A good place to start is that counting labs rarely (read: I have never seen one) end up on the top floor with beautiful views of your surroundings. No, you get the dungeon labs where sunlight & windows are a rumor, but the radon down there is quite real.
How much radon you have in your subterranean science lair is very much a function of where you are and what your local geology is like. But even in the newest, most freshly heaved from the ocean sedimentary formations you're going to have soon.
GOOD NEWS! You building HVAC takes care of this. Well, it should take care of it. If the HVAC is balanced to actually move air in your room. Have you made friends with the Facilities folks yet? You should really do that.
If you live around some really nice old cracked granite, you'll have extra fans to blow it clear.

In a fine parsing of the language of the scenario and the explainer tweets so far, you'll notice I just said "radon". I didn't give you any specific radionuclides, like Rn-222.
This is because for naturally occurring radon, you get all of the them, all the time. But with a half-life of just shy of 4 days, Rn-222 is the only one that really gets a chance to accumulate. The next longest lived is measured in hours.

But they're all there.
But assuming your HVAC is working properly, this isn't a issue. You know the radon evolution rate in your area and you ventilate appropriately. In most places, the typical air changes to blow your human stink out of the building is sufficient. In Wisconsin, you might want extra.
Also, we don't *really* detect radon. Radon is an annoying noble gas which means it doesn't stick to anything, so it's hard to get enough in anyone place to detect.

But it's decay products when it spontaneously stops being radon? Oh yeah, we can work with those.
NOTE: for anyone about to share radon immersion dose stories and calculations, please smugly keep your edge case to yourself.
But what you instrumentation is telling you is that you are experiencing events where you are getting WAY more radon than normal and that's weird. The question is from where.

The game "What the hell is this signal?" is the unofficial hobby of all counting labs.
Because you put your sample in the counter, you know what you expect to see and when you a huge signal of something extra, well, that's like a big wet fart from the man in front of you playing his Brown Note Solo during the quietest part of a symphony.
In the CYORA: Surprise Positrons, an inconsiderate researcher managed to throw off pretty much every counting experiment *in the building* with their insufficiently shielded Na-22 source. And, hooboy, those other researchers were hunting for that source. funraniumlabs.com/2020/10/choose…
Counting labs having anomalous signals, even if they're far away, are how we've detected pretty much every incident that has happened in the Soviet Union and successor states when they don't feel particularly forthcoming at the time of the incident.
If a reactor does the bad burp, you WILL notice it downwind. If particularly bad, that signal will make its way all the way around the planet to show up on your detector from the other direction.

Labs in Minsk detected Chernobyl before Sweden did, but eventually everyone could.
But what reactor leaks *don't* look like is radon. Depending on the particularly kind of leak, you're going to have fission product signals that show up in your counts. As there's only so many ways you get those, you should probably call someone about that.
If someone was rude enough to set up a SURPRISE ACCELERATOR next to your counting lab without so much as an Employee Right-To-Know coffee chat, they're probably using the other side of the wall from your detector as their backstop to be Maximally Inconsiderate Colleague.
But again, an accelerator, even one operating in a mode/power that can cause activation, isn't going to give you a radon signal. It'll give you a big honking Bremsstrahlung curve to absolutely wipe out your detector, but not radon.

Seriously, SURPRISE ACCELERATORS are rude.
But they aren't subtle. You tend to notice when one shows up before they turn it on and can have very productive discussions about shared spaces, resources, and institutional research priorities. Its a super great time to make new enemies for the rest of your respective careers.
Which means you're now looking for the things that *are* subtle. Changes that might have happened that you can't see. That happened to the built environment that no one would think are an issue.

Changes like someone getting a fancy new smaller counterweight for the elevator.
Elevator counterweights come in a lot of flavors, but the key is that your space is limited in the shaft. Concrete is cheap, but very bulky. Junk steel? It'll work. Lead? Now we're talking to get the size down and you already have a CA Prop 65 warning on the building anyway.
Tungsten? You are superfancy and must have a lot of budget to burn because that's expensive.

How about depleted uranium?

Oh dear.
As several of you identified, an elevator shaft is a lovely low space where you could collect radon but the pumping action of the elevator tends to flush it out regularly. Admittedly, into the rest of the building but that's what your HVAC is for.
Having a DU counterweight means there's a chance to evolve a teensy extra bit of radon in the elevator shaft from the decay of the U-238 as it heads toward equilibrium with it's daughters. Mind you, that's gonna take about a million years.

*REALLY* teensy amount of radon.
There are, however, several amusing gammas coming off the 2000kg+ slab of DU regularly going up and down the shaft. If your counting lab is near the elevator, you're going to see it every damn time it goes by.

But it's not radon.
To get a radon spike large enough to effect your instruments you are going need, technically speaking, a shit ton of radon, far more than your build HVAC can handle. Where the heck are you gonna to get that? Why, the Earth!
But how to get it.

