UPDATE - A former employee of the University of Tulsa says he was tested for radiation exposure Thursday morning along a group of TU researchers.
Garrett Pierce says his results came back negative, but he was still concerned for his health because he was exposed to the radioactive chemical when he conducted experimental research.
He says he left the university in April, but it was unrelated to the chemical spill.
TULSA - A group of TU researchers made a trip to Burlington, Kansas Thursday to be tested for a possible exposure to radioactive isotope Cesium-137.
After leaving the University of Tulsa's North Campus research complex Thursday morning, a source told 2 Works for You that the group arrived at the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Kansas.
Twelve people went through a body scan that lasted ten minutes, examining possible exposure to the radioactive isotope.
It goes back to last fall, when a group at the University of Tulsa teamed up with Texas company, Tracerco to do research.
In a statement, Tracerco confirms the 2014 spill but they say they didn't know it happened until May of this year.
Tracerco says that's when they discovered a problem with a piece of the equipment they used at TU. Tracerco checked one area where the equipment was used at TU and didn't find cause for concern.
Then in August, Tracerco learned the equipment may have been used at another location, an examination there found low levels of radiation.
Tracerco says it did test its employees for possible exposure and all the results came back negative. As for the TU staff and students being tested, it is not known when their results will come in.
The University of Tulsa said it cannot comment on the researchers' visit to Kansas or even say if it took place saying,
"As always, we cannot comment on the health evaluations of any of our employees. We strive to protect their confidentiality as well as comply with all HIPAA requirements," said Mona Chamberlin with the University of Tulsa.
Tracerco sent 2 Works for You this statement:
I can confirm that there was a small spill of Cesium from a piece of Tracerco equipment in a restricted-use area at the University of Tulsa’s north campus in late 2014. We first noticed a problem with that equipment when it was inspected at our facility in Texas, in late May 2015. Knowing it had previously been at the University, we investigated the location in which it was used, and found no indication of contamination above background. However, on Friday, August 21st, we learned that the equipment may have been used at another location, also on the University’s north research campus. We began an investigation there on Monday, August 24th, and discovered low levels of radiation. We told the University and state regulators about the situation on August 25-26. We also immediately hired a contractor to perform a thorough clean-up in the areas that were identified, and we expect that to be completed next week.
Below is the letter TU President, Steadman Upham sent to staff concerning the possible radiation.
Last week we learned that there was an isolated incident on The University of Tulsa’s North Campus research complex in which Tracerco, a company contracted by TU, spilled a small quantity of Cesium-137 in the Process Building, a restricted building on that restricted campus that houses research equipment. Cesium-137 is a radioactive isotope which has a variety of research applications. In this particular instance, the research was being conducted on a multi-phase flow loop for a joint industry project managed by the petroleum engineering department.
Tracerco, the company responsible for the release, notified TU of the incident for the first time on Tuesday, August 25 although the spill is believed to have occurred in the fall of 2014. We immediately restricted access to the building and contacted the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) who has since inspected the site and the surrounding areas. We are working with Tracerco as well as authorities to ensure cleanup efforts are thorough and complete. Those clean up efforts are currently underway. As a part of their standard procedures, ODEQ is notifying all other appropriate agencies of the matter.
The safety of our employees is our greatest concern and after determining who may have been exposed, TU acted immediately to share this information with those involved. At this time we are aware of 21 people who are known to have some risk of exposure. They have been notified and each will be evaluated by appropriate medical professionals. Unless you were directly engaged in this project or working with the research team involved, we have been informed that your risk for exposure is exceedingly small. Simply visiting North Campus during this time frame should not be cause for concern. However, we do have a team comprised of physicians and counselors available to discuss any health concerns any individual may have. That team is housed in the Alexander Health Clinic and may be reached at 918-631-2241."
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