When it comes to the truth about radiation and health effects, there are no experts who are honest - not in government, not in science, not anywhere. Yet, people would rather listen to liars than challenge their assumptions about the sources of the so-called truth and disregard the purveyors of actual truth on this topic: the non-creditialed self-taught. - Andrew Kishner, May 18, 2013
You are reading from a free online e-book titled 'Deception, Cover-up and Murder in the Nuclear Age.' The book discusses the Trinity test, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hydrogen bomb testing fallout, U.S. experiments done on Marshall Islanders (Project 4.1), the Irene Allen trial, Cosmos 954, the Fukushima meltdowns, Three Mile Island updates, and so much more. Visit the Table of Contents to find this free content.
Footnotes are located at the end of each chapter - press the (right facing) 'PAGE' button icon until you reach the footnotes page, or locate it via the table of contents
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|Chapter 16 - Introduction to environmental radiation monitoring|
U.S. Radiation Monitoring Networks:
In the U.S., our radiation monitoring networks are embarrassing contradictions to all technological and scientific progress. The EPA's Radnet, the Nevada Test Site's Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP), and a slew of other regional monitoring networks are poorly equipped and run (in most cases) by inexperienced volunteers and contractors with conflicts of interests.
EPA's RADNET, which before 2005 was called ERAMS, is the U.S.'s most 'comprehensive' nationwide radiation monitoring network and is currently undergoing a vast so-called upgrade from 59 to 180 monitors over the 2006-2012 timeframe.1 Before automated 'telemetry,' all data from monitoring radioactivity in air was relayed to EPA laboratory headquarters via phone or mail by a volunteer (or contractor) - there was no real-time relaying of information via telecommunications. Volunteers, also called 'station operators,' back then and still now retrieve and replace air filters twice a week and using a G-M (Geiger) detector2 record beta levels about 5 hours after filter collection (although 'continuous' beta activity is relayed automatically to the EPA). The station operators under ERAMS would report beta findings to EPA by phone (if bad) or mail (if not) and then pack and mail the filter to a EPA lab that would do more sensitive gross beta measurements on the air filters. This is also the protocol today. If those beta levels met a certain 'trigger level' at the lab then isotopic analysis for gamma emitting isotopes at the EPA lab would then be completed. A non-robust amount of analyses for plutonium and other similarly dangerous isotopes would also be performed on the filters at an EPA lab at a timescale that was months or even a full year from filter collection, as is the case today.
At some point, on-site gamma spectrometry capability was added to fixed (stationary) ERAMS stations. A gamma-ray spectrometer automatically determines in real-time the energy levels of gamma-emitting radioisotopes around the monitoring station, which EPA's software applications divide into 9 'energy ranges' - these 'ranges' allegedly help EPA scientists determine the type of radiation dangers or lack thereof in the environment (however we have determined there are numerous flaws to this approach, which is in use today, when relying on this tool alone for monitoring gamma radiation levels. More on that here.)
The 'new' RADNET is little better than the old one. It provides real-time on-site (on-station) gamma spectrometry at all fixed stations as well as on-station gross beta counting. The term 'counting' refers to the total disintegrations per unit of time of a certain type of ionizing energy, in this case beta emissions - the beta counting is done continuously by an on-site device that collects and measures beta levels of air particulates.3
The data from these two monitoring tools at each fixed RADNET station are relayed via various 'telemetry' connections - satellite, cell phone or land lines.
As was done under ERAMS, the main EPA lab, called 'NAREL' (National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory), conducts routine analysis of air filters mailed from its volunteer-operated fixed RADNET stations for nuclide identification (isotope analysis). Air filters are sent about twice weekly to this EPA lab for these and other sensitive analyses.
However, there is a condition that must be met for even the most basic isotopic analysis - only if the gross beta reading measurement of a filter registers over 1 picoCurie per cubic meter of air *at the lab* will the analysis be conducted. (more on this below)
There are a number of major weaknesses of RADNET as a radiation monitoring network.
