Exploring Radioactive Environments with Pipeline Devices


Research Area:



Prof. Tom Scott




Wood Plc (formerly AMEC Foster Wheeler)

Contact details:


The Challenge

Nuclear waste materials are transported, stored and processed in facilities that can are physically shielded from the outside environment. In these environments it is important to understand the distribution of radionuclides and how this changes over time. This project specifically focuses on mapping radiation in and around pipe networks. Over time the internal conditions of the pipe degrades and the composition of the contained materials is not thoroughly understood. Characterisation is a valuable tool for the continued maintenance and decommissioning of nuclear plants.

The challenge to develop miniaturised tools and techniques that allows the remote characterisation, mapping and exploration of pipe networks in radioactive environments.


The Solution

In Figure 1(a) we see a proposed device that allows for the exploration of pipe networks whilst conducting gamma-ray spectroscopy. The waterproofed device is designed to be flushed down with cleaning fluids. The miniaturised concept is aimed to operate in piping as small as 2 inches in diameter. Whilst Figure 1(b) shows a concept drawing for a self-propelled device designed to operate in partially submerged piping typically 8 inches in diameter.

In Figure 2(a) we see a capsule that can pull itself up through vertical piping. Rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printing and open source electronics have been utilised throughout, to create prototypes for specific environments. In Figure 2(b) shows a metal-encased modular snake-like device that is only 50mm in diameter. Its modular nature allows for additional sensors to be added to extract more information from the environment of interest.

Figure 3(a) shows example 3D pipeline data with a radiation heat map. Figure 3(b) shows a prototype that was actively deployed for radiation sensing and mapping with industrial partners.

As part of this work, investigations of the popular open source electronic hardware, such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi and of-the-shelf cameras have been tested in high flux gamma fields to assess the suitability for radioactive environments.

The Impact

An industrial partner on the project looks to decommission upwards of 30 km of pipeline containing both Low Level Waster (LLW) and Intermediate Level Waste (ILW). This technology is being implemented as a key part of the strategy to characterise this environment in the first stage of decommissioning.

This versatile technology has gained interest from a large number of stakeholders in the nuclear industry as a tool for exploring and further understanding environments that have previously been deemed as inaccessible. The scope for future work is large as the on-board sensors and communication technology have room for further expansion making this concept adaptable to a wide range of environments.


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