Title: Audit Confirms EPA Radiation Monitors Broken During Fukushima Crisis
Source: Global Security Newswire | NTI
Author: Douglas P. Guarino
Date: Apr 23, 2012
An internal audit has confirmed observers’ concerns that many of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s radiation monitors were out of service at the height of the 2011 Fukushima power plant meltdown in Japan [...]
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. [...]
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 agency’s 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.” [...]
EPA uses FDA standards
[I]n Hilo, Hawaii, EPA had detected radioactive iodine in milk at concentrations of 18 picocuries per liter, which is about six times greater than the agency’s 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 agency’s own enforceable regulations.
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.
Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California (Santa Cruz) and president of Committee to Bridge the Gap
- The April 19 report by the EPA Inspector General’s Office also casts further doubt on the agency’s already controversial claims that radiation from Fukushima did not pose any public health threat on U.S. soil
- The report “raises serious questions about bland assurances at the height of the Fukushima disaster that no radiation was reaching the U.S.”
- “It also raises serious questions about whether EPA will be prepared if a nuclear incident occurs in the United States”
- Hirsch asked whether the agency “views its job as providing reassurance or providing factual information”
h/t Anonymous tip
Read the report here
Published: April 24th, 2012 at 10:52 am ET