Scrap trade says wants help with radioactive metal
DUESSELDORF, Germany - The amount of radioactively contaminated material turning up in scrap needs to drop and governments must stop penalising those who discover it, European scrap traders said on Tuesday.
"The unwanted radioactive contaminated metallurgical scrap found by the industry through the use of its detection equipment needs a solution at both national and international levels," said Patrick Neenan of the international recycling federation (BIR) environment commitee.
Across Europe, environmental agencies rely on scrapyards and steel works to notify them of the discovery of any radioactive metal. Industry takes the leading role in detection in many instances.
Neenan told a BIR conference that the scrap industry should be provided with assistance and a free disposal route for contaminated materials, and not be penalised for any discovery of contaminated metal.
But there was no uniform set of rules saying what levels of radiation should be acted upon and who should pay the clean-up costs, traders at the conference said.
Francis Veys, secretary-general of the BIR (Bureau of International Recycling), said the trade body was working with the U.N. and the European steel industry to draw up regulations to bring relief to recyclers.
They would again meet the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe in December to work on the issue.
Spain was being held up as an example as it has recently drawn up a voluntary code between steel makers, scrap dealers and the government over how and what to do with contaminated material when it was found.
"Such a commonly agreed protocol could be adopted beneficially within and across the European Union and possibly at a world level with the collaboration of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (AEA) and the steel industry," said Veys.
The AEA previously said that in 1997 there had been 2,300 reports of radioactive materials turning up in scrap yards in the United States, and that it had logged 27 major cases in 1998.
Alvaro Rodriguez Martinez of Spanish scrap firm Lajo y Rodriguez told Reuters that under the Spanish protocol dealers were now not afraid to report cases as they knew they would not be penalised by the government.
Rodriguez said the protocol, in effect since November 1999, meant that traders finding domestically sourced radioactive scrap could have it disposed of by the state at no cost to them.
Contracts were now drawn up so that if contaminated metal was imported the exporter was responsible for taking it back and disposing of it.
"It does not matter who finds the material now. The system is one of collaboration not penalisation and it has helped us," he said.
Story by Camila Reed
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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