Nuclear waste piles up at hospitals

Discussion in 'Environment' started by Chris, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    BARNWELL, S.C. (AP) — Tubes, capsules and pellets of used radioactive material are piling up in the basements and locked closets of hospitals and research installations around the country, stoking fears they could get lost or, worse, stolen by terrorists and turned into dirty bombs.

    For years, truckloads of low-level nuclear waste from most of the U.S. were taken to a rural South Carolina landfill. There, items such as the rice-size radioactive seeds for treating cancer and pencil-thin nuclear tubes used in industrial gauges were sealed in concrete and buried.

    But a South Carolina law that took effect July 1 ended nearly all disposal of radioactive material at the landfill, leaving 36 states with no place to throw out some of the stuff. So labs, universities, hospitals and manufacturers are storing more and more of it on their own property.

    "Instead of safely secured in one place, it's stored in thousands of places in urban locations all over the United States," said Rick Jacobi, a nuclear waste consultant and former head of a Texas agency that unsuccessfully tried to create a disposal site for that state.

    State and federal authorities say the waste is being monitored, but they acknowledge that it is difficult to track and inspected as little as once every five years. Government documents and dozens of Associated Press interviews with nuclear waste generators, experts, watchdogs and officials show that thousands of these small radioactive items have already been lost, and that worries are growing.

    "They'll end up offered up on eBay and flea markets and sent to landfills, or metal recycling plants — places where you don't want them to be," said Stephen Browne, radiation control officer at Troxler Electronic Laboratories, one of the world's largest manufacturers of industrial gauges that use radioactive material.

    There are millions of radioactive devices in use for which there is no long-term disposal plan. These include tiny capsules of radioactive cesium isotopes implanted to kill cancerous cells; cobalt-60 pellets that power helmet-like machines used to focus radioactive beams on diseased brain tissue; and cobalt and powdered cesium inside irradiation machines that sterilize medical equipment and blood.

    Most medical waste can simply be stored until its radioactivity subsides within a few years, then safely thrown out with the regular trash. Some institutions store their radioactive material in lead-lined safes, behind doors fitted with alarms and covered with yellow-and-black radiation warning signs.

    Over the past decade, however, 4,363 radioactive sources have been lost, stolen or abandoned, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report released in February. Though none of the material lost was rated "extremely dangerous" — meaning unshielded, up-close exposure can cause permanent injury within a few minutes and death within an hour — more than half the radioactive items were never recovered, the NRC said.

    The Associated Press: AP IMPACT: Nuclear waste piles up at hospitals
     
  2. dilloduck
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    dilloduck Diamond Member

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    You forgot to tell us who to vote for . Which one of em will save us form this doom ?
     
  3. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    You will.

    We are going to store it in your backyard.
     
  4. nukeman
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    nukeman Active Member

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    this is all "LOW LEVEL RADIATION" Most of it has energy levels of 300 kev and below. You get more than 3 feet from it and its at normal background levels.
    This is just a scare piece and that is all. It would take just about ALL of the stuff in storage right now to make anything resembling a "dirty bomb" and not a very effective one at that. This stuff is mostly gamma with some beta decay!!!!!
     

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