

There are also proposals to incorporate outdated Food and Drug Administration guidelines which would allow consumption of contaminated food.  Such food could contain as much radiation as having a chest X-ray every day.  EPA proposed to eliminate requirements to evacuate people threatened with radiation doses to the thyroid and skin over predicted specified limits.  The commenters reminded EPA that the PAGs are “doses that are to be avoided by protective actions.”

Daniel Hirsch, president of Committee to Bridge the Gap, said, “Rather than requiring protective actions to limit public radiation exposures, EPA is now saying it would allow the public to be exposed to doses far higher than ever before considered acceptable.”

If you are concerned, please contact your members of congress and ask them to also request that EPA withdraw its proposed Protective Action Guides for responding to releases of radioactivity.

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