The Berkeley RadWatch Project: Origins

The UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering has been performing a large range of radiation measurements since March 2011, following the releases of radioactive materials from the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. One of the goals of this activity was to measure the radioactivity in Californian samples that could potentially be associated with the releases in Japan using state-of-the-art experiments, to publish the data without filter or restriction, and to put the results in the context of the radiation we are exposed to in our daily lives.

In response to the resurgent interest in radiation levels due to the expected arrival of cesium at the North American west coast, we increased our efforts again in 2014-2016 to measure samples potentially affected by the Pacific Ocean current transport. In addition to measurement samples of fish, seaweed, crab, etc., we aided in the Kelp Watch initiative, which aimed at measuring a potential cesium uptake into kelp, which are of particular interest because they act as a sponge for many toxins.

Expansion of measurement capabilities

  1. We are now involving the more sensitive monitoring system of theĀ Berkeley Lab Low-Background Facility; to allow investigations of smaller samples such as Bay Area sediments, etc.
  2. We are expanding our sample collection to include a wider range of sample types and origins and to look beyond radiation at heavy metal concentrations using neutron activation to make such measurements using the same equipment and techniques as are employed for our other measurements.
  3. A continuous air monitoring station was installed on UC Berkeley campus in 2014 and we have provided, of-and-on, near real-time data from this system on our website, including weather data we are collecting at the same location. The goal of this effort is not only to provide the radiation levels to the broader public but to encourage simple science projects with the data.
  4. We have started a new initiative, DoseNet, building a growing network of environmental and radiation sensor systems across the Bay Area, US, and internationally which connects communities, educators, and researchers across the network.

We hope you will find our data and its interpretation useful. We will continue the monitoring and the publication of results across our different measurement systems to provide an on-going context for radiation and other potential exposure risks in our environment.

Check out our news coverage!

March 10, 2016

June 21, 2012

April 5, 2011

April 1, 2011

March 30, 2011

March 28, 2011

March 25, 2011

March 19, 2011

March 18, 2011

March 17, 2011

MEET OUR TEAM

Kai Vetter

Kai Vetter

Dr. Kai Vetter is a Professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and Faculty Senior Scientist and Head of the Applied Nuclear Physics program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is director of the Institute for Resilient Communities that was established in 2015 to address the need to better integrate advancements in sciences and technologies with communities through education and outreach locally and globally. Prof. Vetter initiated and still leads the Berkeley Radwatch and DoseNet programs.

Ali Hanks

Ali Hanks

Ali Hanks is a Research Scientist and Lecturer in the Nuclear Engineering department at UC Berkeley. She works under Prof. Kai Vetter as a member of the radiation imaging group, mentoring graduate and undergraduate students in nuclear science research. Dr. Hanks operates as the day-to-day lead for the RadWatch and Dosenet teams and runs a summer internship program for high school students sponsored by this outreach program.

Chris Lamb

Chris Lamb

Chris is a PhD student primarily acting as a resource for other undergraduate researchers involved with DoseNet and RadWatch or helps with public education at outreach events .

Kalie Knecht

Kalie Knecht

Kalie manages the Twitter account (@UCBRadWatch), where she shares updates on what the group is up to and educational content. She also assists in educating the public on the radiation in our environment at public outreach events.

Daniel Solakian

Daniel Solakian

Daniel Solakian is an Undergrad Student Researcher working with the Dosenet/Radwatch team to educate, empower, and provide tools for the public to understand radiation and the environment surrounding them.

Benjamin Huang

Benjamin Huang

Ben recently graduated UC Berkeley with a bachelors in Nuclear Engineering. He currently works with the Radwatch team on spectral analysis, software development, and mechanical design.

Brian Fu

Brian Fu

Brian is a rising senior at Lynbrook High School. This summer he looked at the relationships between rainfall and radiation. He is interested in math, science, and engineering and hopes to pursue those passions in college.

Rachael Ji Soo Han

Rachael Ji Soo Han

Rachael is a fourth year Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major who is planning on obtaining a teaching credential with Calteach. During her free time, she loves to play games, like Stardew Valley and Genshin Impact, and enjoys watching cartoons. In summer 2021, she worked on creating a graphical interface for the mobile version of the DoseNet sensor so it can be used more easily and by a wide array of people.

Eric Yu

Eric Yu

Eric is a rising junior majoring in nuclear engineering and minoring in public policy. His work includes outreach across the bay with RadWatch/DoseNet, observing and attributing statistical variations in radiation data, and developing RW/DN’s code base for radiation spectrum analysis.