, Salem, MA

The Nation

March 26, 2011

Gaps in US radiation monitoring system revealed



In San Diego, an air district official who oversees one RadNet monitor, said they "babysit" the machine for the EPA and were unaware it had problems until agency officials showed up to fix it last weekend.

"We thought it was running," said Bob Kard, the air pollution control officer for the San Diego Air Pollution Control District.

EPA officials say the system has more than enough monitors to detect any radiation problems even if individual machines break down.

"We have plenty of data coming in across the country to see the potentials on health and safety," said Ron Fraass, who directs EPA's National Air and Radiation lab in Montgomery, Ala. "If you were going to keep your pc operating outdoors in all weather, it's going to break once in a while."

California lawmakers have questioned the adequacy of the EPA monitoring, noting there are no sensors along the coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"The question remains unanswered as to why we have gaps," said California Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett, (D-San Leandro), who chairs the state committee on earthquake and disaster preparedness "The radiation monitors that we do have in California must be properly checked and maintained."

Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear watchdog who lectures on nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said he was uneasy about malfunctioning monitors.

"The fundamental concern is that we're being offered bland assurances that everything is ok but much of the monitoring system was broken," Hirsch said.

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