"Significant radioactive contamination" found at St. Louis elementary school 

I appreciate the additional information. My point was that maintenance on the school seems to have been minimal enough not to have discovered the contamination years ago. Which is line with how majority-minority public schools in the U.S. are kept up in general.

I’m wondering what other health and safety issues were left unremediated in the school over the decades since you lived there and the student body became less pasty and white-collar.


I can assure you that it was coincidental, and the pattern started before the radiation was discovered.

One of the things that I strongly dislike about my home town is the strong racial segregation. Growing up I can remember the neighbors watching carefully to see who visited homes that were for sale in the neighborhood. If a black family toured the house they would talk openly about how they hoped someone else bought the house because they would be forced to flee if the neighborhood started “turning”.

Remember that Hazelwood is only about five miles from Ferguson Missouri. In 1970 Ferguson was 1% black, In 1980 it was 14% black, 25% in 1990, and became majority-black in the 2000 census. Hazelwood has similarly shifted, but it happened years later. Hazelwood was majority white until 2020.

This is an interesting read… and by interesting I mean depressing, and it makes me very happy that I moved to the west coast in the late 80s. The story of segregation in St. Louis


for the city to start permitting black people to live there only after learning about the radiation even as white people left, some no doubt to escape the pollution - isn’t an especially heartwarming tale of racial justice


I’ve used these.

Good for measuring dose rate and absorbed dose. I think you can adjust the Q factor too. They won’t do spectroscopy though. They’re roughly in the $400 range.

You can get pen-style personal dosimeters fairly cheaply. They can only measure total dose though, and usually at doses that aren’t useful for most purposes. The have to be recharged separately and that can be a finicky process. They only work for gamma.

For accurate spectroscopy I’ve used this. No clue what it costs.

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I think that part of the Windscale design came over pretty much intact from the Hanford reactors which supplied plutonium for the Manhattan Project. Hanford was (slightly) safer in that they used water as coolant rather than air. But the lack of care inherent in every part of this project is terrifying - the UK was desperate to become a nuclear power after the US reneged on its promise of ongoing cooperation that it was prepared to do just about anything to get a bomb as quickly as possible despite the country being utterly bankrupt (like that could ever happen again!).

The really terrifying bit about the Windscale reactors was that the filters on the exhaust stacks were nearly omitted on the grounds of cost. Had they not been in place when Pile Number 1 became a barbecue, the UK would have come as a very credible runner up to Chernobyl.

I was a bit glib in my first posting, the Magnox reactors eventually settled down to become reliable generators and in some ways they were superior to the PWR in that it was pretty much impossible to melt one and even massive coolant leaks were survivable. The follow-on AGR was a masterpiece of pure engineering - hugely efficient and fuel didn’t need reprocessing (it still was for political reasons), but even more expensive, not helped by pretty much every one being a bespoke unit rather than a standard design.

Though there is one thing no one wants to talk about - there’s about 100,000 tonnes of intensely-irradiated graphite in the cores of the Magnox and AGR stations that no one has a clue how to make safe. As well as radioactive carbon, the blocks contain relatively-long lived isotopes including 60Co, 133Ba, 137Cs, 154Eu. Hoping ‘something will turn up’ is one of the reasons that the decommissioning of these stations is so expensive (at least £130 billion) and on such an incredibly long time scale (about a century).


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