Consumer Watchdog Demands Top Toxics Regulator Immediately Stop Boeing’s Illegal Disposal of Radioactive Waste, Including Plutonium, from Nuclear Site or Face Legal Action

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SANTA MONICA, CA –State regulators at the troubled Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) are quietly allowing Boeing to demolish all of its radioactively-contaminated structures at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) site in Simi Valley and dispose of the debris at sites that are not licensed to receive radioactive waste, Consumer Watchdog has uncovered. Exposure to radioactive waste can cause cancer and genetic mutations. Structures torn down in recent months have been recycled into the commercial metal, asphalt, and concrete supply and could
wind up in consumer products like zippers, and in building girders or roads.

Consumer Watchdog today called on the DTSC and DPH to immediately block the demolition of the plutonium fuel fabrication building, and disposal of any of the debris, which could start as early as this week. Four other groups joined in the call: The Center on Race, Poverty, & the Environment, Committee to Bridge the Gap, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, and the Southern California Federation of Scientists. Plans by Boeing to illegally tear down four other former nuclear facilities and dispose of the radioactive waste in municipal and hazardous waste landfills must also stop, the groups said. Another radiological structure has already been demolished and approved for disposal.

According to a letter sent to regulators, “This conduct violates numerous laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), the Health and Safety Code provisions governing disposal of radioactive materials, and an Executive Order prohibiting the disposal of waste from decommissioned facilities in municipal landfills.” The groups gave regulators 24 hours to order Boeing to cease and desist or face legal action.

Read the letter here:

Contaminated debris from six structures has already been delivered to municipal and hazardous waste landfills that are not licensed to accept low-level radioactive waste and to metal, asphalt, and concrete recyclers. Consumers may be buying products or working in buildings tainted with the contamination. In California, only licensed facilities with barriers to prevent any material from escaping for 500 years can accept low-level radioactive waste.

“The very idea that radioactive waste could end up in the zippers of consumers’ jeans or in the steel girders of our office buildings is shocking,” said Consumer Watchdog advocate Liza Tucker. “The state is doing the opposite of protecting the public. It’s helping to expose the public to radioactive contamination. It’s inconceivable.”

“Plutonium 239 is by far the most dangerous radioisotope and one of the most toxic substances known,” according to Dr. Robert Dodge, Board Member of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “Once it circulates and deposits throughout the body, it exposes the blood, kidneys, liver and spleen to its cancer-causing alpha particle emissions.”

The US EPA has estimated that a person exposed to the levels of radiation that regulators and Boeing are using as radioactive release criteria could deliver a dose up to 45 millirem per year. That is equivalent to 22 additional chest X-rays a year and almost twice EPA’s limits for public exposure from an operating nuclear plant, but it is what DTSC, DPH, and Boeing have used to approve sending radioactive materials offsite, Tucker said.

A report delivered to state regulators today asking them to cease and desist shows:

  • Boeing’s own data analyzed in the report indicate structures already demolished were radioactively contaminated.
  • In April this year, at the DTSC’s request, Boeing amended its procedures for building demolition to include radiological facilities and allow them for disposal in unlicensed sites. It gave the public no notice or opportunity to comment.
  • The DTSC performed no environmental review of the demolition and disposal plans in direct violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Read the report by Daniel Hirsch, President of Committee to Bridge the Gap here:

Recycling companies Gillibrand of Simi Valley, Kimco of Sun Valley, and Standard Industries of Ventura have received material from the SSFL nuclear site. Debris has also been shipped for disposal to the Buttonwillow hazardous waste landfill operated by Clean Harbors Inc. in Kern County, and to municipal or industrial waste landfills Azusa Land Reclamation, Lancaster Landfill and Hauling, and McKittrick Waste Landfill, according to Boeing’s data. None of these facilities are licensed to accept radioactive waste.

See radioactive waste disposal map here:

For more on the DTSC and its failure to protect the public from toxic harm, read Consumer Watchdog’s report Golden Wasteland here:

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Liza Tucker
Liza Tucker
Liza Tucker is a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog, following everything from oil and gas to the regulation of toxic substances in the state of California. She comes to us from Marketplace, the largest U.S. broadcast show on business and economics heard by ten million listeners each week on 400 radio stations. Liza worked at this public radio show for a decade, first as Commentary Editor and then as Senior Editor for both Washington and Sustainability News.

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