Department of Health Services Not Complying With Law To Create Inventory of Radioactive Waste, Critics Say
The Department of Health Services has not complied with a state law passed in 2002 requiring officials to create a database to track radioactive waste, leaving California "vulnerable to acts of radioactive terror," according to some critics, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Signed by former Gov. Gray Davis (D) in September 2002, the law was designed to track radioactive materials to help prevent terrorists from stealing the materials from poorly guarded facilities and turning them into dirty bombs.
However, officials for DHS' Radiologic Health Branch say inadequate funding has impeded compliance with the law. RHB is responsible for developing the inventory, as well as licensing and inspecting users and certifying health professionals using ionizing radiation sources.
The resources to create the inventory were to come from the Radiologic Control Fund, which is funded through licensing fees paid by users of radioactivity.
However, Kevin Reilly, deputy director of prevention services for DHS, said the $13 million currently in the fund is insufficient to pay for the all of the branch's activities, which cost about $18.3 million per fiscal year. Reilly said the fee has not been increased since "maybe 1993."
"We don't have adequate revenue (coming) into the fund to pay for the whole program," Reilly said, adding that the state's budget deficit has caused DHS to prioritize funding for other projects.
However, critics say RHB has delayed creation of the inventory because "it is dominated by allies of the nuclear power industry," the Chronicle reports.
"It has been over two years since [the law] was passed, and DHS is still making excuses for their failure to implement the law," Philip Klasky, co-director of the Bay Area Nuclear Waste Coalition, said.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), the law's author, said, "I think it's very dangerous for this ... administration not to take radioactive waste seriously. Radioactive waste is being transported through the state at night, and police and fire personnel are not being trained on what to do if something happens." Kuehl said that she has met with the state's public health officer in to help hasten state action but added that developing the inventory "just isn't a priority" for DHS (Davidson, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/12).