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Just a thought...
The following article was on the AP internet news service yesterday, and
on the far side of the country in the local Las Vegas paper this morning:
Radioactive rock throws school into scare
WOODBRIDGE, N.J. (AP) - What was supposed to be a
simple classroom demonstration of a Geiger counter turned into a
real-life radioactive scare when the device went
crazy, forcing the closure of a high school.
But scientists said Wednesday the grapefruit-sized
chunk of uraninite, that may have been in a classroom for 20 years, never
posed a threat. But the geiger counter's beeping sent
Colonia High School officials into a tizzy.
"They took precautionary measures. They didn't know
what it was and you can't fault them," said William Csaszar, a radiation
physicist for the state Department of Environmental
Protection who declared the 1 pound rock no more dangerous than
sunlight. "They're (geiger counters) very sensitive
Earth science teacher Rita English was demonstrating
the Geiger counter Tuesday with small store-bought samples when
students encouraged her to try other rocks in a
"She touched some small rocks and it made little
'click, click' noises," said Tyrona Timmons, 15. "Then she brought out this
rock, and when she touched it, it started beeping real
The school was evacuated 90 minutes later and a
hazardous materials team clad in lead aprons borrowed from a dentist,
including one emblazoned with a huge smiley face,
secured the rock in a lead-lined box.
Classes were canceled Wednesday so the school could be
tested for radiation contamination. No abnormal readings were
detected, but the classroom and a hallway were wiped
down as a precaution.
Schools Superintendent Lee Seitz made no apologies
Wednesday because "we did not know what we had in that classroom."
"The levels are so low according to DEP officials that
you're more likely to get more radiation from your smoke detector in
your house than you would from this rock," Seitz said.
"Last night we did not know how low they were and we were not sure
until late what type of radiation was emitting from
Uraninite is more commonly found in Colorado and Utah,
but it does exist in parts of New Jersey. How it came to the school
is anybody's guess and officials were trying to
contact former teachers, Seitz said.
"We believe it was brought in by either a teacher or
student because of its size," he said. "Usually the rocks we buy are much,
much smaller. It was there at least four or five years
and maybe as long as 20 years."
Parents of about 70 students who were in the classroom
Tuesday afternoon were notified and advised to have their children
take baths. It was also suggested that the students'
clothes be washed immediately and the bottoms of their shoes wiped clean.
"It will be a lesson they'll never forget," Seitz
said. "I know I won't."
Shakka Elliott, 15, said the teacher had explained
before the demonstration that certain radioactive materials could cause
cancer, but she said she was not worried.
"It didn't really bother me," Elliott said. "I don't
think a rock can do anything to me. But if I happen to get something, I'm
This sort of thing is really sad. I would give almost anything to see the
nuclear industry pull together to do some widespread national educational adds
to try to combat some of the irrational public fear out there.
Remember the mobile oil adds in Time Mag.? Polls indicated that the general
public had a vastly improved view of the oil giants after those adds, because
they now had some understanding of the associated benefits.
We've certainly got some high powered, well connected individuals here on
radsafe. Come on guys, see what you can do!! If each member of our nuclear
industry contributed to a media campaign, it wouldn't cost any single entity
much, but could sure make huge difference for all of us in the long run.
Possibly even go a long way towards reviving the
nuclear industry here in the good ol' U.S. of A. Perhaps HPS could coordinate
Well I'll get off my soap box now. Thanks one and all,
All the usual disclaimers,