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
- We are now involving the more sensitive monitoring system of the Berkeley Lab Low-Background Facility; to allow investigations of smaller samples such as Bay Area sediments, etc.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Donate: Help us continue this important work
How are RadWatch projects currently funded?
Right now the RadWatch project is supported by interested students, faculty, and support staff of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California Berkeley, particularly from the BeARING group. We use equipment, laboratories, and facilities at the Department of Nuclear Engineering and recently also from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, specifically its Low-Background Counting Facility. The availability of the people and the equipment is what limits the RadWatch content scope.
Why are donations needed?
Donations allow us to maintain and potentially expand our monitoring efforts in the Bay Area and our public outreach efforts in educating the public about nuclear radiation, nuclear technologies, and associated risks. We emphasize the fact that we work independently as researchers (and students) and are not driven or influenced by any entity that will limit or filter the data or information we are providing to the public.
Specifically, donations will help to involve more students in our activities, ranging from sample collections, measurements, data analysis and presentation as well as in the communication with the public. It could also help to upgrade the equipment to streamline the measurements so we can perform more sample measurements.
Finally, reflecting our expanded activities in monitoring radiation we have established a new initiative called Berkeley Rad Watch. The former Berkeley Radiological Air and Water Monitoring (BRAWM) activity is part of it.
We hope you will find the new data and its interpretation useful. We will continue the monitoring and the publication of solid samples as before on a separate system.
Check out our news coverage!
March 10, 2016
- SF Cronicle: "5 Years After Fukushima, Little Radiation Found in California"
- CNBC: "U.S. Watches as Fukushima Continues to Leak Radiation"
June 21, 2012
- PRWeb: "University of California-Berkeley Nuclear Engineering Department Receives American Nuclear Society Presidential Citation"
April 5, 2011
- The Press-Enterprise: "Rain, snow, isotopes in the forecast"
- The Seattle Times: "Universities come through in monitoring for radiation"
- KTVU News (Video): "ALAMEDA: Researchers Test Alameda Lawns For Traces Of Radiation From Japan"
April 1, 2011
- The Daily Californian: "Radioactive Traces Are Miniscule, Team Finds"
- The Washington Post: "As Fukushima fallout circles the globe, nuclear sleuths sift it for clues"
March 30, 2011
- KTVU News (Video): "BERKELEY: Researchers Find Trace Amounts Of Radiation From Japan In Bay Area"
- ABC 7 News (Video): "Bay Area water tested for radiation"
March 28, 2011
- Berkeley Daily Planet: "Berkeley's Window on the Nuclear Crisis in Japan"
- San Jose Mercury News: "Scientists at UC-Berkeley keep watch on Japan radiation levels from a campus rooftop"
- KTVU News (Video): "JAPAN CRISIS: Cal Scientists Continue To Test For Radiation From Japan"
March 25, 2011
- KTVU News (Video): "SAN FRANCISCO: EPA Defends Attacks That Only Half Of Radiation Detectors Are Faulty"
March 19, 2011
March 18, 2011
- KTVU News (Video): "BERKELEY: Trace Elements Of Radiation Detected In California Skies"
- KTVU News (Video): "KTVU EXCLUSIVE: UC Berkeley Nuclear Physicist Kai Vetter Speaks To KTVU About Radiation"
- Reuters: "US West Coast radiation risk low but fears persist"
- NBC Bay Area: "Radiation Levels Hold Steady on West Coast"
- ABC 7 News: "Harmless traces of radiation detected in Bay Area"
- New York Times: "For Hardy Californians, Another Frisson of Danger"
- The Associated Press: "Officials dispel health threats from fallout reaching California"
March 17, 2011
MEET OUR TEAM
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 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.
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 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.