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
Navigating the rocky shallows of radiation monitoring...don't rely on this lighthouse
by Andrew Kishner
July 4, 2008 (links updated 5/2012)
Last month I wrote in an analysis about a spike in gamma radiation values recorded by the pressurized ionization chamber or PIC, in Milford, Utah. A PIC records levels of gamma radiation in the air, which can originate from naturally-occurring but also manmade, unnaturally-occurring radiation sources, such as legacy fallout from atomic testing.
In late June, a graph of gamma radiation values from the Milford PIC that I rendered on the website of the Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP), which is operated by the DOE, displayed measurements on June 18 between 11am and 1pm at just over 860 microRems per hour of gamma radiation over two distinct 10-minute intervals. This graph can be seen by clicking on this link: http://www.nuclearcrimes.org/milfordjune182008-a-lrg2.gif Although the intensity of radiation wasn't very much or dangerous, the values were far from usual - about 40 times background levels of radiation.
I stressed in my analysis that without better radiation monitoring, including the capability to detect in real-time alpha and beta particles, no one will ever know if the spikes on June 18th were the result of a calibration error or an actual release from the Nevada Test Site.
It turns out that the contractor to the DOE, the Desert Research Institute (DRI), which maintains these monitoring stations, apparently follows the rule of thumb that if there's a spike then it must be a calibration error and certainly not a release from the NTS. The DRI recently erased the data for those two 10-minute intervals on June 18.
Now, if you render a graph at the CEMP website for Milford on June 18, you'll see a broken graph. Think of an intraday stock market graph that continuously plots the price of a stock from market-open to market-close and then take a big eraser and blot out two 10-minute periods. That's basically what they did. On the graphs that I rendered at the CEMP website, there are now no spikes. Now, there's nada. The data was QC'ed. Or quality-controlled. There's no explanation on the CEMP website. View the QC'ed graph at this link: http://www.nuclearcrimes.org/milfordjune182008-b-lrg2.gif
How is the public to be assured that one or another occurred? Because the DRI and DOE said so? All the public has to rely upon is the credibility of those two institutions. And as for the majority of stakeholders around the Nevada Test Site - residents, farmers, scientists, etc... - the credibility of the DOE and DRI is good enough. But what is the basis for this? Are the DOE's and DRI's efforts in line with best practices?
It turns out that the last time that DRI took a huge eraser to recorded data from the Milford CEMP station was in early August 2007. In the first week of August, the DRI erased all of the gamma values recorded during the onset of the Milford Flat Fire radiation event beginning at about 6pm on July 5 through all of July 6. Why? No one knows. For a few days in early August, all the public could learn from the data available on the CEMP website was that there was no data for a 30-hour period. No explanation. I wrote on idealist.ws last August about this oddity and the questionable practice of erasing data without any explanation. Miraculously, or perhaps out of DRI's shame caused by my nagging at this issue, a few days later, on August 8, 2007, the gamma data for the abovementioned time periods was restored, in full. Still, no explanation.
So are the DOE and DRI's efforts in line with best practices? DRI does not sound to me like a first-rate educational institution that is providing superior contractual services to the DOE. DRI's decisions aren't peer-reviewed in the arena of deciding what is and what is not resulting from a real gamma radiation presence as opposed to a calibration error. Even if there was a PIC calibration on June 18, how are NTS stakeholders able to know? How is the public to know if the DRI is being told by the DOE to 'erase that stuff, it looks bad.'? We won't. How are we to know if a release from the Nevada Test Site ever occurred? Has one ever occurred? Certainly. Where is the data? I don't know! You won't know! Perhaps we will never know! As long as they keep QC'ing everything that looks 'bad' and not giving an explanation, without a data integrity policy, without transparency, without more advanced equipment, we are in the dark.
And in the dark we are, friends. Unnaturally occurring radiation from the NTS and other nuclear waste and energy sources are invisible. You can't smell it or taste it or see it. You only have to depend on a sixth-sense: scientific instrumentation - radiation monitoring apparatus - put in place by your government. Yet the EPA's network and DOE's networks are second-rate. There are gaps sometimes 1,000 miles wide across this country where no monitor can track radioactive alpha or beta particles. Your sixth sense is atrophying, friends. You see when a car is veering towards you, or feel when an earthquake is shaking your house. But if radiation is in your air, good luck!
When you care about your health, your body, your existence, how we evolve as beings is to hone and improve our muscles and senses. Yet, sadly, we are all disabled when it comes to radiation. We need to trust another person, as if we were deaf or blind, to hear or see it for us. We need to place our faith in an entity to 'see' the radiation for us. Yet when that entity fails to do his or her job, when they don't tell us in time (or at all) that we're about to go down a step or around a curve and then we become endangered, we must fire them. And find another friend to help us.
We must come to our senses, in all meanings of the phrase, and fire the DOE and EPA. We ought to tell them that they're not doing the job they should be doing. We need to tell them that we don't want a slacker being our eyes and ears. We want an alert and intelligent and communicative agent to guide us in our unsafe environment, which is wrought with nuclear waste and power plant releases or threats from terrorists who are willing to deploy dirty, radioactive bombs in our country.
Analysis: 'That Radiation Monitoring Station in Milford, Utah, is acting up again'
Community Environmental Monitoring Program website: http://cemp.dri.edu
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