Inside the Gates: Radioactive Facility at the Arsenal

Published 03/21 2014 12:30AM

Updated 04/01 2014 11:44AM

It's a small facility with an important role for our military.

And you probably don't even know it's on Arsenal Island.

From time to time, our military needs to get rid of radioactive material. And almost all of that material goes through the Rock Island radioactive consolidation facility.

"Since we service every army installation worldwide, we do a lot of small shipments," says Kelly Crooks, Command Safety Radiation Officer. "Equipment that soldiers use that have small radioactive components."

From the outside, it's just another building, but once you're inside, you quickly realize these guys have a very unique job.

"These are used to detect explosive material and narcotics," says Mike Kurth, Facility Radiation Safety Officer.

People like Kurth help extract radioactive material from our military equipment and then properly dispose it.

"It's done in a controlled are in this facility to ensure we're not seeing any contamination," says Kurth.

And you'll be surprised some of the items they handle – from compasses to explosive detectors.

"It will use the radioactive source to detect the explosive or narcotics in the air," says Kurth.

A lot of the items contain tritium, which is used to make things glow in the dark.

"Military unique items that may go on howitzers or mortars," Kurth explains. "For planes in flight using refueling operations in the air, this is attached to the refueling device."

And every once in awhile, they'll have to break down something they rarely see.

"We do receive foreign materials her because of the activities in Afghanistan and Iraq," he adds. "Materials were found in the field; soldiers recovered those and brought them back."

Once the radioactive material is successfully extracted, its time pack it up and send it off.

In many cases, the materials are recycled or reused.

The facility says a lot of the tritium that they collect gets sent over to the Department of Energy, who will then reuse it as they need.

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