Dust settles: LANL analysis cites natural causes for radioactivity in the environment

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By Roger Snodgrass

Española – Los Alamos National Laboratory Wednesday answered a citizens monitoring study from 2007 with its own analysis of off-site radioactivity in the neighborhood of the lab.

While confirming the validity of measurements taken by Marco Kaltofen of Boston Chemical Data for the watchdog Government Accountability Project last year, LANL scientist Michael McNaughton drew different conclusions.

McNaughton thanked Kaltofen for raising interesting and important questions about sources of radiation in the local environment and inside homes and offices. But McNaughton interpreted the data as indicating a predominance of radiation from natural rather than emissions from the laboratory.

In fact, he reported, more than 99 percent of the radioactivity comes from natural, not man-made radioactive material.

“Almost all the radioactivity in indoor dust is naturally occurring,” he said in his conclusions and while there are some emissions migrating through water pathways, airborne contamination from the laboratory is not measurable more than one mile outside Los Alamos County.

There are also large variabilities throughout the region to the extent that it is impossible to derive a single number for background.

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