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Radiation Emergencies
Emergency Response:

EPA Establishes Contingency Plans for Space Shuttle Launches

Ready to Respond

Nuclear reactors provided power and maintained constant temperatures aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) sophisticated Galileo and Ulysses spacecraft. Launched from NASA's space shuttle Atlantis in 1989, Galileo was on a six-year, 2.4. billion-mile journey to survey Jupiter. Launched in 1990, Ulysses also traveled towards Jupiter, where it used the planet's gravity to swing into a wide orbit of the sun to survey the sun's southern and northern polar regions.

To prepare for a possible radiological emergency at launch time, NASA and the State of Florida requested that EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) assist in developing contingency plans. EPA and DOE established an onsite capability to measure radiation and to provide protective action recommendations in the event of an emergency. Fortunately, both spacecraft were launched without incident.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Space Shuttle Atlantis,
Carrying a Crew of Five
and the Spacecraft Galileo

EPA Leads Cleanup of New York Hot Spot

Trouble began at Radium Chemical Company's Woodside, Queens facility when inspections revealed continual violations of the law, including lost radium shipments and excessive radiation levels in the plant. In fact, a person could exceed the yearly occupational exposure limit after only one hour in the worst parts of the building. Despite repeated efforts to bring the insolvent company's facility into compliance with State regulations, the situation failed to improve, and EPA stepped in.

Due to the facility's potential to cause significant harm to the public, EPA led efforts to remove dangerous radioactive material from the site. EPA's team, clad in highly protective gear, used a remote-control apparatus to help pack 10,000 radium needles in specially designed 1,600-pound, steel- and lead-lined drums. The team also packed 150 drums and steel boxes with contaminated debris and shipped them to a low-level radioactive waste disposal site. EPA also recommended that the State conduct health surveys of former Radium Chemical Company employees.

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