EPA Nukes Radiation Rules*

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EPA Nukes Radiation RulesNews Commentary

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s draft EPA “Protective Action Guide” (PAG), posted on its website April 15, allows hundreds to thousands of times more radiation in disasters than the agency had previously allowed. Americans have until Monday, July 15 to comment* even though the EPA made the new PAG effective immediately.

According to EPA’s own data, the new PAGs will result in exponentially higher radiation-induced fatal cancers than the current goal of one in ten thousand to one in a million Americans.

In various exposure scenarios listed in the report, depending on which radionuclide, the resultant cancer rates would claim several out of ten, one in eight, one in six – even as low as one in 1.7.

The EPA PAG’s justification for these astronomically higher numbers is that during a disaster like a nuclear meltdown, a terrorist ‘dirty bomb,’ or a nuclear detonation, all limits currently for radiation exposure in air, water, food and soil are targets for revision.

“These PAGs are basically admitting that contamination levels could be so high from such an event that they may not be able to be cleaned up to existing standards such as the drinking water contamination levels,” says Maryland-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “Thus, EPA would permit unacceptably high radiation risks at each of the stages after nuclear disaster without even suggesting any steps to prevent or minimize the potential disasters.”

Depending on the radionuclide, the increased limit eclipse’s EPA’s long-established levels. Those limits were created in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA).

Various draft PAG exposure scenarios utilizing the EPA’s own numbers show fatal cancers at levels hundreds to thousands of times higher than with CERCLA at Superfund cleanup sites across the country.

EPA says that their PAG does not affect Superfund sites across the country. But what the PAG does do, albeit in a non-binding advisory fashion, is create vastly loosened limits for domestic nuclear meltdowns and radiation waste accidents including during transportation. “Mobile Chernobyls” as anti-nuclear activists call them, would be exempt from strict radiation limits.

So would any number of private industry nuclear emergencies including pharmaceutical fires. First responders from firefighters to police and National Guard will use the EPA’s PAG extreme radiation limits to gauge the risk to its own personnel. They in turn will use these life-threatening levels to advise the public.

HOT ZONES

Radiation levels would rise thousands of times for some of the most dangerous radionuclides. Cesium-137, Strontium-90 and Plutonium-239 would all be considered safe at levels thousands of times what the EPA currently allows. The draft EPA PAG lists the new drinking water limit for Iodine-131 at 81,000 picocuries per liter (p/Ci/l), 27,000 times its current EPA limit of 3 pCi/l. Adding more misery to the mix, these numbers are for the so-called “intermediate phase” when the emergency has passed and would be in place for one to several years thereafter.

Connecticut mobile radiochemistry laboratoryIodine-131, with its 8.5 day half-life, targets the thyroid and is especially dangerous to infants, children and pregnant women. The isotope is so lethal that radiation-aware people around the world keep potassium iodide (KI) pills stocked in case of its release. KI pills fill the thyroid with a harmless form of iodine and suppress I-131 from damaging the thyroid. The thyroid is responsible for the growth of organs, including the brain, making the radionuclide particularly harmful to young people.

“[The EPA PAGs] incorporate the DHS PAGs for dealing with long-term cleanup from a nuclear weapons explosion and apply it to any kind of release,” said Daniel Hirsch in an EnviroReporter.com interview. Hirsch is president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a nuclear watchdog group, and lectures at the University of California Santa Cruz on nuclear policy matters. “In essence, the PAGs and the documents associated with them are saying nuclear power accidents could be so widespread and produce such immense radiation levels that the government would simply abandon most cleanup obligations and force people to live with exposures so high that extremely large fractions of the exposed population would get cancer from the exposure.”

Hot zones would no longer be considered hot, not by a long shot. Adopting these ‘emergency’ levels eviscerates decades worth of EPA radiation regulations and limits created and supported by costly scientific studies funded by the American taxpayer for the last 43 years.

Referencing guidelines from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy and the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements (NCRP), the EPA has created a “new normal.” That new normal, as defined by the IAEA, NRC, DOE and NCRP, is radically more radioactive than any other plan the EPA has ever issued.

