[ RadSafe ] Agency Seeks Broad Standard for 'Dirty Bomb' Exposure

LNMolino at aol.com LNMolino at aol.com
Thu Nov 10 22:44:53 CST 2005

Agency Seeks Broad Standard for 'Dirty Bomb' Exposure

Published: November 8, 2005

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 - The Homeland  Security Department, preparing
advice on responding to a "dirty bomb" attack,  has concluded that cities and

states should take into account the cost of  abandoning or cleaning up
contaminated areas when deciding how much exposure  to radiation is

The goal of writing "protective action  guidelines" that do not set fixed
numerical standards for acceptable  radiation exposure is to "balance
protection with other important factors,"  according to the advance
text of the advice.

In contrast, the federal  government has established precise standards
For radiation exposure involving  workers in industrial settings and
people who live near hazardous waste dumps  or nuclear power plants, whether

operating or decommissioned.

A  copy of the proposed text, which the department plans to publish in
The next  few weeks in The Federal Register, was first published by Inside
EPA, a trade  magazine. Government officials confirmed its central points  on


According to the text, if terrorists detonate a nuclear  bomb or simply
spread radioactive material in the United States, they  could
overwhelm the nation's ability to clean up the contamination or shelter  all
of the
people who would have to evacuate.

The department plans  to take comments for 60 days after publication,
but the guidance would go  into force immediately upon publication.

One official who was involved in  writing the guidance, Edward McGaffigan
Jr., a member of the Nuclear  Regulatory Commission, said adopting overly
strict rules "only aids and abets  Al Qaeda or any other terrorists."

When nuclear power plants are  decommissioned, Mr. McGaffigan said, their
owners must clean them up to the  extent that the potential dose of
radiation to a member of the public each  year is equivalent to the amount of
environmental radiation that the average  person is exposed to in two or
three weeks.

Some sites have been  cleaned up to a standard of 15 millirem per
year. But, Mr. McGaffigan said,  people who work in some buildings made of
including the United  States Capitol, are exposed to substantially higher
doses than that. "You  don't raze buildings if they have to be as hot
as the Capitol is," he said,  pointing out that workers there absorb 100
millirem a year.

The new  guidance calls for balancing the public health risk against the
value of a  highway or crucial transportation structure or of a high-
profile place. It  also encourages state and local officials to show

People  who oppose nuclear power argue that the new guidance is part
of an effort by  the government to loosen health protections so the industry

can more  easily build new reactors and dispose of its waste.

Officials say that in  the days or weeks after an attack with a dirty
bomb, which is a conventional  explosive with radioactive material added to
officials at all levels  of government and members of the public will
discuss what standards to  use.

Government officials involved in drafting the document said it  filled
a gap in the existing regulatory framework, which set the limits on  waste
dumps and power plants. The federal government already offers some  guidance
acceptable exposure for emergency personnel during an attack,  but not on
what standards to use later, when the contamination would be  cleaned
up and decisions made about reopening areas that had been sealed  off.

After officials simulated a dirty bomb attack in a five-day exercise  in
Seattle in May 2003, they concluded that one problem was a lack  of
Planning for long-term cleanup.

Mr. McGaffigan said representatives  of different federal agencies
participating in the drill gave varying advice  to the mayor about
what had to be done before the affected area could be  reoccupied.

The new federal guidance is also meant to apply to a recovery  after a
nuclear bomb.

Louis N.  Molino, Sr., CET
LNMolino at aol.com
979-690-7559  (Office)
979-412-0890 (Cell Phone)
979-690-7562 (Office Fax)

"A  Texan with a Jersey Attitude"

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