UMTRA technicians inspected the uranium ore samples in September, measuring the intensity of radiation in each bagged sample. Although Shenton said that the samples were not collectively radioactive enough to cause serious harm, Museum of Moab Director John Foster felt that those with the highest amount of radiation — 72 in all — should be removed and donated to the Colorado School of Mines.
“You would have had to stand at the door of the shed for about three to four hours to get the equivalent of a chest X-ray,” Shenton said. “Nevertheless, if the samples had all been in one place and out where the public could access them, by current standards they would have needed to have a radiation warning on it.”
Foster said the donated ore came from various mines across the Four Corners region, with many coming from Lisbon Valley and other parts of San Juan County.
“There were a couple that were local. One sample was from Seven Mile Canyon that was pretty low [in radiation] so we were happy to keep that one,” Foster said. “It was a neat collection but we just felt better [removing] the ones that were a little bit more radioactive.”
Shenton said the Colorado School of Mines is looking forward to using the ore samples in their classes. Don Metzler, U.S. Department of Energy UMTRA project manager, whose son attends the Colorado School of Mines, first volunteered to drive the samples to the Golden, Colorado, school. After some consideration, the project team realized that having Metzler drive the ore samples on the highway might be a bad idea.
“We realized that a few of the samples would never pass the [U.S. Department of] Homeland Security radiation monitors. It wouldn’t look real good if the federal project director was stopped on a highway moving radioactive materials,” Shenton said with a laugh.
Shenton said a “proper container” will be built to safely transport the ore samples to the school. He noted that property owners who want their local property evaluated for radioactive material from the former Atlas Uranium mill should contact him by email at: email@example.com.