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Detection of enriched uranium closes Pike County school

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A Pike County, Ohio, middle school has been closed after enriched uranium was discovered inside. The enriched uranium was detected inside Zahn's Corner Middle School, according to a letter from the Scioto Valley Local School District.


The letter states the U.S. Department of Energy air monitor adjacent to the middle school also detected neptunium 237 -- a byproduct of nuclear reactors and plutonium production.

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This is a paper that provides a lot of background that pretty much proves the contamination is from PORTS (shut down reprocessing plant).,.




The data showed that non-­‐natural U, and non-­‐fallout Np and Pu are systematically present in
many locations; accordingly, we tested the alternative hypotheses that, the Portsmouth Gaseous 
Diffusion  Facility  (PORTS)  are  the  explanatory  sources  therein.    We  observed, using 
isotope  mixing  plots,  that  the  U,  Np,  and  Pu  are  reasonably  explained  using  fallout
and  PORTS/Paducah  end-­‐members  described  in  two  DOE-­‐funded  studies  (Moody,  1995; Kelley et al., 1999).


Caution is in order. There was no attempt to quantify the levels but just to separate out that which exists in the environment normally and that which would come from the nuke plant. This is done by spectral energy analysis of the alpha emissions. Each isotope has unique energy levels. It's a good study that pretty much sources the contamination to the plant.


But it says nothing about the contamination levels which may be far below any observable health effect.  Or above for that matter. It's this study which caused them to go looking for contamination of homes and schools sourced to PORTS.


My guess is, that given the incredibly sensitive nature of these detectors, the levels are far below any significance and well below background. There is, after all, a lot of Uranium just in the dirt in one's yard. Difference is that it's U238 with a bit of U235 while the PORTS plant also has a bit a U236 and Np which are nearly non-existent normally.  But the danger is getting the stuff inside you and even then it requires a fair amount to increase risk significantly as the radioactivity of these is quite low for a given mass.



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