NRC Hosts Forum on Radiation at MU

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COLUMBIA - Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the University of Missouri took questions from the public Thursday on the MU campus regarding the removal of radiation from Pickard Hall.

NRC officials are currently reviewing a request from MU to extend the time period in which they must submit a plan to remove the radioactive materials.

NRC staff determined in January 2010 that the radiation was not harmful. Peter Ashbrook, director of Environmental Health and Safety at MU, said this lack of a health risk is part of why the school should focus on other projects.

"There are a lot of competing needs for capital funds," Ashbrook said. "When you have deteriorating buildings on campus, there are other types of hazards."

The meeting lasted a little over an hour, and only a few members of the public participated in the question-and-answer session. The NRC made no decisions Thursday and will not make a final ruling on MU's request until as late as March 2012.

An approval for the extension from the NRC hinges on a few criteria. For example, staff must determine that a delay in removal of the material would not threaten safety. Also, MU must justify that an extension would benefit the public in some way. In this case, MU officials have argued that other needs must come before Pickard Hall.

According to NRC spokesperson Brema Chandrathil, MU must also continue to comply with all regulations. 

"Some of the safety controls include having locked doors and restricting access to certain areas for the public. And certain staff has to have certain types of training in place," Chandrathil said. "The university has these controls in place."

Ashbrook said the radiation first surfaced during experiments in the early 20th century. Basi said MU has known about the material for some time, but did not notify the NRC until November 2009, a month after new regulations took effect in Missouri.

Part of MU's justification for an extension involves the Museum of Art and Archeology, which Pickard Hall hosts. MU spokesperson Christian Basi said there are "no definitive plans" at this time to move the museum, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places.