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November 1, 2006

IEMA helps schools safely dispose of unused radioactive materials from their labs
Agency begins collecting materials from 42 schools

SPRINGFIELD – Unused radioactive materials currently stored on shelves or in closets in middle and high schools throughout Illinois will soon be collected by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to help schools ensure the safe disposal of these items.  So far, 42 schools have contacted IEMA to request pickup of unwanted radioactive materials previously used in science classes.
“While most of these materials pose little hazard to students or facility when they’re stored properly, there is some risk if they are misplaced or handled carelessly,” said William C. Burke, IEMA director.  “Many of these materials haven’t been used in several years, perhaps even decades, but school personnel weren’t certain how to properly dispose of them.  We’re happy to work with the schools to make sure the materials are safely handled and disposed.”

IEMA contacted all middle schools and high schools, both public and private, at the beginning of the 2006-07 school year to inform them of the “Orphan Source Recovery Program High School Initiative.”  The program offers collection and disposal of unwanted radioactive materials, most of which were used in high school chemistry or physics classes.  Materials collected include chemical compounds containing uranium or thorium and small radioactive sealed sources.

IEMA personnel were at Tri-City High School in Buffalo on Wednesday to collect three sealed sources containing radioactive elements.   Tri-City High School Principal Randy Dwyer is happy the state is helping the school ensure student safety.  “We want to make our school environment as safe as possible for students,” Dwyer said.  “We’re glad IEMA is helping us dispose of these items that, in the wrong hands, could have presented a safety hazard.”

There is no cost to schools for IEMA’s pickup of the materials.  If a school opted to use a commercial low-level radioactive waste broker for disposing of the material it could cost more than $1,000 per school.  A spill of the materials at the school also would create extra expenses for cleanup activities.

Staff from IEMA’s Nuclear Safety division recently began collecting materials from schools that contacted the agency for assistance.  Burke said IEMA plans to secure the materials once they are collected, then consolidate and ship them for proper disposal in a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility.  Disposal of the materials is expected to cost less than $20,000.
The school collection program is part of IEMA’s overall “Orphan Source Recovery Program,” in which the agency collects unwanted or abandoned radioactive materials, also called orphan sources.  “Orphan sources” are radioactive material that has been abandoned, found or entered the commerce of scrap material without being able to identify its origin.  Examples of orphan source material include scrap pipe and metal, instrument gauges, switches and sealed sources.  Without proper handling and control, the materials could cause unnecessary radiation exposure to the public. 

Through the “Orphan Source Recovery Program,” IEMA collected 32 orphan source items from 15 non-school locations in 2004, and another 33 items from 18 sites in 2005.  Collected materials were inventoried and shipped for proper disposal.

Burke said IEMA will continue to reach out to schools to offer this free collection service.  Agency personnel will staff an information booth on the program at the Illinois Association of Science Teachers conference this weekend in Peoria.  Any schools with unwanted radioactive materials can contact IEMA at 217-782-1329 for more information about the “Orphan Source Recovery Program High School Initiative.”

Schools requesting pickup of radioactive materials

School    Location

Althoff Catholic H.S.  Belleville
Anna Jonesboro H.S.  Anna
Annawan H.S.   Annawan
Arthur Jr-Sr H.S.  Arthur
Batavia H.S.   Batavia
Bloomington H.S.  Bloomington
Eastview M. S.  Bartlett
Freeport H.S.   Freeport
Forreston H.S.   Forreston
Gibson City M.S. & H.S. Gibson City
Glenbard East H.S.  Lombard
Glenbrook South H.S.  Glenview
Grayslake Comm. H.S. Grayslake
Hall H.S.   Spring Valley
Harrisburg H.S.  Harrisburg
Harvard H.S.   Harvard
Henry-Senachwine H.S. Henry
Hillsboro H.S.   Hillsboro
Jefferson Jr. H.S.  Woodridge
Joliet Township H.S.  Joliet
Kansas schools  Kansas
Knoxville H.S.  Knoxville
Larkin H.S.   Elgin
Maine West H.S.   Des Plaines
Marion Catholic H.S.  Chicago Heights
Mascoutah H.S.  Mascoutah
Monmouth-Roseville H.S. Monmouth
McHenry H.S. East  McHenry
Morrison H.S.   Morrison
New Berlin H.S.  New Berlin
New Trier H.S.  Winnetka
North Chicago Comm. H.S. North Chicago
 Freshman Academy
Rock Falls H.S.  Rock Falls
Somonauk H.S.   Somonauk
St. Ignatius   Chicago
St. Joseph’s H.S.  St. Joseph/Ogden
Timothy Christian Schools Elmhurst
Tri-City H.S.   Buffalo
Tri-Point H.S.   Cullom
United Jr.-Sr. H.S.  Monmouth
Wethersfield H.S.  Kewanee
Wheaton Warrenville   Wheaton
South H.S.



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