Monday, January 26, 2015

Small amount of uranium taken from home of deceased Fayetteville professor

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 2:51 PM

click to enlarge CONTRABAND: One of the two uranium samples confiscated by ADH. - ARKANSAS DEPT OF HEALTH
  • ARKANSAS DEPT OF HEALTH
  • CONTRABAND: One of the two uranium samples confiscated by ADH.
Readers in Northwest Arkansas alerted us today to a report filed by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding the discovery of a small quantity of uranium-235 in a private residence in Fayetteville. U-235 is an isotope of the radioactive element capable of sustaining a fission reaction — that is, it can be used as fuel in a power plant, or in a weapon.

ADH asked the University of Arkansas to secure the material (since UA holds a license to handle radioactive substances) and it's now being held at ADH, where the substance's level of radioactivity is being tested. Swabs and samples taken by ADH at the Fayetteville home indicate the amount of radiation emitted by the uranium is minimal, well below the threshold of what poses a danger to human health. Still, the department is performing further testing to be certain.

A spokesman for the UA said that the uranium was apparently found at the home of a late professor of nuclear science the late Cecil Cogburn, a professor of Nuclear Engineering at the university.

"From what we understand, an individual in the community found these items in the home," said ADH spokesperson Kerry Krell. "These items were probably packed away for quite some time … probably pre-9/11, because after that it became a whole lot harder to get your hands on any uranium." She said both items were clearly marked and found in a desk.

The report filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the U-235 was found "in a medium size glass jar with lid." It also identified a second sample, a small quantity of UO2, or uranium dioxide, "in a small glass vial with lid." Uranium dioxide is a type of ore — basically a diluted form of the dangerous stuff. The UO2 sample contained only 3 percent U-235; while such ore can be refined into a more dangerous form, it's "essentially harmless" on its own, said Krell.*

Pure U-235 is another story, however. "It raises a lot of red flags when you hear about that," she said. "Uranium is not just something you want floating around." However, she continued, these samples seem to be too small to be dangerous. "Bottom line, there's no radiation emitting from these things."

The concentration of uranium or other radioactive elements in a substance dictates whether it's illegal to possess, Krell said. "What they measure that by is percent of uranium found in the product. Uranium ore is probably exempt." If you should find a box of U-235 squirreled away in your attic, though, tell the authorities.

There's a list of common items containing trace amounts of radioactive elements which are explicitly deemed exempt by the authorities who regulate nuclear material, she explained. "Here's one interesting example: Brazil nuts. They naturally contain a certain amount of radium."

Here's the Nuclear Regulatory Commission report on the incident.

*This paragraph originally said the UO2 sample was "3 percent uranium," which a reader pointed out was incorrect. Of the uranium contained in this sample of UO2, only 3 percent was the isotope U-235; the rest of the uranium in that ore was likely U-238, a more common and less dangerous form of the element.

Tags: , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

Readers also liked…

  • From Dallas, creative thinking about the Interstate 30 project

    An urban planner in Dallas says freeways are not always the answer. Incorporating some creativity already being used in Dallas and looking at the Interstate 30 project from a broader perspective, here are ideas that Arkansas highway planners have not considered. But should.
    • Nov 6, 2015
  • Medical marijuana backers: Health Department opposition 'disingenuous' and 'cruel'

    Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the first medical marijuana initiative to qualify for the ballot, has responded sharply to yesterday's statement by the Arkansas Health Department that it opposes legal medical use of marijuana.
    • Jul 13, 2016
  • Federal judge wants John Goodson to explain class action maneuvering

    A show-cause order filed Monday by federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith indicates class action attorney John Goodson has some explaining to do about the move of a class action complaint against an insurance company from federal to state court with an instant pre-packaged settlement that has been criticized as a windfall for Goodson.
    • Dec 22, 2015

People who saved…

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: A new Trump on Twitter?

    • By the way, speaking of refugees, seems we are taking in more than Trump, et…

    • on May 27, 2017
  • Re: A new Trump on Twitter?

    • Yeah, indications of a ghost or at least an editor go back to a point…

    • on May 27, 2017
  • Re: Mr. Gianforte, a question? Mr. Gianforte?

    • Texas' gerrymandered districts apparently didn't hold and some voters actually voted "Democratic" and so Texas…

    • on May 27, 2017

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation