28 March 2018
I write to inform you of an incident where four low-level radioactive sources, used within science lessons, have been reported missing from school.
The items are classed as low hazard and do not pose a general risk to people’s health.
A full investigation is being carried out and we are working closely with Newport City Council and partner agencies. All relevant organisations including Gwent Police, Public Health Wales, Natural Resources Wales and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service have been informed and a joint agency approach has confirmed the low level of risk posed by these sources.
The Health and Safety Executive has also been informed as the regulatory authority.
We, like the majority of secondary schools, hold a number of small radioactive sources which are used for teaching students about the properties of radiation and radioactivity. Students do not have access to them nor have direct contact with them as part of lessons. All such handling of the substances is carried out by specially trained staff in a controlled environment.
We are taking the matter very seriously. A search of the premises been carried out and specialist detection equipment has also been used. The items were not found as a result of these searches.
Investigations will continue and as the school has had considerable works carried out over the last year, a further in-depth search will be carried out during the Easter holiday.
The sources were stored in lead-lined wooden boxes with radioactive identification labelling. The sources comprise a small cup 1.3cm in diameter by 0.8cm high. The radioactive material is mounted in the back of the cup and protected by a grill at the front. There is a stem attached to assist in holding the source.
As an example, one of the radioactive materials and associated levels are similar to those found in household smoke detectors and do not present a general hazard. If however they are handled directly or kept outside their protective box in close proximity to people, there is a small exposure risk. Around 13 hours of exposure would approximately equate to a single dental x-ray.
If you have any information please contact the school on 01633 654100. Our primary focus is to identify where the materials are. I will also be available should you wish to discuss this matter further.
Mr M Tucker