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No threat after small vial of depleted uranium accidentally left at NJ synagogue, officials say

Lance Cpl. Luis Da Luz, a hazardous material (HAZMAT) entry team technician with Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF), passes HAZMAT samples to Lance Cpl. Alex Herrero, a HAZMAT entry team technician with ARFF, during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., May 17, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jake M.T. McClung)

Officials discovered a small quantity of depleted uranium – used as a teaching aid – at a Springfield synagogue that was accidentally left behind by a local educator, leading hazardous materials crews to respond and declare the area safe Tuesday morning, authorities said.

Police and fire officials were called to Temple Sha’arey Shalom around 9 a.m. based on a report of a possibly hazardous substance in a meeting room at the house of worship, according to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.

“The substance was identified as an approximately marble-sized amount of depleted uranium, which was tested and found to emit an extremely low-level pulse of radiation, below the threshold that would be deemed an imminent health hazard,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection was called to coordinate removing the material, according to a joint announcement from Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo, Union County Public Safety Director Andrew Moran and Springfield Police Chief John Cook.

Emergency crews declared the area safe by 10:45 a.m. and left the scene, according to officials. No charges have been filed in the case.

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Depleted uranium is a byproduct of producing uranium for nuclear power, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It also has military and civilian uses, and is federally-regulated substance.

In a statement, the synagogue said a staff member found a small vial with a handwritten label that read, “depleted uranium.”

“It turns out that it was, in fact, correctly labeled. The vial has been used for many years by a teacher to demonstrate that, although, the substance was “depleted” and ineffective for use, it would still register on a Geiger counter,” the synagogue’s statement said.

“It was a simple explanation and a mistake. There is no threat. The vial was not dangerous,” the statement added.

The multi-agency response “marked a successful application” of a recently-developed policy from the prosecutor’s office where local authorities immediately alert the county agency of possible major, mass casualty incidents, according to the prosecutor’s office.

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© 2019 NJ Advance Media Group