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University of Nevada, Reno relocating employees in building with radium

The University of Nevada, Reno Facilities Services Building

The University of Nevada, Reno says it will be relocating 30 employees and several student workers working in an 8,000 square foot building where low levels of radiation were found.

The radiation readings in the Facilities Services Building are all below the government's maximum permitted level of 100 millirems -- a measure of radiation dosage per year -- and below the levels that ofter occur naturally in the atmosphere, especially at higher altitudes.

UNR President Marc Johnson on Tuesday said in a letter to faculty and students that the Facilities Services Building, which sits between Ansari Business and Mackay School of Mines, was found to have low levels of radium in the fall of 2016. The discovery came after Nevada's Radiation Control Program asked about the building, which was built in 1920 and used by the U.S. Bureau of Mines for research that involved the separation of radium from ore.

Johnson said the radiation readings in the building are all below the government's maximum permitted exposure and are below the levels that occur naturally in the atmosphere, especially at high altitudes.

However, the law requires that the university removes the radium. Consequently, UNR it relocating its employees working in the building to alternate office space. The university says it does not believe any classes have ever been held there.

While UNR evaluates its next move, the university has received recommendations ranging from decontamination to the removal of the building, Johnson said.

"Decontamination is preferred given the historic nature of the building if it is not prohibitively costly," Johnson added.

A spokesperson for the University told News 4 & Fox 11 that all of the buildings in the surrounding areas were also tested and found to be free of radium contamination.

Due to a law that requires the University to remove radium even if the amount falls below the maximum permitted exposure level, the University is relocating all occupants so that officials can evaluate the most feasible next steps.

University officials say that decontamination is preferred given the historic nature of the building, however; decontaminating the building could cost anywhere between $4.5 to $6 millions dollars.

Demolishing the building would cost $1.5 to $2 million dollars.




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