Waste from nuclear plants is radioactive and therefore hazardous to humans. So special rules apply to the handling of radioactive waste during reprocessing, interim storage and disposal. These include compliance with documentation requirements, and ensuring workers’ safety. This, in turn, necessitates recording material movements using mobile 2D code scanners, and linking to IT systems so that the data can be utilised – typical activities for the Circlon | group, even though nuclear technology is something of an exotic field. Track-and-trace solutions of this kind, where occupational safety also plays a major role, are used for example by Kerntechnische Entsorgung Karlsruhe (KTE) and Jülicher Entsorgungsgesellschaft für Nuklearanlagen (JEN).
JEN operates an interim storage facility for radioactive waste. It comprises various storage areas, to which different requirements apply under radiation protection legislation. Erik Kisant, head of data management in the main decontamination and disposal department, underlines the importance of track-and-trace in the storage facility and during transportation: “Regulators impose accounting requirements for radioactive waste, and storage processes have to be accurately represented in the IT. Recording storage and transportation movements via 2D codes and handheld scanners increases data security and integrity.”
Storage solution at KTE
Managers at KTE are familiar with this problem, too. KTE is responsible for dismantling all decommissioned nuclear facilities at the Karlsruhe location. The company is also in charge of all tasks relating to the disposal of the radioactive waste. This involves the complete processing of all residual radioactive materials into waste packages for final storage, and their interim storage until they are sent to a final repository in Germany.
In early 2015, the Circlon | group installed a drum tracking solution for KTE (movements into and out of storage, inventory). All drums and their containers were given 2D codes, as were the storage spaces. Now, with mobile code scanning and logical linking of the information, it is always known where each drum is at any given moment. Workers’ safety is a priority, so Honeywell CK3 long-range scanners have been used since that time. With a pistol grip and built-in lighting, it is possible to scan 2D codes even in relatively dark areas from up to eight metres away. This means that workers can keep a sufficiently safe distance from the radioactive drums while capturing the data, and documentation requirements are fulfilled.
Since KTE wanted to transfer the scanned data directly into its database, wireless infrastructure had to be built. The Honeywell CK3 scanners support industry standard 802.11 a/b/g/n. As a result, data can be transmitted flexibly from any location via the WLAN network to the communication server. This solution reduces the health risk to storage facility workers, delivers high-quality data, and ensures compliance with applicable regulations (German Radiation Protection Ordinance, Strahlenschutzverordnung).
Track-and-trace in the JEN storage facility
As part of a modification programme required by regulators, together with the Circlon | group JEN also developed and implemented a system for recording storage and transportation movements using 2D codes and handheld scanners. Here too, waste barrels, containers, barrel racks and storage positions (coordinates) were labelled with 2D codes, which can be read at a sufficiently safe distance using mobile Honeywell CK3 long-range scanners.
The 2D code for waste barrels contains an identification number along with other information that is displayed on the handheld scanners. The waste identification number corresponds to the so-called primary key, which is generated by the waste flow tracking and product control system (Abfallfluss-Verfolgungs- und Produktkontrollsystem, AVK). Erik Kisant explains the significance of the coding: “The identification enables a logical grouping of waste barrels into batches, and the allocation of barrels to containers and barrel racks. In addition, barrels, containers and barrel racks can be assigned to different storage positions. What’s more, relevant waste information can be read from a safe distance. The extra information indicates the hazard to employees coming from the waste package.”
This solution shows that the Circlon | group successfully implements unusual and challenging applications outside of its usual core sectors such as logistics and commerce. During the radioactive waste disposal process, the codes are recorded properly from an occupational safety and employer’s liability point of view, and the tracking of dangerous goods is assured in accordance with strict legal requirements. Moreover, users can now comply with the documentation requirements of the German Radiation Protection Ordinance.
Note: This article is based on a talk given in late March by Erik Kisant at KONTEC 2019 in Dresden, on “Recording warehousing movements with the aid of 2D code scanners and electronic consignment notes”. Detailed information about KONTEC 2019 is available at www.kontec-symposium.de.
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