Environmentalists yesterday assailed the Environmental Protection Agency's new regulations on industrial radiation, saying that the rules put "the Good Housekeeping seal of approval" on current emissions of radioactive particles.
The EPA, acting hastily to get out from under a federal judge's contempt order, issued the rules Thursday evening. The contempt order stemmed from the agency's decision last October to scrap its efforts to regulate radioactive emissions from federal weapons facilities, nuclear power plants and phosphorous mines.
However, the agency did not reissue a relatively rigid set of requirements that it had proposed in April 1983. Instead, it rewrote the proposal to accommodate the current level of emissions .
Joseph A. Cannon, head of the agency's air and radiation division, acknowledged that the new rules "embody in regulatory clothing the decision we made in October. They reflect our decision that the levels out there are not posing a risk."
Cannon said that the agency still hopes to persuade the courts that the regulations are unnecessary. The EPA believes that current emissions of radioactive particles, called radionuclides, pose little risk of cancer deaths because most sites that emit such particles are located in sparsely populated areas.
The radiation standards issued Thursday are about 2 1/2 times higher than the standards proposed in 1983, but the EPA said it would grant waivers permitting federally licensed nuclear power plants and weapons facilities to emit even higher radiation levels.
David Doniger, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the rule amounts to "a no-standard standard." The NRDC also had criticized the more stringent 1983 proposals as inadequate, Doniger said.