New on the web: links to radiation monitoring systems around the world

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#755
4289
18/12/2012
NIRS
Article

Since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, many people have grown more interested in accessing data on radiation levels in their communities. This task has often proven difficult due to the lack of an organized internet directory of monitoring data. In order to facilitate the public's access to radiation data, NIRS has created a webpage with links to real-time and historical monitoring data from around the world. This webpage is called Radiation Monitoring and can be accessed at http://www.nirs.org/radiation/monitoring.htm

NIRS has compiled two monitoring directories: one for data from locations in the United States, and one for international data. Each entry in these directories contains the link to the data, information on the monitoring location and the person, organization, company, or agency conducting the monitoring. When possible, NIRS has also included information on the medium sampled (including groundwater, seawater, drinking water, precipitation, foodstuffs, milk, and air) and the specific type of radiation sampled for (inclu-ding alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, or the radionuclides such as uranium, iodine, strontium).

One of the entries in the directory is a link to RadNet, radiation data posted by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA's air monitors measure for beta and gamma radiation and sample air at a flow rate of roughly 60 cubic feet per hour. The air monitors report their data hourly to the EPA's National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) in Montgomery, Alabama. NAREL also analyzes milk, precipitation, and drinking water samples, as well as samples of air particulates that are collected from filters on air monitors. According to its website, RadNet usually publishes these air data within two hours. There are also 40 air monitors in storage that can be deployed at any time, although the EPA inexplicably ordered that these not be deployed during the post-Fukushima emergency. Yet as far as NIRS can tell, the only near-real-time air data on the website are very recent data. NIRS' searches for drinking water, precipitation, and milk data turn only scant information since June 2011. It is unclear whether this information has not been posted or whether the EPA has not monitored at all in the intervening time. All in all, NIRS has found that the RadNet website is difficult to use; it contains three separate descriptions of the EPA's monitoring protocol, but they contradict each other and fail to unambiguously state exactly how often the EPA monitors for radiation, or for which isotopes it samples.

NIRS' directory also provides links to data collected by concerned citizens groups such as Safecast, a website that posts radiation data collected by trained volunteer monitors around the world, mostly in Japan. Safecast's volunteers monitor air radiation by strapping standard 2" pancake sensors to cars and driving through towns street-by-street. They have taken this approach because it is clear that radiation levels can differ wildly between houses on the same street; by taking measurements every five seconds, they hope to give individuals a good idea of radiation levels at their own home. Safecast measurements are taken 1.5 meters off the ground, much lower than many stationary air monitors, since this is the level at which people are most likely to be exposed. There is little information on the presence of specific radioisotopes, since Safecast does not have access to an isotope lab. They monitor for alpha, beta, and gamma radiation.

C-10 Research and Educational Foundation, funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, operates in the ten-mile radius surrounding the Seabrook reactor in New Hampshire. It monitors the air at 16 sites throughout northeastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire, and in fact began monitoring before the power plant came online in 1990 in order to obtain data on the normal background radiation in the area. C-10 also monitors radiation levels in mussels near the plant's cooling tunnel outfall. In addition to collecting radiation data, C-10 monitors incidences of human cancer within the ten-mile radius of the plant. Its data is available upon request, and contact information can be found by clicking on the link in NIRS' directory. 

RadNet, Safecast, and C-10 are just a few of the more than 60 websites listed on NIRS' monitoring directory. We are still looking to add to this list and ask that you please contact us with information on any databases that we may have missed. 

Send corrections and additions to dianed@nirs.org

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