June 17, 2002
The Honorable Hannah-Beth Jackson, Chair and Members,
Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Cal Rad Forum
Opposes SB 1444

Dear Chairman Jackson and Members,

The California Radioactive Materials Management Forum* respectfully requests a "no" vote when Senate Bill 1444 is heard in committee on June 18.

Existing Standards Protect Public Health and Safety

As noted in the attached editorial from the San Jose Mercury News, itís a mistake to treat any amount of radioactivity as dangerous: "Detectable radioactivity does not mean dangerous radioactivity."

Cal Rad opposes SB 1444 because existing standards, established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the California Department of Health Services, for clean up and license termination of sites where facilities that use radioactive materials have been decommissioned, are more than adequate to protect the public health and safety. These regulations require clean up to very low residual levels, well below the level of any reasonable concern. Provisions in SB 1444 for clean-up to even lower, insignificant levels or background and the requirement for a permanent deed restriction or covenant provide no public benefit and would be economically counterproductive. Such requirements would only discourage beneficial uses of radioactive materials in California by industries, universities, medical centers, and other research institutions.

SB 1444 would unwisely constrain the discretion of expert regulators with respect to safe levels of decontamination required and safe disposal of waste materials generated in the cleanup process.

Views of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Attached is a letter dated April 9, 2002 from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissionís Office of State and Tribal Programs to the Radiologic Health Branch in the California Department of Health Services. The letter offers comments on SB 1444 and other bills, pending before the Legislature, on radioactive waste. The NRC# notes that a criterion more stringent than that of the NRC

"Öis allowed under the relevant compatibility Criterion (Criterion C), but only so long as it does not preclude a practice in the National Interest. We are concerned that the draft legislation would have such a preclusive effect."

The NRC letter goes on to say that the proposed California criteria will be difficult to implement and that

"If the State were to require potential licensees to maintain a decommissioning fund to support license termination under the criteria in this draft legislation, the cost burden might preclude other work involving radioactivity regulated under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended. As an additional consequence, the proposed requirements may have the effect of creating perpetual State licenses for existing facilities because of the cost of decommissioning to background levels. The proposed criteria could also create a disincentive for an existing licensee to spend significant funds for site decommissioning if the end result was a site that still could not achieve the State license termination criteria."

Conclusions: Cal Rad Urges a "No" Vote on SB 1444

SB 1444 could impact all radioactive materials licensees including government facilities and universities thereby creating significant costs for State government.

Provisions of SB 1444 reflect a view that very low, residual levels of radiation following a clean up entail a substantial risk to public health and safety. We respectfully disagree. Please consider the following finding of the United States General Accounting Office* :

"Conclusive evidence of radiation effects is lacking below a total of about 5,000 to 10,000 millirem, according to the scientific literature we examined and a consensus of scientists whose views we obtained."

SB 1444 will discourage beneficial uses of radioactive materials by institutions and corporations in California.

For these reasons, we respectfully request a "no" vote on SB 1444 on June 18.

Alan Pasternak

Attachment: Editorial, San Jose Mercury News, May 30, 2002 Letter dated April 9. 2002 from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissionís Office of State and Tribal Programs to the California Radiologic Health Branch.

cc: Senator Sheila Kuehl
Committee Consultants
Richard Figueroa, Governorís Deputy Legislative Secretary
Grantland Johnson, Secretary, Health and Human Services Agency
Dr. Diana BontŠ, Director, California Department of Health Services
Cal Rad Forum Corporate and Institutional Members
Cal Rad Forum Board of Directors