Radon is constantly evolving out of the soil but must of it decays away before it ever gets a chance hit the surface. The rate of radon evolution is not only a function of the soil composition but also of weather.
Depending on the barometric pressure, radon gets tamped down into the soil during highs and when it's low, like a thunderstorm or blizzard, that lid comes off.

For very sensitive counting labs, we watch weather closely.
For the events that inspire the scenario, there was a counting experiment that was getting pronounced Ra-226 lines showing up in their overnight runs at least once a month over the course of a year. There was no rhyme or reason other than "only overnight runs".
I was asked to help find the source of this mysterious source because one researcher had had their experiments ruined three times in a row and it was driving them crazy.

Keeping in mind what they told me, I started by looking at the lab for experimental setup.
Experiment looked solid, I found no signs of stray contamination. All sources were accounted for and secure when I performed an inventory.

I stood back and took in the whole space. That's when I figured it out and moved one item. The random radium peaks vanished.
They were very thankful. Then six months later it happened again. I got an angry phone call saying they were back and I hadn't fixed it.
I asked why they moved the trashcan back next to their experiment again. As long as it wasn't, the janitor with a SPICY radium watch didn't have to walk into the lab and near their experiment to empty the trashcan.
I was asked why the janitor was even allowed to have that watch in their space.

I asked why they didn't leave their trashcans out in the hallway like they were supposed to in the first place.

MORAL: Don't blame the janitor for your fuck up.


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More from @funranium

14 Oct
Just putting it out there that I'm still mad that I haven't gotten to visit Perth yet.
And folks, if you like numbats wait until you embrace the love or quolls.
Read 4 tweets
11 Oct
When you're regarded as a teacher/professor's favorite student over their entire career, it makes it very likely the school administration or alumni association will drop you a line for help, no matter what you went on to do in life.

This may encourage you to move far from home.
If you have memories, happy or otherwise, of your teachers having a seemingly endless supply of weird and concerning apparatus for demonstrations, I want to assure you there were SO MANY MORE they didn't use in the backroom and back at their homes.
The things your teacher'd bring out for demos are a function of a few things:

• Where/how old is your school district?
• How comfortable are they are using it?
• How likely is it to break/easy to fix again?
• Have they been speciically forbidden to use it by adminstration?
Read 31 tweets
2 Oct
Medical Emergency vs. Rad is the natural follow up to Fire vs. Rad because the responder priorities are exactly the same: Life, Property, and Environment. Though in some jurisdictions they swap the order of those last two.

Life saving efforts are always top priority though.
Which is why it is such a dick move at the level of war crime to drop/set off a second bomb 10-20min after the first to make sure you nail all the responders doing life saving efforts.

But I digress.
In general, during contamination incidents that also have injuries we do our best to simultaneously decon and render medical attention as close to the site of the incident as safely possible, with priority on treating the injury.
Read 37 tweets
29 Sep
The traditional answer to avoiding NIMBY crap, whatever your particular issue may be, is by building your facility three miles down the road from the ass end of nowhere. Unfortunately, the suburbs will follow you and suddenly it's your fault that you're in their backyard again.
GOOD NEWS: when McMansions attack they bring some support networks with them.

BAD NEWS: not *enough* support network because one of the reasons to move to the sticks is to avoid taxes, so...bummer.
But there was a good thing to really help under resourced jurisdiction that grew out of the catastrophe of the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire: the birth of the Mutual Aid System.

READ: when you call for help, people will come, and everyone will use the same jargon & radios (except NYC)
Read 27 tweets
27 Sep
This scenario is much like when the Local Color brings you a dead radioactive seagull, except this time your surprisingly competent coworkers may have captured an actual live, radioactive, and displeased animal to bring to you.

It's just another day in paradise.
When you're working in a sampling lab, you get used to receiving some odd things but for all of them it means reducing that odd thing to a useful form for your analytical techniques.

If presented a shitting, pissing, terrified, & angry feral cat YOU DON'T REDUCE THE CAT ITSELF.
Luckily, the cat is presenting you with plentiful samples for in vitro bioassay. Just see if you can collect it without contaminating it with you own blood. That's just bad technique.

If you wanted to do in vivo counting, that's another matter.
Read 29 tweets
25 Sep
Only a few of you failed out of counter-terrorism theater club: when you are handed select choices to investigate, the money wants you to investigate those. The money does not appreciate when you question their premises/choices or study things they didn't pay you to consider.
Your employer clearly has reasons that they've judged these radionuclides to be of concern for use as a murder weapon and they would like to give you money about it. The first thing here is to stop and consider their question: they're asking about murder, not terrorist attack.
This isn't quibbling over semantics, it's a question of intent. Yes, an act of terrorism may kill someone but that person's death, generally speaking, is the goal. The goal of terrorism is *to inspire fear*. You don't have to kill anyone to do that.
Read 33 tweets

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