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Found: Some Old Uranium in This Woman's Garage

It's apparently fine?

Not the uranium found in Phoenix—this disc was recovered at a U.S. government nuclear facility.
Not the uranium found in Phoenix—this disc was recovered at a U.S. government nuclear facility. U.S. Department of Energy/Public Domain

Certain uranium isotopes, famously, were used to start the nuclear age, like Uranium-235, the isotope used in the bomb known as “Little Boy,” which fell on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and almost instantly killed an estimated 70,000 people. 

Uranium-238, on the other hand, is a bit different, since it’s the isotope that, by a wide margin, is the one most commonly found in nature. Not typically used in nuclear weapons, Uranium-238 is used in nuclear power plants, but on its own, Uranium-238 is relatively harmless. Just don’t swallow or inhale it (doing so, you might guess, increases your risk for cancer.)

On Monday, a woman cleaning out her garage at a Phoenix retirement community came across some Uranium-238. But, not knowing exactly what it was, she did the prudent thing and called the authorities. The uranium was inside a three-inch-thick lead case, according to ABC15.

The woman, who was not named, said that it was likely her late father-in-law’s. He was a chemist, according to the Arizona Republic, and performed experiments at home. All of which isn’t very reassuring, but state officials said tests revealed that the area around her home and garage did not contain excessive amounts of radiation. 

The uranium itself was safely carried away for disposal, a bit of the element that, this time, probably won’t end up being used for any deadly aims.