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Gamma Radiation Measurements

DEQ’s INL Oversight Program (INL OP) provides real-time radiation measurements to monitor and gauge environmental exposure rates on and around the INL. We collect real-time measurements using high-pressure ion chambers (HPICs) that transmit 5-minute average exposure rates to our Idaho Falls office. Our staff stores the data in a database to determine average exposure rates for 5-minute, weekly, monthly, and quarterly periods currently accessible.

Electret ionization chambers (EICs) provide a cumulative measure of environmental gamma exposure in the field. Results are published in quarterly reports.

Our INL OP conducts independent radiation monitoring for a variety of purposes:

  • Independently determine whether INL activities pose a threat to public health and the environment.
  • Verify and supplement radiation monitoring conducted by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Managing and Operating contractor for INL (Battelle Energy Alliance) and DOE’s offsite monitoring contractor (Environmental Surveillance, Education and Research).
  • Provide historical and real-time measurements in the event of an atmospheric radiological release or accident.

Many sources of penetrating radiation are measured by HPIC, including cosmic radiation from deep space, ionizing radiation from the sun, gamma-emitting radionuclides distributed in the soils, and airborne gamma-emitting radionuclides (i.e., cloud gamma) attributed to radon and its progeny, and potential contributions from INL operations. 

It is not feasible for INL OP staff to monitor all possible locations. Locations are prioritized by area, climatology, and dose projection model data. HPIC monitoring locations are co-located with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Mesonet towers to provide redundancy in data collection in the event of equipment failure.

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