The most obvious one is that it is not adapted to adequately respond to a radiological emergency.
Firstly, the spacing of fixed monitoring stations is so large that a radioactive plume can easily end up circumnavigating all stations in the lower 48 states without being detected. This has been the same long-standing criticism of Cold War monitoring - the 'gummed film' network - in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s.
Secondly, even if a plume is detected via RADNET, the best case scenario in an emergency is that EPA headquarters will learn about the entire radiation 'picture' 4-6 hours too late. The reason is that although data from the beta counter and gamma 'spec' (spectrometer) are updated hourly, alpha counting can - at the present time - only be accomplished manually.
According to the report 'Expansion and Upgrade of the RadNet Air Monitoring Network, Vol. 1,' the station operator removes and screens the filter after waiting 'at least five hours for radon progeny to decay;' then he/she will record gross alpha/beta and phone/mail in the results of the counts and also air volume data.4
It would then take another 2 days, or more, for EPA's NAREL lab to get the filter by mail delivery and conduct more advanced radioanalyses on the filter.5
Even if you think 4-6 hours is a good enough turnaround time to get the full picture of alpha/beta/gamma, consider that EPA will only know 'gross' alpha/beta - meaning the gross number of 'counts' or disintegrations of these energy types. The EPA will not know what isotope(s) was causing the spiking.
If the EPA purchased real-time alpha and beta spectrometers this would vastly improve information flow during radiological emergencies. There is no reason why they shouldn't be included in RADNET.
EPA apparently was going to install real-time alpha counting at its fixed stations but experienced an engineering problem and gave up. They noted in a response to a science panel's findings and recommendations on its draft RADNET1b upgrade plan in 2007: 'Experience with the monitors subsequent to the review has shown that alpha measurement in near-real time is not feasible. An equipment malfunction on the detector (a "light leak") necessitated a solution (thicker window material) that eliminated alpha detection. Although re-engineering the detector in the middle of the implementation process is not feasible, EPA will evaluate alpha detection options after all monitors have been sited...The Final Plan will include a discussion of the lessons learned that supported the decision to not pursue further near-real time alpha measurement.' A EPA webpage, however, has stated for over 2 years now that real-time alpha counting will be added to the fixed station network: 'all new real-time sites will be equipped with an alpha/beta counting system, which improves upon the traditional beta only capability.'6
Consider that the 'NEWNET' monitoring network in northern New Mexico until a few years ago was equipped with alpha/beta spec technology - the technology and precedent for alpha/beta/gamma continuous spectrometry exists.
EPA fully knows that poor real-time alpha and beta 'characterization' is a weakness of RADNET: they state on p. 24 of the abovementioned report that 'gamma spectrometry can measure every available source of radioactive material ....except for the following sources: Pu-239, (and other transuranic alpha emitters) which is available in large quantities and emits only alpha radiation... [and] Sr-90, which emits only beta radiation, and is available in large quantities.'
It will take more than 48 hours for EPA's NAREL lab to receive the filters during a radiological crisis to perform analyses on alpha and beta particles. Isn't this 'turnaround' time unacceptably long?
In its present 'new' form, RADNET is thus highly vulnerable and blind to many types of radiological events, especially those that consist of plumes of pure alpha particles. Unless the EPA instructs its station volunteers to semi-daily manually measure the alpha count rate at its stations, a plutonium plume could cross large sections of the U.S. and there will be no knowledge of its occurrence. Why? Because when the filters get sent to NAREL, the 'trigger' level for analyzing the filters is 1 picocurie per cubic meter of beta; and plutonium analyses are conducted about once a year, and for only selected filters.
The EPA would also be in the dark if a dirty bomb attack involving strontium-89 or strontium-90 was carried out. These radiostrontiums, both pure beta emitters, would elevate the beta counts yet it would take 48+ hours for EPA to identify the isotopic culprit. The EPA wouldn't be able to conclude that the spiking was related to instrument error, electromagnetic interference, cosmogenic isotopes or anthropogenic isotopes until 2 days have passed.
