San Rafael company 'swamped' by requests from agencies, aid groups

[caption id="attachment_31222" align="alignleft" width="324" caption="Scientists from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute use a Berkeley Nucleonics portable gamma spectrometer to measure the radiation in the atmosphere at their facility. (click image for details)"][/caption]

SAN RAFAEL -- A Marin County maker of radiation detection and measurement devices is scrambling to process orders and ramp up production in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and nuclear crisis.

Berkeley Nucleonics products are expected to be in huge demand among Japanese agencies, aid groups and consumers. They’re already being put to use in regions such as the Philippines that might be exposed to drifting radiation.

“I am collaborating with the Japanese authorities to address the growing need for detectors,” said Nucleonics President David Brown. “We’re talking with several US agencies, including DHS, about the possibility of facilitating support from the U.S. government to Japanese government.”

[caption id="attachment_31223" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Radiation detectors like the SAM (surveillance and measurement) 940 are widely used by the U.S. military."][/caption]

Berkeley Nucleonics is the leader in high-quality handheld radiation SAM (surveillance and measurement) devices. They were developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Mel Brown, company President David Brown’s father, to monitor radiation levels at nuclear power plants, waste dumps, manufacturing plants, hospitals and clinics.

After 9-11 the devices became widely used by the U.S. military and U.S. homeland security forces to ensure safety of airports, seaports and borders.

The demand for detection devices from Japan is not likely to be short-lived. Three nuclear power plants are either in the process of or at risk for meltdown, and radiation leakage is already a reality in the region surrounding them.

NBC news teams departing for Japan are equipping themselves with the company’s most portable products. About the size of a pager, they can be worn on a belt and sound an alarm in the presence of nuclear radiation, storing accumulated dose over a period of time.

The devices range in price from about $700 for the smallest hand-held unit to $7,000 to $10,000 for the most sophisticated units.

Late last week, Berkeley Nucleonics shipped its $10,000 SAM isotope identifier, the industry leader, to CNN for a story.

“We’re inundated with requests from rescue groups, both in and traveling to Japan,” said John Reynolds, application support manager for Berkeley Nucleonics. “Our reps over there are swamping us with orders.”

The company is in touch with its manufacturing operations in both the Netherlands and the U.S. and its suppliers to make sure channels are open. The company has the ability to scale up quickly, according to Mr. Brown.

“The need continues to grow,” he said.