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INL Site

Executive Summary

None of the radionuclides detected in samples collected during the first quarter of 2019 could be directly linked with INL Site activities. Levels of detected radionuclides were no different than values measured at other locations across the western United States. All detected radionuclide concentrations were well below standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and regulatory standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for protection of the public.

This report for the first quarter of 2019 contains results from the Environmental Surveillance, Education, and Research (ESER) Program’s monitoring of the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site’s offsite environment, January 1 through March 31, 2019. All sample types (media) and the sampling schedule followed during 2019 are listed in Appendix A. This report contains results for the following sample types:

    • Air, including particulate air filters, charcoal cartridges, and atmospheric moisture
    • Precipitation
    • Milk

Table E-1 Summary of results for the First Quarter of 2019.


Sample Type




Particulate Filters

Gross alpha, gross beta

There were no statistically significant differences in monthly and quarterly gross alpha and gross beta concentrations measured at Distant, Boundary, and INL Site sampling locations. Several differences were noted in first quarter gross alpha results categorized by location, with Idaho Falls being statistically higher than Blue Dome, Craters of the Moon and Dubois. This is believed to be due to natural factors such as local geology and meteorology. No result exceeded the 99%/95% upper tolerance limit (UTL) or the DCS for gross alpha or gross beta activity in air.

Quarterly Composite

Gamma-emitting radionuclides, 90Sr, actinides (americium and plutonium)

No human-made gamma-emitters or 90Sr, 241Am,238Pu and 239/240Pu were measured in any composite.

Charcoal Cartridge


Iodine-131 was not detected in any of the batches of charcoal cartridges counted during the quarter.

Atmospheric Moisture



Three of eight results showed tritium concentrations greater than the 3s uncertainty during the quarter. No sample result exceeded the 99%/95% UTL or the DCS for tritium in air.




Five of 33 results were greater than the 3s uncertainty. All results were 99%/95% UTL and were consistent with those reported across the region by the Environmental Protection Agency.



Iodine-131, other gamma-emitting radionuclides

Forty milk samples were collected at seven locations (including duplicate samples and the offsite control sample from Colorado). No sample result exceeded 3s.



Radiation in Our World

Radiation has always been a part of the natural environment in the form of cosmic radiation, cosmogenic radionuclides [carbon-14 (14C), Beryllium-7 (7Be), and tritium (3H)], and naturally occurring radionuclides, such as potassium-40 (40K), and the thorium, uranium, and actinium series radionuclides which have very long half lives. Additionally, human-made radionuclides were distributed throughout the world beginning in the early 1940s. Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons from 1945 through 1980 and nuclear power plant accidents, such as the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union during 1986, have resulted in fallout of detectable radionuclides around the world. This natural and manmade global fallout radioactivity is referred to as background radiation. MORE

Radiation Exposure and Dose

The primary concern regarding radioactivity is the amount of energy deposited by particles or gamma radiation to the surrounding environment. It is possible that the energy from radiation may damage living tissue. When radiation interacts with the atoms of a given substance, it can alter the number of electrons associated with those atoms (usually removing orbital electrons). This is called ionization. MORE