Website issues radiation high alert for St. George; authorities question findings

Radiation map issued by Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center website, Dec. 12-13, 2013. The map and accompanying alert were removed as of Dec. 15, 2013 | Image courtesy of National Emergency Tracking Center website founder Harlan Yother

ST. GEORGE – A private for-profit website that posts radiation readings and alerts reported spikes in background radiation readings for St. George this week, while radiation authorities in Utah and Nevada found no notable increases or cause for alarm in the region.

The alert from the Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center website

Radiation map issued by Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center website, Dec. 12-13, 2013. The map and accompanying alert were removed as of Dec. 15, 2013 | Image courtesy of National Emergency Tracking Center website founder Harlan Yother
Radiation map issued by Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center website, Dec. 12-13, 2013. The map and accompanying alert were removed as of Dec. 15, 2013 | Image courtesy of National Emergency Tracking Center website founder Harlan Yother

A website, Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center, sells equipment, software and subscriptions for data and alerts, among other things.

On Wednesday, NETC posted alerts that showed counts-per-minute radiation levels in St. George reaching a record high of 456 CPM. The average count is 222 CPM and does not normally deviate more than 55 CPM, according to the NETC alert.

“Basically our system is an early warning radiation system, we detect whenever the radiation is increasing at any given station,” Harlan Yother, founder of the website said.

NETC does not have any private monitoring sites set up in Utah.

“We have only been in business for about a year now and the closest private monitoring sites we have are in Boise, Idaho, and Rio Rancho, New Mexico,” Yother said.

NETC gathered the data for St. George directly from the Environmental Protection Agency RadNet site, Yother said. He has about four to five years of data obtained via a computer link through a system he developed, he said. The EPA data is available to the public, he said, but you have to have a way to access it electronically.

“I went back and printed out the chart for the last year and I don’t know what’s going on in St. George, but in the last month or two you have a big rise in radiation,” Yother said. “Of course our system detected it and that’s why the alert was sent out.”

NETC noticed spikes in readings beginning around Nov. 27, Yother said, with readings in Seattle going up on Dec. 6, and then moving across the U.S.

“We don’t have any proof of this,” Yother said, “but that was about the same exact time that they were moving the fuel rods out in Fukushima, Japan.”

Who monitors radiation levels in Utah?

There are two major monitoring systems for measuring background radiation in the St. George area: The Desert Research Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency’s RadNet.

The Desert Research Institute is an arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education, with its main campuses in Reno and Las Vegas. It conducts research on air, life, land and water quality throughout the U.S. and on every continent and is funded by and works in partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nevada site office.

The institute manages a program called the Community Environmental Monitoring Program that maintains 29 radiology and weather monitoring stations across communities downwind of the Nevada Test Site, including St. George, Cedar City and Milford.

In addition to the DRI, the EPA monitors radiation levels through its RadNet system. RadNet is a nationwide system with more than 100 fixed monitoring stations in 48 states and 40 portable monitors which can be moved to any location in the U.S. The EPA now has a monitoring station in St. George as well as Salt Lake City.

The monitors collect data on the nation’s air, drinking water, milk and precipitation in order to track radiation in the environment. Their systems operate 24/7 in real time and will detect higher than normal radiation levels. According to the EPA’s website, if there is a significant increase in levels, the EPA’s National Air and Radiation Laboratory staff will immediately investigate the cause.

What radiation monitoring officials and experts say

“Radiation is grossly exaggerated as to hazard,” Myung Jo, radiation safety officer for the DRI in Utah and Nevada, said.

Jo, serves as the radiation safety officer giving oversight to the DRI pursuant to a radioactive material license held by the University of Nevada at Reno. He said that on Dec. 13 background radiation readings for St. George and Cedar City were in the normal range.

Jo, who holds a master’s degree in radiological science and protection, warned about sensationalizing reports about radiation.

“It’s sad to see so many resources spent for something called protection when there is no hazard that exists,” Jo said. Sensationalizing this type of situation is not good for society, he said, because it promotes fear of the unknown with no justification.

As for other factors, the Fukushima incident did not cause a detectable increase in background radiation in the U.S., Jo said. “I would not expect that there would be an increase in readings due to the snow storm in St. George either,” he said.

The Division of Radiation Control for Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality relies on Desert Research Institute’s continuous monitoring from St. George, Cedar City and Milford. Its director, Rusty Lundberg, said that he had not seen any increases in Utah recently or during the Fukushima incident that would raise concern.

The EPA RadNet system involves collection sites, where filters have to be collected and sent to a lab in Alabama, Lundberg said, and it takes time for samples to be analyzed by the lab before results can be posted on the EPA site. By contrast, the NETC website posted its numbers in real time as recently as Dec. 13. By Dec. 15, the alert had been removed from the site.

Further, the Division of Radiation Control looked at information from the Desert Research Institute for December 9-12 and did not see any anomalies. DRC Program Manager Craig Jones said that on December 10 there are missing entries in the data from the DRI site in St. George but that system calibration was scheduled for that time frame.

The DRI’s Myung Jo also said that monthly calibration work was being performed in St. George on December 10 and it would be normal to have a higher reading when calibrating the equipment since that is done using a small radiation “button source” the size of a quarter.

“We didn’t notice anything in St. George,” Program Manager for the Community Environmental Monitoring Program Ted Hartwell said. There may be a small bump when there is precipitation, however its rare to see a 100 percent increase in readings, Hartwell said.

