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Authorities Locate Depleted Uranium At Opa Locka Airport
By Daniel Baxter

July 29, 2013 - On Thursday, officials with the Florida Division of Emergency Management received an anonymous call indicating that there were storage containers at Opa Locka Airport that contained uranium (U-235). 

HazMat crews closed down the airport and identified the location of the uranium. The uranium was tested and considered to be depleted uranium (DU), a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium. Natural uranium is about 99.27% U-238, 0.72% U-235—the fissile isotope, and 0.0055% U-234).  

Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density. Civilian uses include counterweights in aircraft, radiation shielding in medical radiation therapy and industrial radiography equipment and containers used to transport radioactive materials. Military uses include defensive armor plating and armor piercing projectiles. Most depleted uranium arises as a byproduct of the production of enriched uranium for use in nuclear reactors.


It was learned that an old airplane, most likely B-727 had been dismantled and a number of its parts containing uranium were placed in two 55 gallon drums and placed on a wooden pallet. A spokes person with Florida’s Division of Emergency Management said the aircraft dates back to a time when uranium was being used for navigational purposes.  

Arnold Piedrahita, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said “Depleted uranium is used in the fabrication of counterbalance weights. It’s a common practice. However, this material must be disposed of properly. It cannot be discarded as it was in this case.” Miami-Dade Emergency Management cordoned off a 150 foot radius. They reported minimal radiation had been released and there were no injuries.



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