Testing For Radiation: Fort Wayne Passes With Flying Colors

By Jeff Neumeyer

March 17, 2011 Updated Mar 17, 2011 at 5:48 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- The world's attention remains dialed into Japan, where officials are trying to diminish the threat of a radiation catastrophe at a crippled nuclear plant.

As a radioactive plume drifts toward the west coast of the United States, Jeff Neumeyer ventured out to see what a radiation measuring device might pick up on the streets of Fort Wayne.

Jeff Neumeyer: " Obviously, there's been a lot of concern about radiation over the past few days, given what's happening in Japan. Martin Fisher from Science Central accompanied us to the Citizen’s Square Government Center with a Geiger counter in hand.

Martin Fisher/Science Central: " This machine is used by scientists to measure radioactive material or background radiation. When you hold the probe up in the air, there’s an occasional click, the numbers on the meter barely move. It tells us in the middle of the city, there’s no threat of radiation.

Neumeyer: " The meter does move, though, when you run the probe across something else you brought along.

Fisher: " Exactly, I went ahead and brought in a mineral which is radioactive, just for comparison.
Running the probe over it, produces non-stop clicking, indicating release of radioactive particles. It's not dangerous, but you can see a big difference between the two.

Neumeyer: " It would be going off like crazy in Japan, tell us what the major concern is there?

Fisher: " The issue is the type of radioactive minerals that they use in the reactor cores for producing heat. Those elements have been highly refined; there are a lot of safeguards, various layers and casings around those spent nuclear rods. The problem is whether any of those layers have cracked or broken because they can allow material to be released up as a gas, or melt down to the floor below.

Neumeyer: " We're certainly hoping things work out well in Japan, but we can find it somewhat reassuring that as far as the Geiger counter goes, it was all quiet in downtown Fort Wayne.”

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