New RFID technology tracks, monitors nuclear material safety

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Scientists from U.S. Department of Energy's (DoE) Argonne National Laboratory have developed new radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that monitors the environmental and physical conditions of nuclear material containers in storage and transportation.

"RFID technology is ideally suited for management of nuclear materials during both storage and transportation," said Yung Liu, MD, senior nuclear engineer and RFID project manager at Argonne, located in Argonne, Ill. "Key information about the nuclear materials is acquired in real-time."

The lab said that data on the status and history of each container are available with a click of the mouse and can be used to augment and modernize DoE's existing management systems for nuclear materials.

"The Argonne system," Liu said, "can simultaneously monitor thousands of drums 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Any abnormal situation, such a loss of seal, a sudden shock, a rise in temperature or humidity, can trigger an alarm for immediate action."

The system is comprised of active transponders--that last more than 10 years--on each package, readers that collect information from the tags, control computer and application software. The information is constantly updated and communicated via a secured network, thus decreasing the need for manned surveillance. "Information can be retrieved promptly by local and authorized off-site users via a secured network for action," Liu said.