Radioactive material found in scrap metal at northern Finland plant

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A steel smelter at Outokumpu’s plant in Tornio, northern Finland. (Jani Saikko/Yle)
Radioactive material has ended up in a Tornio steel smelter three times in recent months, says the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK.

According to STUK, americium – a radioactive material used in smoke detectors and other industrial measuring devices – has been detected in smelted scrap metal at steelmaker Outokumpu’s plant three times between July and September. Most recently on Friday, a Brazilian-made lightning rod containing americium was discovered within scrap metal but it was removed before the batch was smelted.

”These batches were shipped to Finland from Holland and the Baltic states, but it is likely that the metal came from outside of Europe,” said STUK’s radiation monitoring chief Tommi Toivonen.

”It was either intentional or just plain careless that these radiation sources ended up among scrap metal,” he added.

Workers not exposed

Daily Turun Sanomat wrote yesterday that scrap metal from foreign countries is causing large fees, disposal problems and radiation risks in Finland.

However, due to appropriate monitoring and safety measures at the facility, radioactive material did not spread outside the plant and workers were not exposed to radiation, STUK said.

While radiation sources are occasionally found among scrap metal, it is exceptional that this has occurred three times in one facility over a short period of time, STUK added.

STUK has notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the cases. On IAEA’s seven-level scale indicating the significance of nuclear or radiological events, the Tornio incidents are considered a level-one anomaly, STUK said.

Related stories from around the North:

Finland: Lapland reindeer herders still carrying radiation from Cold War nuclear tests, Yle News

Norway: Rising nuclear activity in Arctic Europe prompts Norway to update disaster plans, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Murmansk wants better nuclear and radiation monitoring on road to Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Environmentalists praise ruling on nuclear waste site in Sweden, Radio Sweden

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