[ 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
By MATTHEW L. WALD
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
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
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
Louis N. Molino, Sr., CET
LNMolino at aol.com
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