April 13, 2009 - Markey and Matheson to NRC: Follow the normal process on depleted uranium disposal

NRC documents to be provided next week

Washington, D.C. - Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), a subcommittee member, today released a reply from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to correspondence sent March 19, 2009, regarding the disposal of depleted uranium. The NRC recently decided to classify depleted uranium as Class A radioactive waste, the classification reserved for the least dangerous forms of waste, even though depleted uranium has properties similar to the more hazardous Class C waste. In its response, the NRC states that it plans to fully update the regulations for waste classifications, at which time depleted uranium could be re-classified. Additionally, the NRC admits that depleted uranium has one critical characteristic that is unlike other Class A wastes: depleted uranium becomes more dangerous over time, not less, and continues to do so for a million years after it is generated.

Rep. Markey said, "I am deeply concerned that the NRC's recent action regarding depleted uranium created far more questions than it answered.  While the NRC has said it will perform a "comprehensive revision" to its waste classification framework at some point in the future it has ignored that need for purposes of depleted uranium.  It is like deciding to give a "C" student an "A" before the final exam has even been submitted - except in this case, "C" means dangerously radioactive.  When the NRC's normal process is subverted, it creates confusion and doubt, and reduces the trust that the American people have in their nuclear regulator."

Rep. Matheson said, "Class A waste was meant to be the lowest classification - one that poses the least threat to health and safety.  Any decision regarding depleted uranium disposal that raises concerns in that regard is not acceptable to me.  I look forward to receiving and reviewing the records requested from NRC in my March 19th letter in hopes of getting a clearer picture of how the Commission is moving forward."

Reps. Markey and Matheson are expecting thousands of pages of documents from the NRC, also requested in their March 10, 2009 letter, next week.  These documents may shed more light on the process by which the NRC made its decisions regarding depleted uranium.  Chairman Markey's Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment possesses jurisdiction over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The NRC's letter is available here. The letter sent by Reps. Markey and Matheson on March 19th is available here. 

Daniel Reilly, Rep. Ed Markey, 202-225-2836

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