Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago have developed an RFID-based tracking system which allows them to monitor the condition of containers of nuclear waste with the click of a mouse.
The system could augment the DOE’s current management system, which is charged with monitoring tens of thousands of containers of potentially dangerous radioactive and fissile materials around the country.
The new system uses RFID tags which have been enhanced by the Argonne scientists to have extra-long battery life (around ten years) and extra memory to store a manifest of the each container’s contents. Sensors are attached to detect a variety of internal and external conditions, such as a change in temperature or pressure. If a change occurs alerts are automatically sent to the monitoring system. Data concerning each container is available on a secure site which can be integrated with other DOE monitoring systems.
“The Argonne system can simultaneously monitor thousands of drums 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Dr. Yung Li, an Argonne senior nuclear engineer and the RFID project manager. “Any abnormal situation, such a loss of a seal, a sudden shock, a rise in temperature or humidity, can trigger an alarm for immediate action.”
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