SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The U. S. government on Wednesday will reclassify some of the nation’s most dangerous radioactive waste to lower its threat level, outraging critics who say the move would make it cheaper and easier to walk away from cleaning up nuclear weapons production sites in Washington state, Idaho and South Carolina.
The U.S. Department of Energy said labeling some high-level waste as low level will save $40 billion in cleanup costs across the nation’s entire nuclear weapons complex. The material that has languished for decades in the three states would be taken to low-level disposal facilities in Utah or Texas, the agency said.
Critics said it’s a way for federal officials to walk away from their obligation to properly clean up a massive quantity of radioactive waste left from nuclear weapons production dating to World War II and the Cold War.
It doesn’t just happen to Valley Fever. Apparently even nuclear waste can arbitrarily be declared to be less severe as well.
Reclassifying a radioactive biohazard as “low level waste” may be convenient for costs savings, if perhaps not public health. This story may bring to mind what happened when Valley Fever was taken off the CDC Select Agent List. The removal of Coccidioides sp. from that list was done for reasons that had nothing to do with its horrible impact on America’s health, just as calling radioactive waste less dangerous does not actually make it less dangerous.
It is important that people recognize health hazards for what they actually are. Minimizing a risk does nothing but hurt patients and stifle the efforts to help with the problem. Valley Fever Survivor’s bioterrorism page is a part of our ongoing efforts to help keep the discussion connected to reality, even when that is not politically convenient for anyone.