Jun 19, 2019 | Updated: 09:31 AM EDT

Nuclear Waste Facility Construction Paused Due to Concerns of a Carcinogen Detected in Nearby School

Apr 28, 2019 07:12 AM EDT

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Traces of a known carcinogen were detected at an air monitoring station at Zahn's Corner Middle School in Waverly, Ohio. The local health district, Pike County Health Department, just called to the United States Department of Energy, requesting to suspend the construction of the nuclear waste disposal facility, which was believed to be the cause of the detected carcinogen.

Health Commissioner Matt Brewster said that the Department of Energy had found traces of Neptunium, a radioactive isotope usually used in a neutron detection equipment. Aside from being radioactive, it is also poisonous, pyrophoric, and can possibly accumulate in the bones. "It is a known carcinogen. It is only found in plutonium production involved in the enrichment of uranium," he said. "Whenever we get concerned parents calling, we have got to figure out what is going on. They're concerned. You hear a transuranic, a carcinogen in a radioactive substance. People aren't sure what to think." The local health district will be holding a forum to discuss DOE data and their plan for the site, while Brewster asks the Department of Energy to stop any activities concerning the said issue until they figure things out. "We are inviting representatives from DOE and state health organizations to help provide context to its contamination,"

Brewster said. "DOE has been dozing for the on site waste disposal cell for two years, moving tons and tons of dirt. What happens when you move dirt, you have got dust, so you have Neptunium already there, dust contaminated with Neptunium is now leaving the site and it reaches the air monitor at the school," he added. "Until the contamination is understood, and the potential impacts to health and environment, stop what you are doing and let's figure it out and then get a plan going forward."

The Department of Energy has implemented continuous cleanup work on the Gaseous Diffusion Plant campus, which closed in 2001. And now that the government wants to convert it into a nuclear waste storage facility, the local health district disagrees with the idea until the DOE has presented a specified plan on how to go about the construction of the nuclear waste disposal facility.

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