The EPA PAG’s rationale has never been clearly stated other than the supposed benefits of bringing EPA’s 1991 PAG up in line with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS). The draft EPA PAG refers repeatedly to the 2008 DHS PAG as the basis for its radiation limits. It also cites associated guidance from the NCRP.

The PAG draft was signed April 5 by Bob Perciasepe, acting EPA Administrator though it was developed during the Bush Administration. “[T]he 2013 PAG Manual recommends projected radiation doses at which specific actions may be warranted in order to reduce or avoid that dose,” Perciasepe said. “The 2013 PAG Manual is designed to provide flexibility to be more or less restrictive as deemed appropriate by decision makers based on the unique characteristics of the incident and the local situation.”

Tested for radiation exposureA convoluted bureaucratic process has been set in motion that when fully implemented will destroy decades of sound radiological science. Since EPA’s PAG uses most of DHS’ PAG standards, it will update its standards when DHS does. DHS is already doing that with the nuclear industry-funded NCRP, which just published a 587-page (5.21 MB) report February 25 for DHS called “Decision Making for Late-Phase Recovery from Nuclear or Radiological Incidents.” Once DHS accepts this report so will the EPA. The agency already cites NCRP in its draft PAG as a standards and operations resource so all it would do is update the EPA PAG’s footnotes and it will be a fait accompli.

“This is a public health policy only Dr. Strangelove could embrace,” stated Jeff Ruch, director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, noting that the EPA PAG lacks an understandable rationale.

SUCK IT UP

Staying on message to spin the new normal as a good and necessary cutting of radiation protection levels during emergencies takes some finesse. EPA’s spin flew out of control in March when a mid-level EPA scientist told it like it really is, without realizing there was a reporter in the audience of nuclear industry heavyweights.

“People are going to have to put their big boy pants on,” said Paul Kudarauskas of the EPA Consequence Management Advisory Team, “and suck it up.”

Kudarauskas was speaking at a Defense Strategies Institute symposium March 12 where he was quoted in a March 25 Global Security Newswire article.

NIMBY’s, according to Kudarauskas, would have to give up their “not in my backyard” mentality because “cleanup to perfection” was a thing of the past now that EPA had a “fundamental shift” in cleanup philosophy after the Fukushima meltdowns.

Kudarauskas confirmed the accuracy of the quotes to EnviroReporter.com while fudging on what he meant because, Kudarauskas says, the article took what he said out of context in a roomful of government and nuclear industry people who didn’t expect to be quoted by the press.

“I don’t want to stir any more feathers because someone properly quoted me,” Kudarauskas said in an April 25 interview with EnviroReporter.com. “I’m not going to do it. I want my management present so they hear what I’m telling you because it was taken so far out of context that it is ridiculous.”

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  1. @Henry: You’ve come to the right place – just have a good look around. Our Radiation Food Lab is the most comprehensive collection of such data anywhere on the Internet. Of course there is air radiation monitoring – including in your area – at US EPA Rad Net Air Monitoring and at any of our Radiation Stations.

  2. Henry says:

    Where can I get information on whether any monitoring of Strontium-90 in milk sold in California is being done?
    I read recently that there is no monitoring of the air we breathe for radionucleides. An air monitoring station in Santa Monica doesn’t help me here in Northern California.

  3. Mark of the Wild West... says:

    It’s nature of radiation, is there is no cleaning it up, when it’s every where. The EPA may as well say anything at this point.

  4. Fukushima is an extinction level event. And no amount of spin doctoring by the EPA or anyone else will make it any less so.

  5. Susan says:

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

    Over 100 environmental organizations today called on 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 government would take action to protect the public.

    The PAGs are intended to guide the response to nuclear power reactor accidents (like Fukushima in Japan, Chernobyl in Ukraine and Three Mile Island in the U.S.), “dirty bomb” explosions, radioactive releases from nuclear fuel and weapons facilities, nuclear transportation accidents, and other radioactive releases.

