Cleaning Up Hazardous Materials with RFID
Manhattan Project Site Transition to an Industrial Park Uses RFID for Waste Management
“Takedown of the West Wing at the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge Is Complete.” That was the headline this past January in a United States Department of Energy (DOE) newsletter.
The DOE’s East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), originally the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project. The ETTP site was designed to produce enriched uranium for nuclear weapons operations. Following World War II, the Plant was renamed the Oak Ridge K-25 Site. It was eventually shut down in 1987.
Most of the K-25 site's process facilities were constructed in the 1940s and 1950s. The waste that was generated at the time: construction material; process fluids; and auxiliary materials used in the gaseous diffusion process, are considered hazardous under today's standards. Most of the plating waste, waste solutions and trash contaminated with radioactivity was disposed of between 1975 and 1989. According to a story in RFID Journal, the K-25 plant was estimated to have generated more than 300,000 cubic yards of waste materials for packaging, transportation and disposal.
The DOE’s long-term goal for ETTP is to convert the site into a commercial industrial park. The site is undergoing environmental cleanup conducted by DOE’s environmental management contractor, Bechtel Jacobs Company. The decontamination and decommissioning of the seven square-mile section of the Oak Ridge Reservation as well as the building complex, will pave the way for its redevelopment and reuse.
So where does RFID come in? Every shipment resulting from the clean-up requires information regarding the waste, the trucks carrying it and the inspection results. More information must also be captured once the waste is received at the disposal facility.
Bechtel Jacobs decided to implement a solution using EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags and a combination of fixed RFID readers and RFID handheld computers. An RFID tag is attached to each truck in the fleet containing its identification data. Shipping data is then written to the vehicle's RFID tag. What used to take several manually completed forms is now a process that employs reusable passive RFID tags. The RFID Journal story on this deployment also reported that one tag will be encoded with information up to eight times a day and will be read between 40 and 50 times during that same time period.
Not only does the RFID system reduce the paperwork associated with each shipment, it makes the overall operation more efficient and helps the DOE develop best practices that can be used for similar projects in the future.