This is the conclusion of a two-part series that began in Friday’s edition.
A 116-page federal report delves into the background of how the radioactive contamination accident happened at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Neutron Center in August.
The report traces a timeline back to 2010 at the Luján Center, which is a national facility for defense and civilian research in nuclear and condensed-matter sciences, hosting scientists from national laboratories, universities, industry and international research facilities. One type of experiment conducted there is irradiation of sample materials in a neutron beam.
The report goes on to state that between 2010 and 2012, Luján Center personnel worked with personnel from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to irradiate samples of powdered praseodymium technetate, neodymium technetate and lutetium technetate.
Each of the three samples contained Technetium-99 (Tc-99), an intrinsically radioactive isotope that emits low energy beta particles.
The report concluded that it is difficult to know that a sample canister contains Tc-99 if the canister is not clearly marked and/or labeled. The lutetium technetate sample was later determined to be the source of the contamination in the August 2012 incident.