Published in the Asbury Park Press on December 19, 2001 by John Harnes on Page B1


Dr. Stanley Kronenberg

Stanley Kronenberg, a physicist and senior researcher for the Army, said during his 43 years at the labs he knew of no case where anyone was accidentally exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.

Visitors look into the 10-foot-wide, 20-foot-deep stainless steel testing pool (above and right) during a tour of the radiation laboratories at Camp Evans. A warning sign (below) is needed because 120 steel rods on the bottom of the pool contain cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope of cobalt.

Photos by 
DAVID BERGELAND
 Staff Photographer

By JOHN A. HARNES
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU

     WALL TOWNSHIP – When the lights  inside the laboratory were turned off, Chris Zentgraf, 17, looked into the 20-foot-deep pool and saw the blue glow surrounding the metal rods at the bottom.
     “I was a little surprised,” said Zentgraf,  one of 12 Wall High School students in physics teacher Steve Genco’s honors class, who took part in a tour yesterday of the research laboratories at Camp Evans.
     “I know that cobalt is supposed to be kind of blue,” said Zentgraf.
     An exchange student from Watershausen, in the former East Germany, Zentgraf, may not have had an opportunity to tour
 the military radiation laboratories here were it not for the end of the Cold War.
     But it is for that very reason that the U.S. military is downsizing, which now requires the Army to close Camp Evans, a  research facility of Fort Monmouth. 
     As  part of the closure process for the 215-acre installation, the Army offered the public and members of the township Restoration Advisory Board a chance to visit the laboratories.
     Known as “the shield;” Building 9401 houses the Army. Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM)  radiation-testing facility.
     Built in 1952, with its 1 1/2-foot-thick walls to shield surrounding areas from any radiation being used inside the building for experiments, it was used in developing devices to meet the military’s needs during the Cold War:
     Stanley Kronenberg, a physicist and senior researcher for the Army, said during his 43 years at the labs he knew of no case where anyone was accidentally exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.
     The laboratories continue to be used for research in helping to create devices for the Army to measure soldiers’ exposure to  radiation and to test radiation’s effects on materials used in military equipment and supplies.
     Inside one laboratory is the testing pool, 10 feet wide and 20 feet deep, made entirely of quarter-inch-thick stainless steel and filled with water.  On. the bottotm are 120 steel rods’ containing cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope of cobalt.
     While standing next to the pool yesterday, Edward Groeber, radiac product manager for Fort Monmouth, said the water, prevents radiation from rising more than about 10 feet from he bottom of the pool.
     Materials being tested are lowered downinto the water where they are exposed to the radiation.’
In another room, called the vault, Kronenberg painted on one wall a reproduction of an Egyptian queen’s burial scene, as depicted on an ancient papyrus scroll.
There are two rooms in the vault, the control room where the operator can select the isotope being used in the experiments in the second room that contains the painting.  The operator uses a pair, of large, mechanical arms to manipuate the materials during the tests while looking through a special window into the other room.
“I know radiation is frightening to people,”  Groeber said earlier on the tour. “Most people, if you asked them, would say, ‘No, I don’t want to be exposed to radiation. ”
But there is radiation all around us,cosmic rays from the sun and radiation from soil itself, he said. This is called background radiation.
Students and residents seemed impressed by the facility:
“I’m somewhat overwhelmed that so much was going on over here and I didn’t know about said James P. Fanning, 64, of Juliett Drive, who lives five or six blocks from the labs.
The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is overseeing the radiation cleanup efforts, and it will not allow the Army to release the property until the land and buildings are safe for unrestricted release. Wall is attempting to acquire the property for little or no cost.
While the lab building will remain all radioactive materials will be removed, Groeber said.  Some will be transferred to a new facility planned for the Charles Wood Area another part of Fort Monmouth where, research is conducted.
Materials in testing areas that will not be transferred, such as the pool, will be disposed of properly, he said.

Page created November 2, 2001