Skip to comments.Audit Confirms EPA Radiation Monitors Broken During Fukushima Crisis
Posted on 04/24/2012 8:49:35 PM PDT by Razzz42
WASHINGTON An internal audit has confirmed observers concerns that many of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencys radiation monitors were out of service at the height of the 2011 Fukushima power plant meltdown in Japan, a finding one critic said raises serious questions about the federal governments ability to respond to nuclear emergencies and to alert the public of their consequences (see GSN, Dec. 21, 2011).
The April 19 report by the EPA Inspector Generals Office also casts further doubt on the agencys already controversial claims that radiation from Fukushima did not pose any public health threat on U.S. soil, said Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California (Santa Cruz) and president of Committee to Bridge the Gap.
The agency on Monday said it stands by its radiation detection work in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.
The report details problems with the agencys RadNet monitoring system. The web of detectors is intended to monitor environmental radioactivity in the United States to provide high-quality data for assessing public exposure and environmental impacts resulting from nuclear emergencies, and to provide baseline data during routine conditions, the report notes.
RadNet consists of 124 stations scattered throughout U.S. territories and 40 deployable air monitors that can be sent to take readings anywhere, according to the IG report. Monitoring stations collect air, precipitation, drinking water and milk samples for analysis of radioactivity, although the audit focused on the stationary air monitors.
Computers at the EPA National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory in Montgomery, Ala., continuously review real-time air monitor data from the stations. In addition, volunteer operators are expected to change the particulate air filters at the stations twice per week and send them to Montgomery for a more detailed analysis that can detect radiation the real-time computer monitoring cannot.
Agency contractors, meanwhile, are responsible for maintaining the monitors and repairing them when they are broken. However, according to the report, EPA has not managed those contracts as high priorities, despite having identified the monitors as critical infrastructure under the 2001 Patriot Act. As a result, there have been numerous delays in repairing broken monitors.
In addition, the agency has in many instances allowed filters to go unchanged for longer than the twice-per week that its policy dictates, the audit says.
At the time of the Fukushima crisis, this critical infrastructure asset was impaired because many monitors were broken, while others had not undergone filter changes in so long that they could not be used to accurately detect real-time radiation levels, the IG report says.
On March 11, 2011, at the time of the Japan nuclear incident, 25 of the 124 installed RadNet monitors, or 20 percent, were out of service for an average of 130 days, the report says. In addition, six of the 12 RadNet monitors we sampled (50 percent) had gone over eight weeks without a filter change, and two of those for over 300 days, the report adds, noting that EPA policy calls on operators to change the filters twice per week.
Currently, EPA remains behind schedule for installing radiation monitors and has not resolved contracting issues identified as causing similar problems with the system in a 2009 audit, the report says. Until EPA improves contractor oversight, the agencys ability to use RadNet data to protect human health and the environment, and meet requirements established in the National Response Framework for Radiological Incidents, is potentially impaired.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to address the monitoring issue during a hearing on April 12, 2011.
The session occurred one month after the earthquake and tsunami that inflicted heavy damage on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Massive radiation releases from the facility forced Japanese authorities to evacuate 80,000 nearby residents. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended that U.S. citizens in Japan evacuate from a 50-mile radius surrounding the plant.
Jackson testified that her agency had received many positive comments from the public and that it would continue to provide [RadNet] monitoring results to the public in a very open and transparent manner. She also said the agency did not expect radiation from the damaged Japanese reactors to reach the United States at harmful levels.
Advocacy groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Committee to Bridge the Gap raised concerns about broken and out of service monitors in an August 2011 letter to the agency and during an October 2011 presentation to top EPA officials in Washington.
The organizations also highlighted issues not addressed in the IG audit, including a lack of air monitors along the California coast line between Los Angeles and San Francisco. They also complained that EPA data suggested some testing such as for strontium-90 in milk could be delayed for long periods of time, in some instances as long as a year.
In addition, the groups charged that repeated EPA statements that Fukushima fallout on U.S. soil was far below any level of concern were misleading given that agency data showed it had detected radiation levels in U.S. milk and rainwater well above its own regulatory limits for drinking water.
For example, in Hilo, Hawaii, EPA had detected radioactive iodine in milk at concentrations of 18 picocuries per liter, which is about six times greater than the agencys maximum contaminant level of 3 picocuries per liter for the contaminant in drinking water. In Little Rock, Ark., the agency detected radioactive iodine in milk at concentrations of 8.9 picocuries per liter about three times the regulatory level.
