Building 220 at Harwell was built by the Ministry of Works as a Radiochemical Research and Development facility in the latter part of the 1940’s. The facility has been operational since 1949 and has been extended several times, most notably the Plutonium Glove Box Wing in the 1950’s and the Remote Handling Wing in the 1980’s. Only the Remote Handling wing remains operational, processing Historic Waste which is being recovered from storage holes elsewhere on site. The remainder of the facility is undergoing progressive strip out and decommissioning. In the Plutonium Wing and associated areas the waste ‘fingerprint’ (nuclide vector) consists predominately of alpha emitting radionuclides. Decommissioning and Decontamination (D&D) operations often result in the production of large volumes of scrap metal waste with little or no radioactive contamination. Proving that the waste is clean can be costly and time consuming, as the shape and size of the metallic waste items often means that it is difficult or impossible to monitor all surfaces using conventional hand-held survey meters. This is a particular problem for alpha contamination measurement. Traditional radiological surveying techniques are very labour intensive and involve surveyors checking every surface using hand held instruments and smear sampling the hard to access areas. Even then 100% monitoring cannot be guaranteed. An alternative to traditional methods is the Long Range Alpha Detection (LRAD) technique which remotely detects and measures secondary ionization created in air by alpha particle interactions, allowing extremely low levels of alpha contamination to be measured. A survey system, IonSens®, using the LRAD technique, was developed by BNFL Instruments Ltd (now Babcock Nuclear) which allows rapid surveying of scrap metal for alpha contamination at very low levels. Two versions of this system exist but both essentially comprise a measurement chamber into which scrap metal is placed and sealed while a measurement is carried out. Research Sites Restoration Ltd (RSRL) has purchased an IonSens® system with a single 2m long measurement chamber. This instrument is optimised for clearance monitoring of pipework of up to 150mm diameter. Testing and use of support baskets has enabled the instrument to be used as a clearance monitor for a wide range of metallic waste including hand tools. This paper illustrates how the instrument, and a robust consignment procedure, has been used to justify the clearance of several tonnes of metal wastes for recycling rather than paying for disposal of this material as low level waste.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.