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Radioactive Frogs Flee Pond at Lab

August 04, 1991|Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In a case that at first glance could pass for a science fiction movie plot, radioactive frogs are loose at a government lab.

About 100 so-called "hot frogs" have been caught hopping away from a contaminated pond where they hatched this spring, officials at the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory said.

"They don't have six legs and four eyes," said Frank Kornegay, the lab's environmental coordinator. He said they look like ordinary leopard frogs that are common in Tennessee.

The radioactive frogs are safe unless you eat them--and leopard frogs are not exactly a delicacy, he said.

The frogs--brownish green and up to two inches long with long skinny legs--appear healthy. But they will set off Geiger counters with radiation levels well above background readings.

The frogs became contaminated from the mud of a half-acre holding basin for waste water from the lab's nuclear research during the 1940s and 1950s, officials say.

The lab plans to install "frog fencing," a fine mesh screen about three feet high, to prevent them from escaping, Kornegay said.

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