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In 2004, the Department of Energy (DOE) disposed of more than 378,000 cubic meters of low-level radioactive waste (LLRW)--contaminated building rubble, soil, and debris. In 2002, DOE directed its sites to use life-cycle cost analysis to manage LLRW.
For about 40 years, the Department of Energy's Rocky Flats site, near Denver, served as a production facility that made plutonium triggers, or "pits," for nuclear weapons. That role resulted in radiological and chemical contamination of many of the site's buildings and its soil and water.
Following the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, concerns were raised about the security of Iraq's radiological sources. Such sources are used in medicine, industry, and research, but unsecured sources could pose risks of radiation exposure, and terrorists could use them to make "dirty bombs.
Power plants emit pollutants that have been linked to various negative health effects. In 2003, two new power plants, owned by Sempra Energy and Intergen, began operations 3 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border near Imperial County, California.
Low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) management concerns persist despite the LLRW Policy Act of 1980, as amended, which made states responsible for providing for disposal of class A, B, and C LLRW and made the Department of Energy (DOE) responsible for the disposal of greater-than-class C LLRW.