Small Vial Of Radium Missing From Ohio Uranium Plant Cleanup Site

Tuesday, March 13th 2007, 10:19 pm
By: News On 6

PIKETON, Ohio (AP) _ A small bar of radium is missing from a former uranium enrichment plant in southern Ohio, the U.S. Department of Energy reported Tuesday.

The radioactive ingot, about the size of a medical gel capsule and stored in a glass vial, is not a health or security threat, said Laura Schachter, an agency spokeswoman. But the department is taking the loss seriously to ensure that the cleanup of the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant is not compromised, she said.

The plant was used to enrich uranium for use in weapons and nuclear power plants. The building is to be turned over to USEC Inc., which is developing a new facility to concentrate uranium into isotopes for fuel.

Workers discovered the radium missing Feb. 28. It had been kept in a wooden box encased with lead that was last moved in December to prepare for transport to Nevada.

The bar still might be somewhere in the plant or even have been stolen, which Schachter said was unlikely.

R. Gregory Evans, director of the Institute for Biosecurity at St. Louis University, said misplacing the radium raises questions about how Energy Department contractors are handling nuclear waste.

``Yes, it's significant that they lost this,'' Evans said.