Radioactive ore samples found in storage at Museum of Moab
by Molly Marcello
Staff Writer
Dec 31, 2015 | 3280 views | 0 0 comments | 51 51 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Robert Hopping (left), vicinity properties manager for the Moab UMTRA project, and Joey Oliver, UMTRA radiation control technician, evaluate and measure the radiation levels for ore samples that were found in a storage shed at the museum of Moab in September. Seventy-two samples that had the highest levels of radiation were donated to the Colorado School of Mines. Photo courtesy of John Foster
Robert Hopping (left), vicinity properties manager for the Moab UMTRA project, and Joey Oliver, UMTRA radiation control technician, evaluate and measure the radiation levels for ore samples that were found in a storage shed at the museum of Moab in September. Seventy-two samples that had the highest levels of radiation were donated to the Colorado School of Mines. Photo courtesy of John Foster
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Technicians from the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) project earlier this fall evaluated and remediated dozens of uranium ore samples in storage at the Museum of Moab. Grand County UMTRA liaison Lee Shenton, who also sits on the museum’s board of directors, said that when he learned that the ore donations were kept in a storage shed in back of the museum, he thought it prudent to invite the technicians to take a look.

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: lshenton@grandcountyutah.net.


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