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Ohio school all too close to Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant – nuclear radiation dangers


Ohio school still shuttered among radiation fears, Akron Beacon Journal,  By Beth Burger
The Columbus Dispatch, Aug 22, 2020    PIKETON — Monday would have been Layton Cuckler’s first day at Zahn’s Corner Middle School.

Instead, Layton, 11, and about 300 of his peers will be divided between Jasper Elementary School and Piketon High School in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a fourth grader, he’ll have to stay at the elementary school another year.

He might not be happy about missing out on the rite of passage that his older brother, Gavin, 13, and others have experienced, but his parents, Mike and Teresa Cuckler, are relieved.

The change means Layton won’t risk being exposed to radioactive isotopes downwind from the former U.S. Department of Energy Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The isotopes have been found in the air, soil, water, vegetation and wildlife in the area, according to federal environmental reports……….

 the community has pushed for independent testing, which is still pending.

A nuclear waste-disposal cell is being built to bury radioactive debris as the 3,000-acre complex is dismantled.

Concerned neighbors   Residents have asked for those efforts to be paused because they’re concerned about exposure to radioactive materials. Contamination has been detected there since the work began in 2017, according to the Scioto Valley Local School District.

The DOE waited two years before informing the school district that the air monitor across from the middle school had picked up radioactive elements: americium in 2018 and neptunium-237 in 2019.

The district closed the school last year after traces of uranium were detected in ceiling tiles and air ducts. The district has asked the state to build a new middle school.

History of school

Zahn’s Corner Middle School was built in 1955. One year earlier, before the school was opened, the enrichment plant came online for defense purposes and operated until 2001. The facility then transitioned to enriching uranium for nuclear power plants.

“Why is there a school on the downwind side of a site like this? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” said David C. Ingram, chairman of the physics and astronomy department at Ohio University.

It’s unclear why the DOE chose that site, less than 2 miles from the school, and did not warn the district……..

When Gavin Cuckler was at the middle school, he would sometimes come home with dirt on his clothes from playing outside, Teresa Cuckler said. ……..

The Cucklers and others worry about cancer and other health risks tied to the plant.

“You think about the size of the air monitor [across from the school]. It wasn’t just one or two more elements floating through the air landing in that air monitor. How much was actually released? What’s the data on site show of where they were sampling at different release points?” said Jennifer Chandler, a former DOE employee who worked as an environmental scientist and who is now a Piketon village council member……..

Residents say the emissions are worrisome.

“They know it’s going to Zahn’s Corner because they put an air monitor there. It makes it to our school property. Our kids are out there,” Chandler said. “The danger comes in the toxicity of the inhalation or ingestion of that molecule, which is there. It’s there. So they want to pivot and talk only about radioactivity, which we are concerned about, obviously, but we’re more concerned with the toxicity of having these things in and on our school property.”

Neptunium, plutonium and americium are considered “bone seekers,″ according to the National Library of Medicine. That means that, if ingested, they will lodge in the body, possibly in bones, lungs, muscles and the liver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s going to irradiate from you for the rest of your life. It’s the toxicity of that. And what is the safe level of neptunium? … Zero. There is no such thing. There is no safe level of these elements,” Chandler said. ……..

August 24, 2020 - Posted by | environment, health, USA

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