Five years ago, Professor Kai Vetter and a team of students in the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) Department of Nuclear Engineering (NE), quickly started an environmental monitoring campaign. The team measured rainwater, local sources of milk, Pacific Coast fish and kelp, local produce, and other local products for signs of radiological contamination from Fukushima Dai-ichi. The team also built a radiological air monitoring station on the roof of the department’s building, Etcheverry Hall to see if any radiological particles from the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident could be detected in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group was driven by a desire to provide accurate and objective information to a fearful public inundated with images of hydrogen explosions in the reactor buildings at Dai-ichi and misinformation about radiation. To communicate their measurement results to the general public, the team uploaded sampling data to a website and developed tutorials for reading figures and technical charts.
In 2015, building on the efforts of RadWatch, Professor Vetter launched the Institute for Resilient Communities (IRC) to expand upon the mission of RadWatch and bring together scientists, educators, students, and community leaders to minimize the impact of natural and man-made disasters by providing objective and accurate information to inform community emergency response and disaster preparedness.
In 2015, the DoseNet project was launched by RadWatch under the IRC’s umbrella to educate high school students about radiation through the development of a dosimeter network. Currently, two high schools host dosimeters (small, personal radiation monitoring devices) that measure background radiation levels and provide real-time updates to the DoseNet website. As background levels can vary by region, state, and country, the DoseNet website provides a visual resource for the general public to use to better understand background radiation levels.
IRC Director, Kai Vetter and the RadWatch and Dosenet project teams were interviewed about their work by the SF Chronicle and CNBC.
Learn more about RadWatch at: https://radwatch.berkeley.edu/
Read their interviews: