Innovate UK has granted a total of £350,000 in funding for D:EEP, a collaborative project between Costain and imaging technology specialist Createc, that aims to provide a real-time picture of radioactive contamination in concrete waste. The work aims to make disposal of radioactive waste safer, quicker and more cost-effective.
The funding is part of a joint £13 million initiative between Innovate UK, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Costain says it will be used to carry out further development of an innovative system that provides a detailed, real-time survey of levels of radioactive contamination in concrete waste.
Current methods for determining depth of contamination involve taking random core samples from the contaminated material and then sending these to a lab for analysis, which normally takes between six and eight weeks.
In contrast, the D:EEP system looks at the depth of contamination across the entire surface and can pinpoint in real-time the depth at which the more-contaminated intermediate-level waste (ILW) becomes the less-contaminated low-level waste (LLW).
Matt Butler, Costain Project Manager said: "Our system provides the whole picture not just an interpolation. This means we can accurately measure the depth of contamination and classify the waste as ILW or LLW."
The technique could potentially save the NDA almost £1.5 billion, Costain says.
"The D:EEP system also brings significant health and safety benefits. Fewer visits to waste are needed so there is less dose exposure, and there is also less incorrectly classified waste," Butler added.
Work on the five-year D:EEP project begin in February 2013. Feasibility studies at the Chapelcross nuclear power station in April 2013 and at the Sellafield nuclear site in March 2014 proved the system worked. The recent funding will help the team carry out further case studies and bring the system to market.