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Published: Wednesday, 5/10/2006

Leak in old fuel rod caused present contamination


SANDUSKY, Ohio Low levels of radioactive soil discovered near a closed nuclear test facility were caused in part by a pinhole leak originally found on a fuel rod in October 1968, officials said.

NASA officials cleaning up the space agency s former Plum Brook reactor asked the facility s retired employees to help find where the contamination of cobalt-60 and cesium-137 originated.

After a two-day search through old records, information about the leaking fuel rod was found in handwritten log books and identified as the source of the cesium-137, said Keith Peecook, acting program manager for the cleanup at the site about four miles south of this northern Ohio city.

The cobalt-60 could have come from the leak or from flakes of iron carried away by water passing through the reactor s core, Peecook said.

The radioactive materials were detected last year in a drainage ditch off Plum Brook, a tributary of Lake Erie s Sandusky Bay. Health experts have said the material does not pose a health risk.

NASA operated the reactor between 1961 and 1973.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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