Environmental Radiation, Emergency Preparedness,
Emergency Preparedness and Response
The department responds to all radiation incidents and emergencies, including unexpected
radiation releases from nuclear power plants, transportation accidents, lost or stolen
radioactive sources, and contamination of a facility or the environment. To prepare for these
incidents, the department trains its staff and other emergency personnel in emergency response
and decontamination procedures, dose assessment, and preparedness for possible weapons of mass destruction.
Staff also learn how to respond to nuclear reactor emergencies during six annual training
exercises at the state's nuclear power plants. In addition, the department provides the Kennedy
Space Center with emergency response assistance during the launch of spacecraft containing
radioactive material, such as the Ulysses, Galileo and recent Cassini space probes.
Nuclear Power Plants
There are five nuclear power reactors operating at three sites in Florida: Units 1 and 2 at St.
Lucie, Units 3 and 4 at Turkey Point, and Unit 3 at Crystal River.
The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses these reactors. The department conducts environmental monitoring programs around all three sites. Thermoluminescent detectors surrounding each site identify direct radiation and special air sampling stations identify radioactive particulate emissions. Department staff also collect and analyze other samples, including vegetation, fish, citrus, watermelon, milk, garden vegetables, shoreline sediment, beach sand, drinking water, surface water, and ground water.
Florida has several large phosphate deposits that have been mined since the turn of the century. These deposits contain varying concentrations of uranium and thorium. Although generally the radiation dose received from these concentrations is insignificant, the dose can become significant if the concentration increases through mining the ore, if the radionuclides dissolve in drinking water, or if they build up in structures on the deposits. To monitor this situation, the department takes soil, air, and water samples from the land both before and after the mining occurs and measures the radiation levels.
The department operates a fully equipped laboratory in Orlando to conduct chemical and physical analyses of samples collected by the radiation control programs. The laboratory has a gamma spectroscopy system to analyze gamma-emitting radionuclides such as cobalt 60 and a liquid scintillation counter to analyze very weak beta-emitting radionuclides such as tritium and carbon 14. In addition, it also has several proportional counters to detect alpha and energetic beta particles, radon analysis instruments, and an alpha spectrometer.
The department's radiation laboratory in Orlando is the primary state laboratory for the analysis of radionuclides in drinking water. The laboratory analyzes samples from a variety of sources, including public water systems and private and public wells. These analyses primarily screen for radium and uranium. The department also evaluates private laboratories that wish to analyze radiological water samples in Florida.
Low-level Radioactive Waste
Every state is responsible for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste such as contaminated gloves and clothing produced in that state. In 1983, eight states formed the Southeast Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Compact for safe disposal of the waste from the region. Florida's shipments to the disposal site in Barnwell, South Carolina, come from radioactive material users such as nuclear power plants, universities, hospitals, manufacturers, mining companies, and private laboratories. Before shipment, the department inspects each shipment for compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation standards for container integrity, external radiation levels, proper labeling, and accurate shipping papers.