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Corrupt, useless and weak EPA new guidelines for radiological attacks

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while the new guide will be subject to a 90-day public comment period once it formally is published in the Federal Register, it has been labeled for “interim use,” meaning it is effective immediately

“a recipe for absolute mayhem in the midst of an emergency,”  “And that’s because of politics.”

EPA RELAXES PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES highly-recommendedFOR RADIOLOGICAL ATTACKS, ACCIDENTS, Next GovBy Douglas P. GuarinoGlobal Security Newswire April 9, 2013 After years of internal deliberation and controversy, the Obama administration has issued a document suggesting that when dealing with the aftermath of an accident or attack involving radioactive materials, public health guidelines can be made thousands of times less stringent than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would normally allow.

The EPA document, called a protective action guide for radiological incidents, was quietly posted on a page on the agency’s website Friday evening. The low-profile release followed an uproar of concern from watchdog groups in recent weeks over news that the White House had privately agreed to back relaxed radiological cleanup standards in certain circumstances and had cleared the path for the new EPA guide.

Agency officials had tried to issue the protective action guide during the final days of the Bush administration in January 2009, but the incoming Obama camp ultimatelyblocked its publication in part due to concerns that it included guidelines suggesting people could drink water contaminated at levels thousands of times above what the agency would typically permit.

The new version of the guide released Friday does not include such dramatically relaxed guidelines its text, but directs the reader to similar recommendations made by other federal agencies and international organizations in various documents. It suggests that they might be worth considering in circumstances where complying with its own enforceable drinking water regulations is deemed impractical.

Such circumstances could include the months – and possibly years – following a “dirty bomb” attack, a nuclear weapons explosion or an accident at a nuclear power plant, according to the guide, a nonbinding document intended to prepare federal, state and local officials for responding to such events. For example, the new EPA guide refers to International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines that suggest intervention is not necessary until drinking water is contaminated with radioactive iodine 131 at a concentration of 81,000 picocuries per liter. This is 27,000 times less stringent than the EPA rule of 3 picocuries per liter.

“This is public health policy only Dr. Strangelove could embrace,” Jeff Ruch, executive director for the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said in a statement Monday, referring to Peter Sellers’ character in the Stanley Kubrick film of the same name.

Along with other activists, Ruch laid the blame for the document’s perceived shortcomings on Gina McCarthy, the EPA air and radiation chief who is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday regarding her nomination to become the agency’s next administrator. “If this typifies the environmental leadership we can expect from Ms. McCarthy, then EPA is in for a long, dirty slog,” Ruch said……..

while the new guide will be subject to a 90-day public comment period once it formally is published in the Federal Register, it has been labeled for “interim use,” meaning it is effective immediately.

Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz who led a coalition of some 60 watchdog groups against the Bush-era incarnation of the EPA guide, argued the Obama guide is worse than the Bush document in not only ultimately referencing many of the same controversial recommendations, but by forcing the reader to dig through a myriad of other documents to find them.

“What I find particularly tragic is, because it is so corrupt, it now is a useless document,” Hirsch told GSN. “If you have an emergency, you want to go to a protective action guide, look up tables, and know what you’re supposed to do.”

In Hirsch’s view, McCarthy, along with acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe, “moved the most horrible stuff into references” so that “they could somehow claim that it is not identical to the Bush-era PAG.”

The new 86-page guide’s reliance on other documents is “a recipe for absolute mayhem in the midst of an emergency,” Hirsch said. “And that’s because of politics.”

Another controversial aspect of the Bush-era draft of the EPA guide was its embrace of a loosely defined approach to cleanup called optimization, under which decisions about how to permanently restore an area affected by a nuclear incident would not have to be based on the public health guidelines on which the agency usually relies.

According to a draft report recently commissioned by the Homeland Security Department, cleanup decisions under the optimization approach would be based on a target radiation dose range of between 100 and 2,000 millirems of radiation per year, meaning as many as about one in 20 people would be expected to develop cancer from long-term exposure. Historically, the Environmental Protection Agency has not allowed long-term cancer risks greater than one in 10,000 in a worst-case scenario, pursuant to guidelines its Superfund program established in the 1980s…….

Suggestions in the new EPA guide that some radioactive waste might have to be dumped in conventional landfills due to a lack of sufficient space at specially designed sites has also sparked concern among activists.

Diane D’Arrigo, of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, read these suggestions as “an admission that a nuclear power accident could cause major devastation and create enormous amounts of nuclear waste that would exceed all radioactive disposal capacity in the country so would need to go to regular landfills or be burned to disperse into our air and lungs.” She said the new guide was a “step toward making this an ‘acceptable’ practice,” in more routine situations…… http://www.nextgov.com/health/2013/04/epa-relaxes-public-health-guidelines-radiological-attacks-accidents/62381/

April 30, 2013 - Posted by | Reference, safety, USA

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