Casper Star-Tribune
Casper, Wyoming

12-Mar-2001 09:40

Group calls for more sensitive radiation monitoring

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - The group Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free says state and federal officials should install a more sensitive air monitor than the ones planned for the roof of the Teton County Commission building.

After a public hearing Monday, the commission voted unanimously Tuesday to let the U.S. Department of Energy and the state install three monitors.

Some Jackson Hole residents are worried that radiation could blow in from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, a vast facility about 90 miles west of Jackson.

The monitors will sample between one and two cubic feet of air per minute. Department of Energy officials will collect the filter and analyze it weekly, said Betsy Jonker, with the agency.

Doug Halford, program director for the independent air-monitoring company S.M. Stoller Corp., said the system is adequate.

"This system is quite able to detect radionuclides in an area," he said. "This is the tool for the job."

But Eric Ringelberg, executive director for Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, urged the commissioners to instead go for a high-volume sampler, one that can measure 35 cubic feet of air per minute.

"That is how much air you need to sample in order to find something," he said.

A low-volume sampler would only reveal sharp increases in radiation, he said.

"We don't feel there is an acute hazard to the people of Jackson," he said. "This is a chronic issue. This is the first shake the community has had for monitoring and we should use the right equipment."

An independent scientist, Lori Fussell, said Monday she believes the low-level sampler is the correct equipment, in part because INEEL has installed the same monitors around Idaho.

"It is best for INEEL to have a sampler that matches other ones in the network," she said.

Lori's husband, Jerry, also spoke in support of the low-level sampler during the hearing.

"The low-level sampler will be able to detect any levels of radiation," he said. "It answers all the questions and will be fine."

Ringelberg believes the monitoring station is a waste of public money.

"Why not put the right piece of equipment, or at least justify this is the right piece and the right location?" he asked. "Had they developed a thorough proposal, I wouldn't have even said anything.

INEEL spokeswoman Lorie Cahn said officials presented "good science" at the hearing.