BME Project 2: Radon gas measurements for detecting nuclear weapons and earthquakes

Faculty mentor: Kim Kearfott
Required skills: Motivation to learn, basic programming skills, solid mathematics and physics background.
Radon gas is a ubiquitous naturally occurring radioactive material that occurs throughout the environment and in all buildings, at least in small amounts. It can be readily detected, and presents health hazards when in high concentrations. Radon gas levels change as a function of local weather conditions, as well as the heating or cooling situation within a building. They have also been observed to change many days in advance of major earthquakes. This project involves the study of radon gas as a function of time both indoors and outside. State-of-the-art equipment is deployed both to measure radon gas as well as to track local weather and other conditions such as solar and background radiation from other sources. Students may participate in both experimental data collection as well as analysis of large data sets. Discrimination of airborne transuranics from naturally occurring radon gas is particularly important for worker protection during commercial nuclear power plant outages and dose control during emergencies. Topic is especially suitable for students ultimately interested in homeland security/treaty verification, nuclear power plant operations, and/or radiation protection.