In his last remaining months in office, a newly uncovered internal Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") document (.pdf) shows that George W. Bush has undertaken a massive effort to deregulate ionizing radiation in drinking water. The document, a confidential EPA draft Protective Action Guidance ("PAG"), was obtained by the trade publication Inside EPA.
Environmental organizations this week seized on the draft guidance, as it proposes to increase the acceptable levels of ionizing radiation hundreds to millions times higher than what is acceptable under EPA's current PAG. This last-ditch effort by the Bush Administration to appease the nuclear industry would amount to the wholesale abandonment and destruction of decades worth of EPA regulation that has protected the American public from radioactivity.
President Bush, now being publicly excoriated for leading the charge to deregulate the mortgage and securities industries, now wants to deregulate nuclear meltdowns and radiation in drinking water! The effort, not-so-coincidentally, comes as nuclear shills push for a substantial increase in the amount of power the United States receives from this failed technology.
Bush's adventures in deregulating radiation started in 2006, when his Administration issued guidance for cleaning up after a possible "dirty bomb" attack on U.S. soil. The guidance adopted a heavily criticized process called "optimization," which allowed for the long-term reoccupation of contaminated areas without any cleanup at doses as large as the equivalent of 50,000 chest X-rays. The National Academy of Sciences ("NAS") estimates that exposure to radiation levels this high (about 50,000 X-rays) would result in cancer for one in three people exposed--this is on top of the cancers that occur without the accident-related radiation.
At the time "optimization" was adopted, environmental organizations publicly warned that Bush would attempt to expand the use of "optimization" to a range of radioactive events that had nothing to do with a dirty bomb attack. The draft EPA guidance has confirmed what the environmental organizations feared in 2006: the Bush Administration is now attempting to expand "optimization" to a whole host of radioactive events.
The most astounding aspect of this proposed policy is the deregulation of ionizing radiation in your family's drinking water. The proposed PAG includes permissible concentrations of radioactivity in drinking water at levels that are orders of magnitude higher than the levels EPA has traditionally used.
For example, the proposal would permit cesium-137 in drinking water at nearly 14,000 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) without taking any protective action. For decades, EPA has absolutely forbidden cesium-137 in drinking water at levels higher than 200 pCi/L.
The new standard for strontium-90 would be nearly 7,000 pCi/L, whereas EPA's longstanding Maximum Concentration Limit (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act is 8 pCi/L: nearly one thousand times lower.
The numbers get more dire as we move down the list! For iodine-131 the limit is relaxed by a factor of approximately THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND TO ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND, when compared to the existing MCL.
Nickel-63 contamination would be allowed at 1,220,000 pCi/L compared to the longstanding EPA MCL of 50!! In comparison to EPA’s existing guidance for emergencies, Removal Action Levels, the new standards would be about a hundred times to hundreds of thousands of times more lax.
The draft plan would also make "optimization" applicable to events such as a fire at a nuclear fuel manufacturing plant; an accident at a commercial nuclear power plant or Department of Energy nuclear site; a release from a facility manufacturing or using radioisotopes or from a transportation accident; and many other radiation releases for which a protective response may be considered.
The Bush Administration now claims that in the event of a nuclear meltdown at a commercial power plant, a radioactive release would only need to be cleaned to a level where one in three people would get cancer due to the ensuing radiation exposure.
Several years ago, in a study funded by EPA dubbed BEIR VII, the NAS examined the most up-to-date science on risks from ionizing radiation so EPA could update its then-current risk estimates. In the report, the NAS concluded that cancer risks from ionizing radiation were higher than what EPA and other federal agencies had previously assumed.
The pro-nuke activists and shills in this country have been touting nuclear power as the new Massiah to cure all problems from energy independence, national security, to global warming. If nuclear power is so "safe" then why the big rush to totally deregulate exposure to ionizing radiation? Why do it under Bush? Why do it when everyone is paying attention to an election?
The nuclear industry is full of people who put profits first and the safety of the American public quite literally dead-last. The fact is nuclear power entails the widespread use of the most dangerous substances known to mankind. While the profits may be high, these people, who are at their core pathological Bushophyles, cannot be trusted with the health and safety of the American public.
Just as deregulation has been a catastrophe in other industries, the deregulation of radiation in drinking water is another failed policy proposal by Bush that just might squeeze through without anyone noticing until it's too late.
Letter to EPA Administrator Johnson by several national and regional denouncing the plan.
2006 group letter warning of the expansion of "optimization."
2005 group letter asking DHS not to deregulate dirty-bomb cleanup.