Why does LANL sample the air?

As the most significant pathway, air is monitored to ensure that any possible release is quickly detected.

Diagram of air quality monitors within an exhaust stack. Nuclear facilities have three additional air sampling systems.LANL samples and analyzes air to assess effects on workers, the public, animals, and plants. As the most significant pathway, air is monitored to ensure that any possible release is quickly detected.

How we do it

Monitoring emissions at the source

Low levels of radioactive materials may be vented to the environment through a stack. Stack monitoring measures radioactive material at the source. The diagram to the right shows air quality monitors within an exhaust stack.

  • 28 stacks are sampled at LANL
  • Additional three sampling systems are installed for nuclear facilities

Monitoring all emissions at specific locations

AIRNET is a radiological ambient air sampling designed to measure levels of airborne radionuclides, which may be emitted from Laboratory operations.

  • Monitors for radioactivity where people live or work
  • Over 60 AIRNET air monitoring stations
  • Monitors 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year
  • Installed in Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Rio Arriba counties
  • Ensures compliance with the Clean Air Act and DOE radiological regulations

Real-time air monitoring

Total particulate matter
Particulate matter is a hazard to human health when the particle size becomes small enough to enter the lungs, e.g., smoke. At LANL, particulate matter concentrations are measured continuously and averaged over 30-minute and 24-hour time periods.

Gamma radiation monitoring
The Neighborhood Environmental Watch Network, also known as NEWNET, updates every 15 minutes and is able to give early indications of increases in radiation due to radioactive particulates in the air.

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