An Ohio middle school will close for the remainder of the year after enriched uranium and neptunium 237, a byproduct of uranium production, were found in and around the school, according to NBC-affiliated television station WLWT.
Detection of the radioactive substances will cut the school year short for close to 320 students at the Zahn's Corner Middle School in Pike County. The students will not have to make up for the missing days, and a longer closure is possible, according to a statement by the Ohio Department of Education quoted by WLWT.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is conducting a cleanup of the site, and authorities are working to determine the details of the contamination.
The source of the materials has not yet been officially determined, but some local leaders point to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which produced enriched uranium from 1954 until 2001. The plant is located two miles away from the school.
The Department of Energy, however, suggested the plant is probably not the source of the pollution. “Routine air samples in the area of DOE's Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon revealed trace amounts of two radiological isotopes that were more than one thousand to ten thousand times below the established threshold of public health concern,” according to senior DOE officials.