    Although official estimates of health risks from radiation have gone up substantially (even higher for women) since promulgation of the old PAGs, the new EPA guidance contemplates radically increased “allowable” exposures in the intermediate and long-term periods after radiation releases.

    The new PAGs

    · propose five options for drinking water which would dramatically increase the permitted concentrations of radioactivity in drinking water, by as much as 27,000 times, compared to EPA’s current Safe Drinking Water Act limits;

    · suggest markedly relaxing long-term cleanup standards;

    · incorporate very high and outdated allowable food contamination levels;

    · eliminate requirements to evacuate people threatened with high projected radiation doses to the thyroid and skin;

    · eliminate limits on lifetime whole body doses; and

    · recommend dumping radioactive waste in municipal garbage dumps not designed for such waste.

    “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,” said Daniel Hirsch, president of Committee to Bridge the Gap.

    “Even though EPA now admits radiation is more harmful than previously thought, it is weakening rather than tightening radiation protections,” said Diane D’Arrigo of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

    The full letter is at http://committeetobridgethegap.org/GroupPAGltr9-16-13.pdf

  6. walt says:

    Not much use for an “EPA”, since their limits won’t protect anything or anyone anymore anyway.

  7. Padmanabhan VT says:

    In Dec 2012, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) published an unusual notification in the Federal Register accepting a petition to amend the Code of Federal Rule (CFR) 50 for installing renewable energy sources that do not require human presence to run the safety related pumps at all nuclear stations to avert Fukushima type meltdowns. The petitioner, Thomas Popik, had averred that a severe space weather event can cause grid failure lasting for two years or more and eventual break down of the supply chain and desertion of the nuclear campuses.

    EPA’s PAGs was published in the FR, hundred days later. Dirty bombs and accidents may affect smaller areas. In the case of space-weather-grid-failure, about 80 nuclear plants are likely to be affected.

    I wonder why nuclear related civil society in USA is not discussing this problem.

  8. PavewayIV says:

    Solon: You’re only giving the Homer Simpson version of Ramsar. Let me help you out, here:

    The most likely source for your study that concludes ‘no health effects’ was probably an amusingly self-referencing one published in Health Physics in 2002. UNSCEAR uses it all the time – go figure. The actual Ramsar measurements they cite – also from a 2002 source (teleportation??) – don’t seem to exist. Nobody can seem to find or figure out what was measured or how to earn Ramsar their title.

    The terrestrial background *gamma* in Ramsar is elevated, but nothing remarkably high for uranium and thorium mineralized areas. The properly-measured high annual effective dose figures are mostly because of radon. The extremely-high indoor maximum they always seem to toss in is a house extended over a natural hot spring. One house (mansion, spa, whatever) with an indoor radon-spewing pool is hardly something to consider in a scientific study. Everyone tosses it in:

    http://www.mendeley.com/research/new-public-dose-assessment-internal-external-exposures-low-elevatedlevel-natural-radiation-areas-ram/

    But back to the original paper’s flawed conclusion. The paper’s second sentence explains their conclusion: families that have lived in those same farms/homes *for generations* don’t seem to be suffering any obvious radiation-induced ill effects. Darwin wouldn’t be too impressed with that conclusion. The ‘researchers’ failed to include *all* the representative subjects – they just studied the survivors.

    If they relocated the ‘normal’ cohort population to the Talesh Mahalleh neighborhood radiation hothouse for a few generations, I think their results would be markedly different. That neighborhood has the new airport and a lot of new residential construction. Let’s see how the newest batch of test subjects thrives.

  9. Margery Brown says:

    This is completely appalling! But, if nothing else, these PAG’s will probably end all of the disagreements about the needed level of cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. Isn’t that nice? Boeing and and the Governmental agencies can simply declare that the Field Lab needs no remediation of the toxic chemicals and radionuclides whatsoever, and they can now invite builders to buy the land for home building. Why would they even need to give the land away for a Park, when they can sell it instead and make money? Everyone wins…except, of course, the present and future cancer victims!