At the time, the agency defended its statements that the iodine levels were not a threat by noting that they were below emergency guidelines established by the U.S. Food and Drug administration. Documents the agency released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that some EPA officials, though, had questioned whether the FDA guidelines were appropriate given how dramatically less strict they were than the agencys own enforceable regulations.
The inspector generals confirmation of the monitoring problems, raises serious questions about bland assurances at the height of the Fukushima disaster that no radiation was reaching the U.S., the Committee to Bridge the Gap's Hirsch said. It also raises serious questions about whether EPA will be prepared if a nuclear incident occurs in the United States.
Based on the findings in the inspector generals report, Hirsch asked whether the agency views its job as providing reassurance or providing factual information.
In a statement to Global Security Newswire, EPA spokeswoman Molly Hooven said that while the agency recognizes the expressed concern about RadNet station operability it maintains that the system was able to provide sufficient data to determine levels of airborne radioactivity during the weeks after the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident.
The agency also stands by prior statements that radiation from Fukushima detected on U.S. soil was at such extremely low levels, the risk of health effects are so small that it cannot be distinguished from exposure to natural background radiation, which is around us all of the time, according to Hooven.
Issue experts criticized such comments last year. In an April 1, 2011 statement, Robert Alvarez, former senior policy adviser to the Energy secretary during the Clinton administration, said such comparisons were misleading and that no matter how small the dose might be, it is out of context to compare an exposure to a specific radioisotope that is rele
Bobby1 April 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm
EPA Financial Advisory Board. Bankster-heavy representation:
Bradley Abelow Chief Operating Officer Bradley Abelow is an American businessman and political leader who formerly served as Chief of Staff to the Governor of New Jersey in the Cabinet of Gov. Jon Corzine. Prior to entering Governor Corzine's Cabinet as State Treasurer, he was a top executive for the Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs. He is currently Global Chief Operating Officer at MFGlobal (Joined 13 Sept 2010).
William Cobb Vice President, Environmental Services & Sustainable Development Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. http://www.fcx.com/
Lindene E. Patton Chief Climate Product Officer Zurich Financial Services
Scott Haskins Vice President, Global Water Business CH2M Hill This firm handled the Hanford "cleanup"
Thomas Liu Managing Director- Bank of America Merrill Lynch
James Gebhardt Chief Risk Officer The BondFactor Company LLC "BondFactor is a New York-based outfit created two years ago by public finance people who once worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co. It is currently working on its business model before attempting to raise capital and apply for credit ratings."
things like that are usually monitored / serviced under govt contract.
where is the oversight on the contract? oversight on delivery of service?
if provable, the contracted company should be forced to refund for services not rendered... then fined.
“Broken” is a good excuse not to tell us how bad it was/is.
“vocacy groups including the Natural Resources Defense Councipl, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Committee to Bridge the Gap ”
Radical left groups....p
So Mr. Obama is that anti-Midas?
Really Sir? How about saying.....”What the hell are they spending money on.....Green Police?”.
Just like AGW. NOAA/NWS’s deplorable state of their WX stations along with not upgrading their location when societies development creeps in upon once ideal locations.
EPA......Extremely Pathetic(Powerful) Agency.
Time to dismantle.
Your wonderful expensive green energy mercury corkscrew lamp bulb can also double as a $300 radiation monitor.
Just turn it on in a dark room, then turn it off-
It will glow dimly for a few moments but if you are radioactive it will light up like a 4th of July sparkler.
EPA doesn’t appear to excited about monitoring nuclear fallout. Where would they tell people to go? What could be done if exposed to fallout? Why cause a panic by reporting higher than usual fallout readings (compared to background levels)?
It is an election year where politicians pretend to be doing their job but nothing still ever gets done unless you consider taxation progress.
“The agency [EPA] also stands by prior statements that radiation from Fukushima detected on U.S. soil was at such extremely low levels, the risk of health effects are so small that it cannot be distinguished from exposure to natural background radiation, which is around us all of the time, according to Hooven.”
That is the MOST important statement in the whole article.
“Issue experts [anti-nuke critics] criticized such comments last year. In an April 1, 2011 statement, Robert Alvarez, former senior policy adviser to the Energy secretary during the Clinton administration, said such comparisons were misleading and that no matter how small the dose might be, it is out of context to compare an exposure to a specific radioisotope...”
I worked in the nuclear power industry for years. Stuff like this is appalling, because the public in general is ignorant of the difference between the terms, ‘radioactive’ and ‘radiation’.
‘Radioactive’ is to ‘radiation’ what a pile of dog shit is to its stench.
Or to cover up that it wasn't as bad as they claimed.
Radioactive is to radiation what a pile of dog shit is to its stench.
You know of what you speak. That’s good!