Nuclear Engineering Division

Packaging Certification and Life-Cycle Management Group

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology

RFID system for management of nuclear materials packages in transportation and storage. Click image to enlarge.

Argonne National Laboratory has developed a radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for the management of nuclear and radioactive matRFID system for management of nuclear materials packages in transportation and storageerial packages during storage and transportation. Development of the technology involved hardware design (e.g., form factors, sensors, and batteries), application software development, secured database and web server development, and irradiation experiments.

The DOE Packaging Certification Program (PCP) of the Office of Packaging and Transportation, Office of Environmental Management (EM-335), and DOE national laboratories are working on several RFID system implementation projects for field testing at DOE sites, along with continuing device and system development and expanding applications. Potential benefits of the RFID system are enhanced safety, security, safeguards and materials accountability; reduced need for manned surveillance; real-time access to status and event history data, including continuous environmental condition monitoring for managing aging packagings; and overall cost-effectiveness.

Demonstrations and Deployment

Argonne continues to demonstrate the performance of the technology under real-world conditions. In August 2009, Argonne conducted a 6.5-hour, 300-mile demonstration of the transportation application, called the Mini-Demo, that successfully combined RFID item monitoring features and commercial satellite vehicle-tracking equipment by Qualcomm. A subsequent 6.5-hour, 300-mile road test — essentially repeating the August 2009 Mini-Demo — of a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) truck equipped with the Qualcomm satellite equipment was conducted on March 24, 2010. This road test demonstrated that minimal modification was necessary to install the ARG-US RFID equipment in the truck.

In October 2010, Argonne completed the integration of the ARG-US RFID technology and DOE TRANSCOM by using the Qualcomm satellite gear in the vehicles for tracking and communicating information on radioactive material shipments across the country. The acceptance road test of the integration tracked and monitored, for the first time, two vehicles in separate 300-mile routes near Chicago. The integrated system will be used for tracking and monitoring shipments of other radioactive materials, including sources and by-product materials, such as those encountered in the Offsite Source Recovery Program (OSRP) shipments.

In addition to recent road tests, since March 2010, staff at the DOE Savannah River Site (SRS) have been conducting extensive field-testing of an ARG-US RFID system in the K-area Materials Storage (KAMS), a CAT-I vault facility. ARG-US has also been deployed at other DOE sites, including the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), as part of the project supported by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), as part of the transportation security technologies test-bed evaluation under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA); Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) for the Safeguards Transporter; and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for the OSRP shipments, as part of the GTRI of NNSA.

Command Center

In May 2010, a pilot RFID Command Center was established at Argonne. The Command Center will provide a test bed for platform and protocol development, as well as enable training and certification of personnel in the use of the ARG-US RFID tracking and monitoring system. Various activities have been conducted at the pilot Command Center, including the acceptance road test of ARG-US RFID and DOE TRANSCOM integration, a webinar, and ongoing development of algorithms and protocols for multiple readers and multiple vehicle tracking and monitoring.

Technology Development and Implementation

Device and systems development and implementation projects are continuing. Activities include adding new sensor capabilities (e.g., radiation, gas sensors for hydrogen and hydrogen fluoride) to the RFID tags, designing RFID tags for new packages, improving reader functionality and API interfaces with ARG-US, improving RFID security, adding RFID door seals, incorporating improvements in ISO 18000-7 Air Interface Standards and feedback from users of Argonne's systems, and developing additional platforms and protocols for the pilot RFID Command Center. Other efforts include expanding the application of the ARG-US RFID system to international security and safeguards of nuclear materials, as well as to civilian nuclear fuel cycles and other hazardous materials and valued assets in storage and truck/rail transportation.

Related Multimedia

Video: ARG-US - The Watchful Guardian

Argonne has prepared a 6-minute movie on the ARG-US RFID system.

Related Information

See also:
Last updated: 01/23/17