Radioactive Materials in Grand Canyon National Park

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Grand Canyon National Park stored radioactive materials in museum building for 18 years

This week a whistleblowing National Parks Service employee alleged that Grand Canyon National Park discovered three five-gallon buckets of radioactive uranium ore near a taxidermy display in the park’s Museum Collection building in March 2018 but failed to disclose their existence.

Though park staff removed the radioactive material from the site in June, the incident didn’t become public until this month when the park’s safety manager sent an email to park employees alleging management cover-ups.

Among other things, the Grand Canyon Museum Collection hosts children’s tours that stop at the taxidermy exhibit for up to 30 minutes. The effect of the radiation on visitors is unclear.

In an interview with The Verge, Kathryn Higley, head of the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering at Oregon State University said that the radioactivity five feet away from the bucket would have been “zero.”

The safety manager claims the uranium ore had been in the building for 18 years. In a statement to NPR, a public affairs specialist for the park said that a recent survey of the building found radiation at standard levels but that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration would investigate.

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