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Argonne National Laboratory Tests New Radiation-Sensing Tag

The ARG-US tag, codeveloped by Evigia Systems and ANL, is being deployed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site, to gauge whether it can detect abnormal conditions involving storage barrels containing sensitive nuclear materials, as well as issue alerts in real time.
By Claire Swedberg
May 08, 2012The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) is piloting a new radio frequency identification system in its effort to track barrels containing sensitive nuclear materials within the DOE's storage facilities. The agency's goal is to monitor the barrels' status, 24/7, and issue real-time alerts in the event of any abnormal conditions. The RFID solution, with includes key components provided by Evigia Systems, is a second-generation solution utilizing ANL's existing ARG-US RFID-based software. The system is intended to provide a flexible platform that can accommodate a radiation dosimeter (a sensor for measuring gamma radiation exposure), and offer future expandability for additional sensors.

Evigia supplied a modified version of its EV3 RFID tag, a battery-powered device compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard. The tag, the company reports, has a battery lifespan of more than 10 years and a form factor adequate to accommodate radiation sensors, as well as temperature, humidity and shock detection. The modified tag transmits data only when queried by a reader, but can also immediately send an alert if the sensor detects an unacceptable change in conditions, such as a rise or drop in radiation levels.

Argonne National Laboratory's Yung Liu
The integration of a radiation sensor with Evigia's wireless platform was carried out jointly by Argonne and Evigia engineers. Evigia also provided technical support to Argonne engineers for the final integration with the DOE's ARG-US RFID system.

Argonne National Laboratory, located just outside Chicago, is one of the DOE's largest national research laboratories, employing more than 1,250 scientists and engineers to solve challenges related to energy, the environment and national security. For ANL, the new ARG-US tag is another step in a sustained project to provide wireless technology that can help protect the public from the threat of leaks or thefts of nuclear materials (see U.S. Department of Energy Employs RFID to Safeguard Country and 2011 RFID Journal Award Winner: Most Innovative Use of RFID-Tracking and Monitoring the Deadliest Cache). Even as the new system is being tested by ANL, Evigia is currently in discussions with other agencies and utilities to provide the EV3 system to protect the public and workers from potentially disastrous leaks from containers of hazardous materials, or from such operations as the production of nuclear energy.

Argonne National Laboratory has been testing RFID systems for the DOE's Office of Packaging, Transportation and Environmental Management since 2008, in order to determine which wireless automated solutions could monitor the status of barrels containing sensitive nuclear materials 24/7, thereby enabling the lab to know if there were an abnormal event or security breach involving the barrels. During previous pilots, the agency utilized a proprietary active RFID tag—the ST-676, from Savi.

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