Why does the Lab sample the air?
The Laboratory 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 Los Alamos National Laboratory
- 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 the Laboratory, 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.