Below is a letter from the League of Women Voters - Upper Mississippi River Region Inter League Organization (LWV-UMRRILO) to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which was sent on October 20, 2020.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing a dangerous and misleading change to the way nuclear power radioactive waste is handled.
The NRC has invented a new and deceptive name for nuclear power waste, calling it “Very Low Level,” or VLLW. The fact is that VLLW is not only Very Long-Lasting Waste, but also extremely dangerous to human health and the environment. “Low-level” radioactive waste includes the same long-lasting, deadly radioactive elements as high-level radioactive waste, and sometimes in greater concentrations. Well over 90% of the radioactivity in commercial so-called “low-level” radioactive waste comes from nuclear power. Medical waste is a minute fraction of the radioactivity and most of that is very short-lasting (minutes to months). We can not allow nuclear waste from being deregulated or sent to deregulated places such as regular garbage landfills or hazardous waste sites that are not licensed at all for radioactive wastes, especially man-made radioactive wastes. Once allowed in unlicensed landfills it could get incinerated or into commercial recycling to make consumer goods and building supplies.
Despite the dangerous nature of VLLW, the NRC wants to authorize regular landfill operators to dispose of radioactive waste. This would result in nuclear waste leaks into our water, air, crops, and communities. How will the leaching through landfill liners be addressed? What about the venting of radioactive materials into the air from landfill sites? We have been down this road before in Wisconsin, lead in the water, PFAS/PSOS in the water, nitrates in the water, bacteria in the water and there appears to be no end to what the government is willing to do to its citizens.
There’s no such thing as a safe level of radioactivity. The NRC claims only very "low levels" of radioactive waste will be disposed of with regular trash, but there is no safe level and the level they propose is actually higher than licensed dumps.
The NRC is also taking this action behind the backs of the American people, under the cover of the Covid-19 crisis. Their proposal would allow regular trash landfills to start taking nuclear waste without their surrounding communities knowing or having input. This is simply unacceptable.
This move by the NRC is a continuation of the on-going dangerous deregulation of serious environmental toxins, which has been occurring over the last three years. Powerful players in the nuclear industry are pushing for this change and so is government. Again the government is not looking out for the health and safety of the citizens of the United States. The NRC and DOE are heading in the wrong direction. Allowing industry to not properly handle dangerous nuclear waste in a responsible manner is criminal.
Mary & Stephen Ploeser-Co-chair/Chair of LWV Upper Mississippi River Region-ILO