New Raman spectroscopy technology could revolutionise nuclear decommissioning projects

Raman

Raman spectroscopy is one of the most effective techniques for recognizing specific chemical compounds but is seldom used in nuclear decommissioning because access constraints and high radiation fields can prevent the spectrometer from operating at its normal effective range.

Now, a group from Jacobs and Tonbridge, Kent-based IS Instruments have designed a brand-new type of Raman system which can identify a weak laser signal several metres from the target. The group has found likewise a way to mount the Raman probe onto a remotely operated automobile or robotic arm, which allows the probe to get within two metres of the target and send a signal down an optical cable television to the primary Raman instrument positioned tens of metres away.

" Standard equipment often can not detect specific chemical agents, either because it can't get close enough or because the signals are crowded out by the overall radiation levels," stated Clive White, Jacobs Critical Mission Solutions International Senior Vice President. "This new type of Raman system is an important breakthrough for the nuclear industry because it provides greater certainty about the presence of hazardous materials in high radiation waste facilities, making the materials easier, cheaper and safer to detect."

Jacobs and Innovate UK have offered funding to take the system from proof-of-concept to industrial application. According to Jacobs, it is being used to detect uranium and substances including kerosene and tri-butyl phosphate, which are used in reprocessing operations and can indicate the presence of plutonium or uranium contamination.

Legacy nuclear facilities can contain considerable amounts of unknown or unidentified waste products, so improved characterisation ability can lower decommissioning costs and timescales.

Raman innovation is likewise a key function of a new integrated decommissioning system developed by Jacobs, which won a current government-funded development competition and will be demonstrated inside previous fuel reprocessing facilities at Sellafield later this year.

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