Source: EM Update | Vol. 10, Issue 30, Contributor: Ben Williams | July 31, 2018

DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) joined numerous organizations on July 23 to support the local Back-to-School Professional Development Day.


The Oak Ridge City Schools’ event offered nearly 40 free educational courses to the district’s teachers — giving them an opportunity to learn about interesting subjects and enjoy being students for a day.

OREM’s Vanna Gaffney led a one-hour session about radiation protection to participants ranging from middle school English teachers to high school chemistry teachers.

Gaffney joined OREM’s engineering branch seven years ago after earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nuclear engineering. In her current role, she supports the organization’s facility representatives and its safety, security, and waste management operations.

“I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with local teachers who were very engaged, inquisitive, and interested in learning more,” Gaffney said. “We have a great story to tell about the steps we take to keep our employees safe and how our mission keeps the community safe.”


The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management’s Vanna Gaffney speaks about radiation protection at Oak Ridge City Schools’ Back to School Professional Development Day.

It was OREM’s fifth outing with Oak Ridge’s school district this calendar year, highlighting the significant role community involvement plays for the organization.


“We constantly keep our eyes open for opportunities to interact with new audiences to share information about our mission and the progress happening in Oak Ridge that they can be proud of,” OREM Manager Jay Mullis said.

Gaffney’s presentation began with an overview of radiation to help clarify misconceptions. The audience also learned the difference between alpha, beta, gamma, and neutron waves, and how people are protected against exposure to each.

There was heavy interest and questions about what workers experience in the field during cleanup. Gaffney detailed all of the equipment EM uses to detect and monitor radiation levels, and she explained how EM works to understand the conditions in areas where workers will perform cleanup projects.

Teachers left the session with a better understanding of DOE’s expertise in occupational health physics, and the lengths the agency goes to ensure the safety of its employees and surrounding community — a message they can share with their students when school begins this fall.