The Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP) is a network of 29 monitoring stations located in communities surrounding and downwind of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), formerly the Nevada Test Site (NTS), that monitor the airborne environment for manmade radioactivity that could result from NNSS activities. The CEMP is a joint effort between the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Site Office (NNSA/NSO), and the Desert Research Institute (DRI) of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
The network stations, located in Nevada, Utah, and California are comprised of instruments that collect a variety of environmental radiological and meteorological data. To manage the stations, DRI employs local citizens, many of them high school science teachers, whose routine tasks include minor maintenance of the equipment, collecting air filters and routing them to DRI for analysis. These Community Environmental Monitors (CEMs) are also available to discuss the monitoring results with the public, and are available to speak to community and school groups. Program funding and equipment are provided by NNSA/NSO. DRI manages the program, provides technical direction, employs and trains CEMs, conducts public outreach activities and collects data to be analyzed by an independent laboratory.
The emphasis of the CEMP is to monitor airborne radioactivity and weather conditions, and make the results available to the public. Instrumentation that records these data is connected to a datalogger, and real-time radiation levels or weather conditions can immediately and easily be seen on a display at each station. These data are transmitted via direct or wireless internet conncetion, landline or cellular phone, or satellite transmission to DRI's Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, Nevada, and are updated as frequently as every 10 minutes on the World Wide Web at http://www.cemp.dri.edu
Public understanding of the CEMP and monitoring results is important, so great attention has been paid to station location and accessibility, and making the results available. DOE and DRI publish the results of the monitoring program and distribute these reports throughout the network community. The reports provide summaries of average values for each station and the entire network, and show deviations from the expected range values.
Each monitoring station is equipped with:
- Particulate Sampler. This instrument detects radioactivity by pulling two cubic feet of air per minute through a paper filter. The filter collects the particles, which are then analyzed by an independent laboratory for radioactivity.
- Thermoluminescent Dosimeter (TLD). Knowing what the ambient, or "natural background" levels of radiation is crucial in estimating exposure rates, and this small device does the job. When heated in a special laboratory instrument, the TLD releases absorbed energy in the form of light. The intensity of the light can be measured, and related to the amount of energy initially absorbed through exposure to the energy source.
- Exposure Rate Recorder. This piece of equipment, also called a pressurized ion chamber detector, or PIC, makes continuous measurements of radiation exposure rates.
- Microbarograph. This instrument measures and records barometric pressure. The data are useful in interpreting the radiation exposure rate records. At lower atmospheric pressures, more naturally occurring radioactive gases, like radon and thoron, are released from the earth's surface and their radioactive decay products contribute to the radiation exposure.
- Weather Instruments. The weather instruments at the weather stations record air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, barometric pressure, and precipitation data.
Community Environmental Monitors (CEMs)
The primary objective of the CEMP is to involve residents of the communities surrounding the NNSS in offsite environmental monitoring. In addition to equipment operation responsibilities, the CEMs attend annual refresher courses conducted by DRI. This enables them to participate more fully in public education forums, and to better answer questions from the local communities about the monitoring program and data results in their area and throughout the network. The CEMs are trained to understand the results of the environmental monitoring, and are knowledgeable spokespersons on subjects ranging from radiation detection to local environmental conditions.
CEMs are effective technical liaisons between local and federal entities, helping to identify the environmental concerns of people in their communities. All members of the public are invited to visit the stations and see the data, which are also on the Internet on DRI's Western Regional Climate Center web site at http://www.cemp.dri.edu
For more information, write or call:U.S. Department of Energy
Nevada Operations Office
Office of Public Affairs and Information
P.O. Box 98518
Las Vegas, Nevada 89193-8518
Phone (702) 295-3521
Fax (702) 295-0154
Desert Research Institute
755 East Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, Nevada 89119
Phone (702) 862-5419
Fax (702) 862-5326