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Depleted uranium found in barrel at Miami airport

Authorities were investigating after a part of the Opa-locka Executive Airport in the Miami area was evacuated on Thursday when depleted uranium was detected inside a 55-gallon drum and a wooden pallet.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and the Department of Environmental Protection were on scene at the airport -- located at 14201 N.W.42nd Avenue -- trying to find a contractor to correctly dispose of the uranium 238.

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Someone had dismantled an old airplane and used the containers to dispose of the parts, said Mara Burger, DEP spokeswoman. The plane dates to the when uranium was used on the outside of aircraft for navigational purposes, she said.

The plane had been chopped up and the aluminum parts with uranium on them were put into the drums, Burger said.

One container is half full and the other is three-quarters full.

"Depleted uranium is used in the fabrication of counterbalance weights. It's a common practice. However, this material must be disposed of properly. It cannot be discarded as it was in this case," said Lt. Arnold Piedrahita, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

Authorities cordoned off a 150-foot radius for the hazardous materials crews to test the material. They found the radiation being released was minimal.

Meanwhile, Burger said there will be an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Authorities were tipped off to the situation from anonymous caller to the state watch office run by the Department of Emergency Management.

The airport is a reliever airport to the Miami International Airport, which offers aircraft maintenance and repair services. It is also the base of the U.S. Coast Guard air and sea rescue station.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue evacuated a 150-foot perimeter to assess the hazard, spokesman Arnold Piedrahita tweeted.

The aircraft was slated for demolition, but had not yet been sent off.

Authorities said there were no injuries.

Stay with and NBC 6 South Florida for updates.

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