Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Japanese nuclear crisis boosts interest in at-home radiation monitoring

Some people are so concerned about the possibility of harmful radiation from Japan they have started their own do-it-yourself backyard radiation monitoring system — just like weather-watchers — except these folks are equipped with handheld Geiger counters and a strong distrust of the government. “I think that people who are out to go and get hysterical will fulfill their mission,” said Berkeley Lab's Ed Morse. Morse says that the devices might confuse people who will find small amounts of background radiation in ordinary things like kitty litter, salt substitutes or granite countertops. To detect the kind of nuclear isotopes produced by nuclear fission requires a device that can sample large quantities of the air over time and then analyze the results in an accredited laboratory. Morse and other experts say these small Geiger counters might come in handy if you live next to a nuclear plant, but not if you are trying to detect radiation from far away. More>