    I have been posting articles on the ongoing Fukushima crisis in Face Book for quite some time now, and I am of the impression that no one even cares, as judged by the total lack of either likes or comments. This week, for the first time, two people finally did comment and one person clicked on “like”, and I almost fell off my chair in shock!

    Based on my Face Book experience, I can only conclude that the EPA should have no trouble whatsoever, in imposing the “new normal” on everyone. Cancer? “Oh how silly…it won’t happen to me.” Omnipotence and denial seem to be miles thick. And so, apparently are our heads!

  10. @Alex Pavlak: According to the EPA’s own current risk estimates per unit dose in its most recent “Blue Book” derived from the National Academy of Sciences’ Report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VII), 1 rem per year over the first thirty years of life would result is an excess cancer in every 17th person exposed: 1 rem/year x 30 years x 2 x 10-3 cancers per rem during the first 30 years = 6 x 10-2 cancers = 1 cancer per 17 people exposed. At 10 rem/year, EPA’s own estimate is that one in every 1.7 people exposed would get a cancer from the radiation. Remember, Dr. Pavlak, that these are gender-averaged risk figures. Females are at even greater risk than males from the same levels of exposure meaning their risks are even higher than these estimates.

    Not only are these numbers many orders of magnitude higher than anything EPA has ever allowed before, they are on the face of it – to use Dr. Pavlak’s own excellent descriptor – loony.

  11. Alex Pavlak says:

    Mr Collins claims that a EPA standard threshold of 10 rem/y will result in 1 cancer incidence in 1.7 people (58%).

    Actually an acute dose of 10 rem will increase cancer rates by 1%. 10 rems/year for 50 years will get to 58%. But most of the isotopes have half lives of less than 50 years. The EPA standard is not as loony as Mr. Collins would have you believe.

  12. Chase says:

    Since I first stumbled onto this site in the spring of 2011 we have discussed radiation acceptance levels.

    EPA vs FDA etc…

    We have known that sooner or later increases in LOC/DIL would be FORCED upon us.

    The fact that ‘they’ have the ability/power, without voting, without true discussion, to adjust these numbers is an admission of the horrendous scope of the failure of the Nuclear Industry and the government puppet agencies that support them.

    First Responders should be organizing and screaming out loud about this. I doubt most are even aware of what’s occurring. That’s a sad statement in itself. :(

  13. hp says:

    Let ‘em eat radioactive isotopes!

  14. Howard T. Lewis III says:

    The mass majority of Americans walk around like everything is safe and under control so they attract each other and each other only. Most people do not understand the unavoidable lethality and irreversible genetic damage from being exposed to radiation releases. Nor do they understand the gravity of the huge releases from Fukushima, preferring to believe the damned liars on the CFRtv and Rothschild’s Associated Press and the false security present in being grouped into radiation victim populations instead of taking a few simple precautions.

  15. Solon says:

    I watched some youtube vids about Galen Winsor, then checked that this man was who he said he was, he checks out. Then I read a study on natural background radiation levels in Ramsar, Iran, which are up to 250 times the present allowable exposure, but no negative health effects are reported. Who’s telling the truth about radiation effects and it’s dangers?

  16. Troy Ng says:

    > The PAG … was developed during the Bush Administration.

    Well, that’s a problem right there. Another good idea from the folks who brought you Iraq, the Prescription Drug Boondoggle, and tax cuts for the hyper-rich — what’s not to like?

  17. Richard says:

    The price is too high, close the nuclear plants. There is no safe storage for spent fuel, this is a time bomb all by itself. There is nowhere to put it and the containment would need to last millions of years.

  18. Disgusted says:

    The insane running us! As many sleep. To be or not to be radiated. No choice now. Thanks EPA. If they were human they wouldn’t have done this.

  19. Cocoa says:

    All of this is purly intentional. Chernobyl was at least covered within a couple of weeks but for what ever reason Tepco and Japan incluuding the world are ignoring this event. Thanks a lot!

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