“I am at a loss to explain or acknowledge that there is a problem, Jones said. He said NETC is a group that I am not aware of. Jones said he does not believe that the heavy snowfall in St. George would have had a significant effect on the readings either.

The business of the NETC website

NETC is a limited liability company that was formed by Yother on June 11, 2013, according to Arkansas Secretary of State records.

In addition, NETC sells packages to customers which include a Geiger counter, computer equipment and software, for about $250 each. NETC also charges customers $20 per month to subscribe to its service as “chart” members, which offers access to NETC’s compilation of radiation data and email alerts.

Yother estimates that NETC has about 50 subscribers, all but six located in the U.S., who purchased the equipment and software. There are about 50 additional subscribers who utilize their own equipment and they are able to use the NETC software free of charge, he said.

None of Yother’s formal education was in radiation related sciences. He has an associate degree in computer data systems, he said, from Northern Virginia Community College.

“Now I am retired, I finally turned 65 and I will be able to collect my Social Security,” Yother said.

His goal is to get as many sites out there as possible pointing to about 3,000 monitoring sites in Japan. “If it wasn’t for Japan, no one would be interested in radiation,” he said.

“We don’t try to make a fortune or make a million dollars,” he said. The NETC site in question “was set up to provide warning to people,” he said, “we want people to support us.”

“I am retired and enjoy computer systems,” Yother said, “I got bit by the radiation bug.”

Ed. note: Clarification made at the request of Myung Jo and DRI. Jo is with the University of Nevada, Reno, where he is radioactive safety director and by extension serves as such for the DRI. He is not the director of of DRI.

Email: sheinecke@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Radiation map issued by Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center website, Dec. 12-13, 2013. The map and accompanying alert were removed as of Dec. 15, 2013 | Image courtesy of National Emergency Tracking Center website founder Harlan Yother
Radiation map issued by Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center website, Dec. 12-13, 2013. The map and accompanying alert were removed as of Dec. 15, 2013 | Image courtesy of National Emergency Tracking Center website founder Harlan Yother

 

 

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17 Comments

  • dosimeter December 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    don’t get fitted for you radiation-proof underwear just yet.

    this organization is less than trustworthy.

    just sayin’

  • Let's Glow! December 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    The family that glows together, grows together! Now you all know the following:
    1-The government knows what is best for us!
    -a-The government would never lie to us!
    2-The media is only interested in disseminating the news!
    -a-They would never stoop to sensationalizing anything!
    -b-They have no interest in increasing their advertising dollars by increasing their readership!
    3-Private enterprise would never try to sell us something that we don’t need!
    -a-They are not interested in profits, only in serving the best interests of the public!
    Since all of the above is common knowledge, there is nothing to be worried about. Nothing at all. . .

    (I’m from the guberment, and I be here to help you!:P

  • Acey December 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    NOTE TO WEBMASTER: upon reviewing my previous submission, I realize that it has unintended innuendos and request that you respect my request to withdraw my previous comment, Acey

    • Joyce Kuzmanic Joyce Kuzmanic December 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Request respected, and granted, Acey.
      JK
      EIC

  • DB December 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Midweek, I noticed that we had a significant temperature inversion. (Hazy and cold in the valleys. Think SLC and Vernal in the winter, sort of unusual for St George) Could that have affected their readings? Either way, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

  • Tyler December 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    So…this report was basically pointless then or am I missing something? The beginning of the story it sounds alarming and “they don’t know what’s going on in St George” to the end, saying everything’s ok? This is where media is scary.

  • Tyler December 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    My concern is if levels were dangerous, the media wouldn’t be allowed to report it as to avoid mass panic. So we are probably basking in high radiation, and probably have been since shortly after Fukushima.

    • Let's Glow! December 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm

      Tyler! Watch your language, this is a FAMILY friendly website!:)

  • Nonbeliever December 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    So who ok’d the purchase of this equipment?
    Was it the city ?
    How much did it cost?

  • Fable Vayne December 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

  • Brian815 December 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Has everyone missed this in the article?

    Someone needs to ask Myung Jo (so called expert) that snowfall is a form of precipitation so unlike what he is quoted as saying in the article, he SHOULD expect an increase due to the snow storm. Even Mr. Ted Hartwell in the same article said it would! We even know from the history of other nuclear accidents that radiation is spread through precipitation. LOL

    This is just one more example of how the so called “experts” do not agree. They can’t even agree on what a safe level of radiation is and that is why we CAN NOT trust them!

  • instagram.com December 16, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    I enjoy, cause I found exactly what I was looking for.
    You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless
    you man. Have a great day. Bye

  • Meh December 18, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Thanks Obama

  • JW January 13, 2014 at 11:09 am

    infowars.com

  • gotos October 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    this Harlan Yother idiot just wants to scare people in to buying the stuff he is selling, which include a Geiger counter, computer equipment and software, for about $250 each. and also charges customers $20 per month to subscribe to its service as “chart” members, which offers access to NETC’s compilation of radiation data and email alerts. None of Yother’s formal education was in radiation related sciences. He has an associate degree in computer data systems, he said, from Northern Virginia Community College. he is a peace of crap the end!

  • koolaid October 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Probably all that downwinder radioactive dust stirred up in the air by all the developers.

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