Consumer Watchdog Files Preliminary Injunction Motion To Stop Illegal State Approval of Boeing Radioactive Waste Demolition and Disposal

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SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog and Strumwasser & Woocher have filed a motion in Sacramento Superior Court for a preliminary injunction freezing all of Boeing’s demolition of structures and disposal of radioactive waste at the Santa Susana Field Lab in Simi Valley—including a plutonium fuel fabrication building. The groups want the court to resolve allegations that the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) broke California’s signature environmental law by approving the work in Area IV, the nuclear portion of the lab, without public review or comment and allowing its illegal disposal.

The motion said, “The demolition of Area IV structures has the potential to cause significant impact to human health and the environment by releasing previously contained radioactive particles. Moreover, Respondents have expressly authorized Boeing to ship the radioactive debris offsite for disposal in waste facilities that are neither licensed nor designed to safely dispose of radioactive waste. Disposal of radioactive waste in non-licensed facilities creates risk of serious harm to the environment and the public.”

See legal documents here:

Preliminary Injunction:

Gunderson Declaration:

DTSC and Boeing promised not to allow any more demolition in the nuclear area of the Santa Susana Field Lab or remove any debris until Sept. 30.  The groups are waiting for a court date for a fuller hearing. "We are pleased that Boeing and the DTSC have temporarily volunteered to stop endangering the public health," said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker. "But it's the state that illegally sanctioned demolition and disposal activities. Going forward, we have to make sure that our toxics regulators don't expose us to radioactive waste, but protect us from it instead by cleaning it up fully and disposing of it properly."

Arne Gunderson, a nuclear engineer with 40 years' experience in decommissioning of nuclear sites and site remediation, supported the petitioners in a declaration. He agreed that the demolition of Area IV structures presents a risk of harm to the environment and public through improper disposal and demolition, that the radiation surveys Boeing provided to state regulators showed "significant quantities of material that is radioactively contaminated by isotopes that could only have come from operations at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory," and that Being used "flawed methods that would mask significant contamination remaining in the extant radiological structures."

The Santa Susana Field Lab was used to test rockets and experimental nuclear reactors for decades and experienced accidents and a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 that extensively contaminated the site. Radioactive waste such as metal that enters the consumer supply through recycling could wind up in jeans zippers or office girders, for example. Hazardous waste dumps slated to receive radiological waste from the site are not licensed nor specially constructed to contain it, and neither were municipal garbage dumps or recycling shops that already received radioactively contaminated debris.

Such waste, if improperly contained, can scatter or seep into groundwater where it can contaminate drinking water or crops, if used for watering. Exposure to radioactive waste can cause cancer and genetic mutations.

Consumer Watchdog and Strumwasser & Woocher originally filed suit against the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) on August 6. They are also representing Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Committee to Bridge the Gap, and the Southern California Federation of Scientists.

For more see:

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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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