Morning Briefing - May 14, 2019
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May 14, 2019

School Near Portsmouth Site Closed While Contamination Issue Investigated

By ExchangeMonitor

A middle school near the Energy Department’s Portsmouth Site in Pike County, Ohio, will be closed until summer break due to concerns over levels of radioactive contaminants on the property.

A local schools official said enriched uranium was identifeid inside Zahn’s Corner Middle School and neptutnium-237 was detected by a DOE air monitor adjacent to the school.

In an open letter Monday to students, parents, and faculty at Zahn’s Corner Middle School, Scotio Valley Local School District Superintendent Todd Burkitt said it is the Board of Education’s position “that any level of contamination on or near our school is unacceptable.”

As a result, the Zahn’s Corner school will close for the remainder of the school year while the issue is investigated. The school year ends May 22, according to the board’s online calendar. Published reports indicate students will start summer break early.

In his letter, Burkitt said enriched uranium and neptunium are currently deemed “contaminants of concern” by DOE on the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant property.

Newsweek reported the school closure decision Tuesday morning, citing an earlier report by a Cincinnati television station, WLWT.

An Energy Department spokesperson said in an April 29 email that trace amounts of neptunium-237, below federal limits, were detected at an air monitor near the school in 2017, but preliminary data from 2018 showed no neptunium-237.

The school system plans to seek an outside consultant to perform an evaluation of the situation, according to the broadcast report. Neptunium-237 is a byproduct of nuclear reactors and plutonium production.