Washington State University College of Pharmacy

United States Transuranium & Uranium Registries

page imageDonor Population and Analysis Procedures



The USTUR Tissue Donor Population

USTUR donors have typically worked at government sites where plutonium, americium, or uranium were processed. Many worked at these sites during the development of nuclear weapons or during the cold-war years. Some of these sites include Hanford, Rocky Flats, Los Alamos, Savannah River, Fernald and Mound.  More recent donors include uranium milling and mining workers as well as workers from privately owned plants that process actinide elements for industrial use.  There were 124 living registrants and 360 deceased USTUR donors as of April, 2006.

Donors are recruited through radiation protection or occupational medical departments at the sites where they work or have worked. These departments distribute brochures describing USTUR objectives and operations to workers (or former workers) who have been exposed to one or more of the actinide elements. Interested workers can call the USTUR 24-hour, toll-free phone number to request further information. Information packets and several forms are sent to the prospective registrant.  These forms include: a personal/medical history form, an authority for autopsy, a release for medical and health physics records, and a Registries information and informed consent agreement. The informed consent form assures that the worker understands the purposes of the USTUR and what course of action the USTUR will take upon his/her death. All forms are signed by the donor and a witness. The authority for autopsy form is also signed by the donor’s next-of-kin.  The forms are received and signed by the USTUR, and copies are sent to the new registrant along with a wallet card that identifies the registrant as a donor.

Autopsy and Tissue Analysis Procedures

The USTUR is usually notified of a registrant’s death or imminent death by a family member or by an attending physician who has been shown the donor identification card. If the family or next-of-kin opts not to allow an autopsy, there is no further contact by the Registries. If the family chooses to proceed, the USTUR arranges for an autopsy to be performed by a pathologist near the location of death. Instructions for collection of organ samples are sent to the pathologist along with shipping containers and copies of the Authority for Autopsy and Medical Release forms. The USTUR pays for the autopsy and associated costs, such as body transportation for the autopsy (if necessary) and sample shipping costs. With the exception of whole body donations, the body is returned to the family for burial or cremation; however, the USTUR does not pay for funeral or cremation expenses. An honorarium of $500.00 is extended to the next-of kin as a token of appreciation for their support of the USTUR program. The USTUR receives an autopsy report and a set of microscope slides prepared by the pathologist who performed the autopsy. The autopsy report is available to the family of the deceased donor by written request.

The donated organs are shipped to the National Human Radiobiological Tissue Repository (NHRTR) in Richland, WA where they are identified and divided into two portions. One portion is retained at the NHRTR for future use in molecular genetics studies and the other portion is sent to Severn Trent Laboratory for radiochemical analysis. Severn Trent Laboratory maintains a modern, state-of-the-art analytical laboratory next to the WSU-TriCities campus for measuring the organ contents of isotopes of plutonium, americium, uranium, thorium, and other actinides with a very high sensitivity. Their sophisticated methods and equipment are constantly tested with standard materials provided by the U. S. National Institutes of Standards and Technology to maintain high quality of measurements. The radiochemistry laboratory sends the results of the organ analyses to the USTUR administrative offices when they are completed. The results of radiochemical analyses are also available to the family of the deceased by written request.


This page was last updated on May 1, 2007. usturwebmaster@tricity.wsu.edu

USTUR, Washington State University, 1845 Terminal Dr. Suite 201, Richland, WA 99354-4959 USA, 1-509-946-6870 or 1-800-375-9317