Driving innovation on projects: radioactive land remediation
Doug Kerr, Technical Consultant; Decommissioning & Remediation, Amec Foster Wheeler
Amec Foster Wheeler is bringing innovative solutions to the challenges associated with large scale remediation of land contaminated with radioactive material. Our proprietary technology, ORION ScanPlotSM, gives customers better information about the scale of the problem – and offers significant savings in dealing with it.
What are ORION ScanPlotSM and ScanSortSM all about?
ORION ScanPlotSM is an overland radiation survey system used to collect radiological data on the ground to be remediated. ORION ScanSortSM enables segregation of radioactive material, vastly reducing the amount that needs to be sent, at great expense, to specialist disposal sites.
ScanPlotSM combines highly sensitive gamma radiation detectors with survey-grade GPS receivers. The radiological data are processed by an on-board computer to produce spatial mapping used to indicate the locations of low-level radioactive waste.
The resulting data are of final status survey quality and are accepted by regulators. Depending upon its configuration and the detection criteria, the ScanPlotSM technology can examine up to 20 acres of open land per day, making it the most cost-effective way of doing this work.
ScanSortSM is conveyor-based and accurately surveys, monitors and sorts excavated soils and crushed concrete. It segregates material that needs to be disposed of as radioactive waste. Using an array of custom detectors, proprietary nuclear isotope spectroscopy and customisable reporting software, it can scan, process and segregate up to 180 tonnes per hour, providing 100% assay of material by laboratory-quality gamma spectroscopy.
Once the radioactive material is removed, large quantities of inert soil, rubble or vegetation can be put back in place.
Nuclear site operators are waking up to the potential. In the USA, these systems have been used to deliver savings amounting to tens of millions of dollars by reducing the volumes of material requiring long-term disposal. Customers include the Department of Energy and the US Army Corps of Engineers.
This proven technology is now becoming established in the UK nuclear industry. ScanPlotSM has already been used on a number of characterisation projects in the UK, including work at the site of the proposed nuclear power station at Moorside, near Sellafield in Cumbria. The ScanSortSM system is ready for its first deployment on a land remediation project at a UK nuclear site.
We are aiming to replicate the savings achieved at NASA’s Plum Brook research centre in Ohio, where the use of Amec Foster Wheeler’s technology proved to be 50% cheaper than the US$60m estimated cost of using traditional methods. Instead of US$660 per tonne to move, segregate, process and dispose of the material, with ScanSortSM the actual cost was US$397 per tonne, a reduction which reflected the reduced volume sent to licenced disposal.
Meet the blogger
Doug has worked in the nuclear industry for 31 years, mainly in waste management and decommissioning. For government and commercial customers in the UK and abroad, he has been involved in facility operation and maintenance, waste management, decontamination, decommissioning and remediation. He has worked on nuclear sites engaged in fuel reprocessing, fuel fabrication, post irradiation examination, waste processing, waste storage, reactor, laboratory and experimental facilities.