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RFID Ensures Worker Safety at Nuclear Plant Archive

The archive, a storage site for blueprints of nuclear plants, uses active UWB tags to ensure workers are evacuated should a fire-protection system become activated, filling its chambers with nitrogen.
By Rhea Wessel
Dec 24, 2008Nuclear plant designer and constructor Areva NP, a division of French multinational conglomerate Areva, is employing active RFID to ensure the safety of its personnel at a high-security document archive in Erlangen, Germany. The facility holds the blueprints and highly confidential documents for nuclear plants operating around the world. These documents must be stored for approximately 90 years in a fire-safe archive, in accordance with the laws of various countries, as well as the company's contractual obligations.

The archive is equipped with a fire-protection system that would flood the facility's rooms with nitrogen within two minutes of detecting a conflagration. The nitrogen would then choke out the fire by displacing much of the oxygen in the rooms. The system would also eliminate the need to use water—which could permanently damage the documents—to extinguish the flames.

"When a fire breaks out in an archive, the water used to extinguish the fire often causes more damage than the fire itself," says Orgent Seydel, who is responsible for safety and quality assurance at the facility.

If a staff member were trapped inside the building when the nitrogen was pumped into it, however, the effect could be harmful and potentially deadly. This risk to personnel was the reason Areva NP approached systems integrator Dynamic Systems in September 2007, to find a system to track its employees. The company must know where workers are located in the archive at all times, in order to ensure rescue teams can quickly reach them in times of danger.

The 1,600-square-meter (17,200-square-foot) archive is spread out over four separate rooms. Each contains up to 10 shelving blocks comprising 10 to 12 shelves that can be pushed together manually along rails to preserve space. The spatial arrangement of the shelves may change frequently. As employees file documents and complete daily tasks, they must move around the shelf blocks and between shelves.

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