A small quantity of depleted uranium, used as a teaching aid by a local educator who inadvertently left it in a meeting room of a Springfield synagogue, has been recovered and secured by a county HAZMAT team that subsequently declared the surrounding area safe this morning, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo, Union County Public Safety Director Andrew Moran, and Springfield Police Chief John Cook jointly announced Tuesday.
Members of the Springfield Police Department and Springfield Fire Department responded to Temple Sha’arey Shalom shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning on a report of a potentially hazardous substance on site, according to the preliminary investigation. Upon examination of the substance, members of the Union County Bureau of Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) and the Prosecutor’s Office were notified and also responded to the scene.
The substance was identified as an approximately marble-sized amount of depleted uranium, which was tested and found to emit an extremely low-level pulse of radiation, below the threshold that would be deemed an imminent health hazard. Authorities subsequently contacted the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to coordinate safe disposal.
By 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, first responders declared the immediate area safe and departed the scene. The multi-jurisdictional emergency response marked a successful application of the Prosecutor’s Office’s newly implemented mass casualty incident notification protocol, through which local first responders immediately report critical incidents to county authorities through an established set of delineated procedures.
Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the process through which naturally occurring uranium is enriched in order to produce fuel that powers sources of nuclear power, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Possession of the substance is federally regulated, but it has several commercial uses, such as in counterweights and shielding.