Cleanup underway of small radioactive chemical spill

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Officials anticipate a cleanup to finish soon on a small, radioactive chemical spill that the University of Tulsa discovered on its North Campus last year.

State environmental quality officials are overseeing the cleanup effort of the teaspoon-sized spill of a mixture containing about a milligram of radioactive isotope cesium-137. The school learned last week of the spill and sent a campus-wide email about it Monday.

Researchers were using the cesium in multiphase flow loops, which simulate what happens when oil is pulled out of the ground, as part of a joint industry project managed by the university's research office.

The spill stemmed from a piece of equipment from oil and gas company Tracerco, the Tulsa World ( ) reported. The company learned of a problem with the equipment following a May inspection. Knowing the college previously used it at the North Campus, it investigated there but found no indication of contamination.

The company learned late last month that the equipment also had been used at another location on the North Campus, where low levels of radiation were discovered last Monday, said company director Paul Hewitt in an email.

Tracerco has hired licensed consulting service Chase Environmental Group to handle the cleanup. Hewitt said he expects the cleanup to finish next week.

Officials say at least 21 people who were conducting research at the facility will undergo screening for potential exposure.

The North Campus is about 2 miles away north from the main campus, and university officials say that simply visiting the area during the time of the spill shouldn't be a cause of concern.


Information from: Tulsa World,

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