Blaze sweeps through former uranium mining sites in Idaho
Written byLAURA ZUCKERMAN, Reuters/GW
Idaho environmental officials are taking air samples near where a wildfire swept through three former mining sites that still had traces of radioactive thorium and uranium.
The wildfire was headed toward a fourth site yesterday. State officials said they believed the risk to humans was low.
One of the affected facilities was once used for uranium milling and mining. It had undergone a cleanup by U.S. EPA several years ago, but the buildings were never decontaminated. State environment officials said one of the buildings at the facility burned down. The other affected facilities were two abandoned gold mines.
"This is new ground for us, but we are dealing with the issue at this time," said Erick Neher, a regional administrator at the state Environmental Quality Department.
The risk to humans, he said, comes from the potential for radioactive particles to become airborne.
The fire in question was sparked by several lightning-strike blazes. So far, it has consumed around 330,000 acres of pine woodlands.