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Real-Time Beta-Radiation Threat Monitors Don't Work, but EPA Says: No Biggie

EPA map of active and inactive beta-ray stations. EPA map of active and inactive beta-ray stations. Are you green or red?

Nearly three-quarters of the federal government's nationwide real-time beta-radiation monitoring stations, put in place after the 9/11 Islamic terrorist attacks, don't work, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Electromagnet interference from cellphone towers may be the culprit. The government can't fix them, so it shut them off. When the news came to light, the government said, in effect: 'Don't worry about it. We've got you covered. Nothing to see here.'

Yet that's the problem with nuclear radiation: there is nothing to see. So we rely on the government, and all of the gizmos we bought for it, to let us know.

Designed to alert us to nuclear threats, like the invisible cloud from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster, the network of a 135 stations in every U.S. state, D.C. and Puerto Rico, includes only 36 that can issue real-time alerts after detecting beta rays, a nuclear particle that can penetrate your body, mess up molecules and cause cancer, mutations and death.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has known about the failed beta-ray monitoring stations since shortly after installation in 2006, but they didn't tell us. (By the way, the station in our nation's capital is functioning properly, which, I'm sure, was your first concern.)

Now the EPA says, don't worry about the beta sensors, because the gamma ray sensors work, and that's all we need. Who cares about those silly beta rays?

Of course, each gamma ray monitor gets manually checked only twice each week, and its filters get sent to a lab for testing -- unlike the real-time signals that (should) emanate from the beta monitors.

Ostensibly, the discovery of excess beta or gamma radiation would help public safety officials determine whether to order an evacuation, or to advise people to shelter in place. The gamma rays -- photons expelled during nuclear decay -- move at the speed of light, but federal authorities move at a somewhat retarded pace by comparison.

Even low levels of gamma radiation can cause "stochastic" health risks, which is a scientific way of saying "unpredictable." High gamma levels break down cells, cause acute tissue damage, cancer, mutations and death.

The good news is, when deadly radiation moves at the speed of light, your federal government is just days away from finding out about it.

And when your federal government spends $52,000 each on 135 radiation stations (about $7 million) and $2 million per year on monitoring and maintenance, and then finds out most of them can't actually deliver real-time threat information, don't worry -- the government will let you know just as soon as you ask about it...or within a decade or so, whichever comes first.