Proceedings in Radiochemistry
A Supplement to Radiochimica Acta
Preparing a laboratory for radioanalytical emergency response
As the state of the nation's ability to respond to a radiological event is examined, it has become apparent that both capacity and capability are lacking. Department of Homeland Security National Planning Scenario #11 is designed to address the planning activities for the response to an attack using radiological dispersal devices. The scenario details show that the cleanup activity will take several years, and that there will be between 360000 and 1000000 environmental samples in the first year. Based on existing capacity and capabilities it would take four to six years to analyze the samples generated at the lower end of the sample range.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been given responsibility for the remediation activities following a radiological event, and has awarded cooperative agreements to several laboratories to start the process of developing capacity and capabilities. The Connecticut Department of Public Health Laboratory (DPHL) was awarded one of the cooperative agreements. The DPHL has started activities to further those goals by investigating and implementing procedures to ensure that samples with activity higher than normal background can be processed safely, as well as implementing more rapid methods for radiochemical analysis. The DPHL already served as the primacy radiochemistry laboratory for several New England states and thus had a solid foundation to build upon. The DPHL has taken a process flow approach in preparing for radiological emergency response and recommends that radioanalytical laboratories that are reviewing their roles in such a response:
• Ensure that their Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses allow for appropriate radioisotope types and activities;
• Develop procedures and processes to ensure that samples with higher activities can be processed safely, with due regard for sample screening and aliquanting samples;
• Provide for enhanced radioanalytical contamination control, with careful consideration of sample flow and breaking the laboratory into zones with controlled access;
• Address personnel safety by enhancing training, adding real time dosimetry to exposure monitoring protocols, and reviewing personal protective equipment and hygiene protocols with staff;
• Develop plans for spills and decontamination, as well as for increased monitoring of laboratory areas;
• Plan for secure sample storage;
• Exercise the plan.