A middle school in southern Ohio had been closed after a U.S. Department of Defense air monitor detected radioactive chemicals inside and near the school, authorities said.
Zahns Corner Middle School in Piketon, Ohio was closed until further notice by the Scioto Valley Local School District after enriched uranium and Neptunium-237 - highly carcinogenic chemicals - were detected inside and around the middle school. According to a note sent by the school district, Board of Education members decided to close the school until the "source, extent, level of contamination, and potential impacts to public health and the environment" could be determined.
Brandon Wooldridge, the president of Scioto Valley Local Board of Education explained the Board's decision to close the school.
"It is the position of the Board that any level of contamination on or near out school is unacceptable," Wooldridge wrote in the release. "We believe closing Zahns Corner Middle School for the remainder of this school year is in the best interest of our students and staff at this time."
There are more than 300 students and 25 staff at the school.
The middle school is located near a former nuclear plant that was responsible for manufacturing weapons-grade uranium and other nuclear materials for the Department of Defense and the country's nuclear weapons program between 1954 and 2001.
Wooldridge wrote the Department of Energy needed to "take appropriate actions to ensure radiological contaminants are not being released from the site."
The former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant was one of three in the United States that worked on the nation's nuclear weapons program. The Department of Energy began a cleanup program to convert the plant into a waste disposal site that could harbor radioactive material, chemically contaminated waste and construction debris.
"After the Cold War, weapons-grade uranium enrichment was suspended and production facilities were leased to the private sector," the Department of Energy says on its website. "In 2001, enrichment operations were discontinued at the site."
Enriched uranium and neptunium are both named "contaminants of concern" by the U.S. Department of Energy.
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