The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Radiochemistry Laboratory is one of three chemistry sections of the Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories. Established over 25 years ago, the laboratory is certified by U.S.-EPA to perform radio-analytical testing of public drinking water samples as mandated by the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR) and in accordance with provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Additionally, the laboratory provides radioanalytical support for Kansas Department of Health and Environment's monitoring of Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Generating Station in Burlington, Kansas.

The laboratory is also currently a member of a working group organized by the Department of Homeland Security to develop a performance testing program. Other programs in which the laboratory participates are the Environmental Radiation Ambient Monitoring System (ERAMS) and the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN).

The radiochemistry laboratory also analyzes ambient water (stream, lake, and river) samples and samples that relate to issuance of radioactive material licenses.

The radiochemistry laboratory employs instrumentation and methodology which adheres to the current acceptable standards for the types of analyses performed and agencies served. Low background alpha/beta counters, gamma spectrometers, gas proportional counters, and liquid scintillation counters are routinely utilized. Appropriate quality control measures and statistical assurances have been adopted and are specific to instrumentation and methods employed. As the laboratory continues to expand, attention will be focused upon the development of rapid radiochemical methods for analyzing environmental emergency and radio-bioassay samples.

Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Generating Station

Environmental samples are collected within 90 miles of the Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant site. These samples include, but are not limited to, surface water, groundwater, sediment/soil, vegetation, food (e.g. milk), fish, and biota. While this routine and frequent measurement of radionuclide activity is primarily at environmental background levels and serves to establish baseline data, it would quickly detect any unplanned release from the power plant. Capabilities exist to detect low-level activities of actinides, fission products, and naturally occurring radionuclides.

In the event of a nuclear accident at Wolf Creek, the radiochemistry laboratory would be called upon to analyze samples which would determine the extent of resulting contamination. To test the laboratory's capability to properly receive, prepare, and analyze nuclear emergency samples, the laboratory participates periodically in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) graded exercises. Other aspects which are evaluated are the ability to adequately staff the laboratory and to provide analytical results within a timely fashion. The radiochemistry laboratory devoted a significant amount of time and effort to establish this capability within the last ten years. Renovation seven years ago created a nuclear emergency sample receiving area, an emergency sample preparation laboratory, and an emergency sample counting room. Successful participation in past FEMA nuclear emergency exercises has proven this to be a satisfactory design.

Environmental Radiation Ambient Monitoring System (ERAMS)

The radiochemistry laboratory is a participant in another program sponsored by the U.S.-EPA. The Environmental Radiation Ambient Monitoring System (ERAMS) 3 program involves the collection of air particulate and precipitation samples. This data is submitted directly to EPA for compilation.

Food Emergency Response Network (FERN)

The laboratory participates in several available programs/projects that deal with ensuring public safety in the event of a nuclear incident in this country. One such program is a proficiency and surveillance sampling program sponsored by the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN). This program is coordinated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to provide support for the analysis of food samples. In participating, the laboratory is assessed for its ability to analyze nuclear emergency food samples. The radiochemistry laboratory is a member of FERN.