The Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho — Low-level radioactive material is being cleaned from a Boise apartment, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is investigating why the two people who lived there had it.
Authorities said Monday that workers were cleaning a third-floor apartment at The Renaissance at Hobble Creek, as well as spots of radioactive material found on stairs and a sidewalk.
“We think the chances are very low that neighbors came into contact with those isolated spots,” said Greg Weigel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
He said there was no threat to the public, but it’s unclear how long the cleanup will take. He said the material on the stairs and sidewalk likely came from liquid dripping from something.
Weigel said the apartment’s two occupants for unknown reasons were trying to separate and isolate radioactive material from store-bought goods such as smoke detectors and radium dials on instruments. The apartment also contained uranium ore.
The occupants’ names were not released, and Weigel said the two agreed to move out of the apartment while it is made safe. Other residents at the apartment complex have been allowed to remain.
Boise police investigated Wednesday but said there wasn’t enough material for a criminal violation. Police spokeswoman Lynn Hightower didn’t return a call from The Associated Press on Monday.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokeswoman Lara Uselding said an inspector went to the apartment Wednesday after the agency received a tip, and the occupants allowed the inspector inside. She also didn’t know why the occupants were trying to separate radioactive material from store-bought goods.
“That’s something that’s being investigated by the NRC — the nature of the individual’s intent,” she said.
Uselding said the agency is investigating in part because of the regulatory aspect of possessing nuclear material. She said the apartment occupants didn’t have necessary licenses for that activity.
Weigel said the hazardous material in the apartment included toxic and radioactive substances, along with some unknown substances that authorities were analyzing.
One of the concerns is that some of the radioactive material is in powder form and could become airborne, he said.
A person who answered the phone at the apartment complex’s main number declined to comment Monday. The company that manages the complex didn’t return an email.