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PNNL helps protect first responders

January 20, 2009 Share This!

Named first lab to test commercial radiation detectors in DHS program

  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researchers test performance of commercially available radiation detectors with equipment such as this pressure chamber.

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RICHLAND, Wash. – Emergency responders put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve. When they respond to a potential terrorist event, they need to know that the tools they purchased to detect radiation will work -- and will work well.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will now help ensure those tools work properly. The Department of Homeland Security has accepted PNNL to test and evaluate commercially available radiation detectors through its new GRaDER program - Graduated Radiation and Nuclear Detector Evaluation and Reporting.

PNNL is the first U.S. laboratory to be accepted to play this role.

“We’ll be the first line of defense, if you will, for emergency responders,” said Michelle Johnson, project manager for PNNL’s Ionizing Radiation Lab. “It really comes down to emergency responders having the best tools available. We’ll be objective technical experts. It means a lot to me to know that we’ll be helping protect them so they can stay focused on protecting us.”

In a previously funded DHS program, companies submitted detectors to PNNL for testing. Not one met all of the performance requirements.

Anyone who wants to buy radiation detectors using DHS grant money will use test results from the GRaDER program to choose systems that satisfy performance requirements. And companies selling these systems to grant recipients must have them evaluated to get the equipment on GRaDER’s list of evaluated equipment. Users may include emergency responders, law enforcement and other DHS program offices.

PNNL has tremendous expertise in radiological and nuclear science and years experience testing these systems.

The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office created the new program. It based the standards on those already set by the American National Standards Institute and Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. It also incorporated standards currently being developed by DHS.

Through GRaDER, NVLAP-accredited laboratories or DNDO-accepted laboratories that are already participating in the NVLAP accreditation process test radiation detection products from various vendors or manufacturers. NVLAP stands for National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program. PNNL applied to the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation program for accreditation as a radiation detection instrument testing laboratory. PNNL is already accredited by NVLAP as an ionizing radiation calibration laboratory.

Johnson will present on PNNL’s role in GRaDER at the midyear meeting of the Health Physics Society on Feb. 2 in San Antonio, Tex.

PNNL conducted more than $122 million in homeland security research in fiscal year 2008. The Laboratory’s homeland security team focuses on developing tools and systems to help emergency responders respond more rapidly and effectively to events of mass effect. PNNL also manages the Northwest Regional Technology Center for Homeland Security. The center facilitates the deployment of technologies to emergency responders by working with users and federal, state and local stakeholders.

Tags: National Security, Radiation Detection

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of about $950 million. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy. For more information, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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