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EML's history


Procedures Manual

QAP and Gamma Reports

Sample Databases


Security and Privacy Notices

History of the
Environmental Measurements Laboratory

The Manhattan Project/Atomic Energy Commission (1942 – 1975)

Our Laboratory traces its roots to the Manhattan Project during and after World War II. In 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was created. In 1947 the lab was formed as the Medical Division of the AEC and, in 1949, renamed the Health and Safety Division. The Division focused on industrial hygiene, radiation protection and safety. In 1953 it became the Health and Safety Laboratory, or HASL. Fallout from nuclear weapons tests became a major concern and the lab's focus shifted to measurements and assessments of fallout using a network of gummed film monitoring stations and measurements of the radioactivity levels in various food products. In the 1950's and 1960's, the worldwide sampling network was expanded considerably to include soil and water samples, air filter samples at the surface and in the stratosphere, biological samples, and measurements of wet and dry fallout.

The Energy Research and Development Administration/US Department of Energy (1975 – 2003)

HASL acquired a reputation as the world leader in environmental radiation measurements. The HASL Procedures Manual became the standard for environmental radiation measurement techniques. In the 1960's, the lab began taking measurements of radon in mines to assess the health risks of miners. In the 1970's, the lab's worldwide sampling programs were expanded to include non-nuclear pollutants. When the Atomic Energy Commission was abolished in 1975, the Health and Safety Laboratory became part of the Energy Research and Development Administration. In 1977, the Energy Research and Development Administration was absorbed by the newly created US Department of Energy, and the Health and Safety Laboratory changed its name to the Environmental Measurements Laboratory (EML).

In the 1970's, the lab performed extensive radiation transport and dosimetry studies in and around nuclear facilities, and established the Quality Assurance Program for environmental dosimeters and radioanalytical measurements. The lab also did extensive dose reconstructions for nuclear weapons tests, and studied radon in homes. After the Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, the lab took immediate measurements providing the ability to accurately and comprehensively reconstruct the environmental contamination resulting from these incidents.

In 1997, the lab underwent a major change of focus when it moved from the DOE Office of Energy Research to the Office of Environmental Management. EML's primary focus was to support environmental monitoring, decommissioning, decontamination, and remediation efforts. Cleanup efforts across the DOE complex required a wide range of low-level radiation and radioactivity assessments that were used in contaminant characterization studies, remediation control guidance, final status surveys, and long-term stewardship. EML served as an interface between DOE and contractor staff on technical issues that impact on remediation goals and strategies. This included providing consultation on radiation survey planning, data quality objectives, background levels of radionuclides, radiation dose models, environmental transport, measurement techniques, and data assessment. EML itself also performed environmental measurements when independent expert assessments were needed, as in the case of demonstration surveys, comparability studies, continuous monitoring for environmental safety and health impact, and retrospective dosimetry studies. EML also continued its worldwide monitoring network and the development of instruments in support of non-proliferation activities.

The US Department of Homeland Security (2003 to present)

In 2002, President Bush signed legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In 2003, EML was absorbed into the Department’s Science and Technology Directorate. Initially, EML focused on applying its existing subject matter expertise to support homeland security activities that prevent, protect against, and respond to radiological and nuclear events through research, development, testing and evaluation. In 2009, to align and more effectively contribute to the DHS mission to prevent and deter terrorist attacks and protect against and respond to threats and hazards to the Nation, the Laboratory conducted a comprehensive Strategic Planning effort. As a result, the Laboratory’s name was changed to the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL). Currently, the NUSTL team is committed to providing a test and evaluation capability for technologies and systems addressing the broad range of homeland security threats. Additionally, NUSTL acts as a trusted federal technical resource to the Tri-State homeland security community, especially state/local First Responders, for the accelerated delivery and successful end-user deployment of technologies and systems.