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Low-Level Radioactive Material Spilled in Train-Truck Collision

August 28, 1985

BOWDON, N.D. (AP) _ It may take a week to clean up soil and the contents of about 30 drums of radioactive ore spilled during a truck-train collision that killed the truck driver and contaminated up to 40 people, authorities said.

The two engines of the Burlington Northern train derailed after the truck carrying about 50 drums of uranium oxide struck the first engine Tuesday about 70 miles northeast of Bismarck, said state and railroad officials.

One train crewman and between 30 and 40 emergency officials and police were contaminated by the low-level radioactive powder. None was hospitalized.

The ore, destined for conversion into nuclear fuel, was a low-hazard, non- fissionable material that presented no danger outside 20 feet from the accident site, said Doug Friez, of the North Dakota Division of Emergency Management.

No evacuations were ordered, but authorities sealed off the area and kept spectators 2,000 feet away.

″There is not a concern with the general public as long as they do not go to the scene of the accident,″ Friez said Tuesday night. ″There’s no danger to communities or anything else.″

Terry Lindsey, a state radiological officer, said the ore did not pose a high radiation threat but was toxic and could cause respiratory problems.

About 30 of the 55-gallon drums spilled some or all of their contents and would take about a week to clean up, Friez said. People exposed to the material were given instructions on how to cleanse themselves.

The train, two engines and six empty freight cars, was traveling at 10 mph and heading to Turtle Lake from Jamestown, said Al Wiegold, a spokesman for the Burlington Northern railroad in St. Paul, Minn.

The truck was owned by Saskatchewan Mining Development Corp., based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Friez said. The driver was killed.

Rita Mirwald, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a telephone interview that the truck was taking the uranium oxide to Gore, Okla., where it would have been refined into fuel for nuclear power plants. She said the fuel conversion plant was owned by Kerr-McGee Corp.

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