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Under special government permits, "decontaminated" radioactive metal is being sold to manufacture everything from knives and forks and belt buckles to zippers, eyeglasses, dental fillings and IUDS.

The Department of Energy (DOE), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the radioactive metal processing industry are pushing for new regulations that would relax current standards and dispense with the need for special radioactive recycling licensing. 

By one estimate, the DOE disposed of 7,500 tons of these troublesome metals in 1996 alone. The new standard being sought would allow companies to recycle millions of tons of low-level radioactive metal a year while raising the acceptable levels of millirems (mrems), a unit of measure that estimates the damage radiation does to human tissue. 

By the NRC's own estimate, the proposed standards could cause 100,000 cancer fatalities in the United States alone. While the DOE waits for new standards to be released, "hot metal" is being marketed to other countries. 

Three major U.S. oil companies, Texaco, Mobil and Phillips, shipped 5.5 million pounds of radioactive scrap metal to China in 1993. In June 1996, Chinese officials stopped a U.S. shipment of 78 tons of radioactive scrap metal that exceeded China's safety limit, some of it by thirty-fold. 

As of January 1998, 178 buildings in Taiwan containing 1,573 residential apartments had been identified as radioactive. Radioactive recycled metal has shown up in domestic markets as well.

Source: THE PROGRESSIVE, "Nuclear Spoons," October 1998, by Anne-Marie Cusac