For years, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has been used in a variety of applications, from passports to inventory tracking. Homeland security concerns have heightened the need for sensitive, real-time tracking of thousands of radioactive and hazardous material packages to ensure accountability, safety, security, and worker and public health.
The ARG-US is a remote-sensing system for monitoring and tracking nuclear and other sensitive materials based on RFID technology. ARG-US uses battery-powered RFID tag sensors to remotely monitor the vital parameters of packages containing sensitive materials, and has automatic alarm notification capabilities. The original goal in developing ARG-US RFID technology was to support the US Department of Energy (DOE) in modernizing the lifecycle management of nuclear materials, and enhancing safety, security, safeguards, and sustainability.
The form factor of the RFID tag was designed to be broadly compatible with common material packaging, and has undergone radiation endurance testing. The sensor suite includes seal integrity, radiation, temperature, humidity, and shock sensors, and can be expanded to accommodate additional sensors. Sophisticated battery life management and monitoring extends battery life to 10 years or more. Two specialized software applications — ARG-US TransPort and ARG-US OnSite — were developed to provide a customizable platform for full lifecycle materials management during transport, storage, and disposition. The system incorporates secure communications, databases, and Web services, and includes integrated ARG-US and DOE TRANSCOM satellite communication systems.
ARG-US RFID has been extensively tested under various operational environments at five DOE sites and in multiple transportation campaigns. Also in 2010, an RFID Command Center was established at Argonne National Laboratory to support the ongoing field testing and development of devices and applications for civilian nuclear fuel cycles and other high-risk materials.
ARG-US can monitor thousands of drums 24/7 via secured RF/Ethernet links. The system can also track and monitor drums during transport. Any abnormal situation will trigger an alarm for immediate action. Alarm situations include seal tampering, unauthorized move, high temperature, humidity, shock, and radiation. Drum information is stored in tags and archived in local and central servers.