The above-mentioned 'trigger level' is also a significant weakness of RADNET. The threshold is a bit too high. Consider that beta concentrations below 1 pCi/m3 in air in the United States regularly occurred during the 'off-seasons' of the worst stratospheric fallout episodes in the early to mid 1960s yet the Public Health Service (PHS) still made distinctions in map isopleths of beta in air for as low as 0.5 pCi/m3 and ran filter analyses for gamma particles routinely regardless of 'low' readings. If the PHS thought a 0.5 level was good enough for the 1960s, then wouldn't you think it should be at least that level today?
These concerns were echoed in the article 'Activists to Meet with Top EPA Officials Over Radiation Policy Concerns,' which appeared in the October 2011 (Vol. 28, No. 21) edition of the publication 'Environmental Policy Alert.' That article stated that 'environmentalists are troubled by EPA's policy that it does not test the air filters in its radiation monitoring devices for the presence of specific radionuclides unless the filter shows gross beta activity greater than 1 picocurie per meter cubed (pCi/m3), the activist says. Under this policy, EPA might not check for specific radionuclides until radiation in the environment reaches levels hundreds of times above normal levels, the activist says. Testing for specific radionuclides is important, the activist says, because different radionuclides cause cancer at different levels. Environmentalists are also concerned that, by the time air filters are tested for gross beta activity at its National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) in Montgomery, AL, the radionuclides in the air filter have decayed substantially, making it even more unlikely that the 1 pCi/m3 threshold would be met. EPA data shows that gross beta tests conducted at NAREL show significantly lower levels than those seen when the filters were tested in the field five hours after collection, the activist notes.'
Also, for no good reason, the EPA's fixed monitors have no real-time gamma exposure ability (only the deployables have them). Real-time gamma exposure instrumentation, like most handheld dosimeters, renders data or graphs of calculated human exposure (in Rems, millirems or microrems) based on environmental gamma-ray activity in the air. This is the same as a 'gamma counter' - most dosimeters measure both gamma counts and render automated calculation of gamma exposure. Gamma exposure rate is usually a calibration for a specific nuclide, usually cesium-137. Dosimeters can be recalibrated for a different gamma source, which would affect the exposure rate calculation.
Gamma exposure rate capability should be included in RADNET and all radiation monitoring networks.
RADNET has a stockpile of deployables - or mobile stations - that are fitted with gamma exposure monitors and air cartridges, which are better suited for picking up gaseous radioiodines that the air filters installed in fixed stations. For some reason cartridges aren't installed in fixed RADNET stations, but should be. The EPA's air monitoring data from March-May 2011 clearly show that filters and cartridges have far different efficiencies at iodine-131 capture. They should be used in tandem at all monitoring stations for picking up both the liquid and gaseous forms of iodine-131.
It is also unclear if gamma spectrometers at fixed RADNET stations are efficient at detecting iodine-131 gas. We suspect the gamma spec is not efficient at this task - we determined that the ranges of gamma energy spikes at the Fairbanks gamma spec in mid-March 2011 corresponded with radiotelluriums but not with radioiodines, which was inconsistent with expectations of the contents of mid-March plumes over Alaska. If gamma spec is unable to efficiently detect noble gases, the obvious correction to RADNET is to permanently deploy noble gas detection equipment.
It will be of interest to the reader to know that of the three events that inspired EPA to improve RADNET (all three events put it on emergency status), one was a suspected radiological gas release at a nuclear plant (Tokaimura) in Japan. That concern is not being addressed by the 'new' Radnet. Radnet has no monitoring ability to detect radioactive noble gases that could be released in great quantities by nuclear reactor purges or accidents, or 'releases' of radioactive krypton or argon or tritium gases from the hundreds of underground test shafts at the NTS, or the two nuclear test shafts at Rio Blanco and Rulison, Colorado (both of which are endangered by gas drilling activities), or at other Plowshare test sites.
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