Reading Room

Livermore Lab's Pipeline Extension Project Begins Without Radiation Detectors: Tri-Valley CAREs Responds with Community-based Monitoring and Reporting

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Posted by Scott Yundt

Livermore Lab is a Superfund site. Contaminated groundwater emanating from Livermore Lab underlies local homes, apartments, city streets, a community pool and city park to the west of the nuclear weapons lab.

To reach the pollution in the "leading edge" of the plume and bring the toxic water back on-site for treatment, the Livermore Lab must construct a pipeline, moving westward along Susan Lane, turning north at Charlotte Way and then crossing to the edge of Big Trees Park.

But the toxic contamination in the aquifer is not the only problem. The soils in Big Trees Park and along the pipeline route have been previously tested and found to contain elevated levels of plutonium-239, the core radioactive element in nuclear bombs.

Tri-Valley CAREs, joined by about 150 residents in the immediate vicinity, has asked Livermore Lab to conduct air monitoring for radiation during the month-long construction phase of the project (which will conclude near the end of July). The concern is that plutonium particles may become re-suspended in the dust kicked up by digging a trench to lay the pipeline and then cover it. Microscopic particles of plutonium, if inhaled, are enough to cause cancer and other deadly diseases.

The Lab has agreed to monitor for wind speed and dust concentrations, but not radioactivity. We believe this current monitoring is necessary but not sufficient. Thus, at the request of our members, we have begun doing our own community-based monitoring.

Tri-Valley CAREs has a Radalert50 radiation detection device, manufactured by International Medcom. It has gamma detection capability and a special window that permits monitoring for alpha and beta emitters (plutonium-239 is an alpha-emitter). It is a well-made instrument, but is not as sophisticated or sensitive as the air monitors that Livermore Lab could and should employ.

Our citizen-watchdogs are keeping a daily log to monitor the construction project, reporting the radiation readings in counts per minute (note: the average "normal" for that area is about 8-16 cpm). They are also taking photos and reporting on visible dust, unattended open gates, and other sightings.

Click here to see community-based monitoring logs, which we will update regularly throughout the construction phase of the project.

Click the following for the community members' letters to the editor and other media. One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine.

Click here to read a memorandum prepared by Tri-Valley CAREs regarding Livermore Lab Main Site Pipeline Extension Work Plan