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Protecting products and workforce from radiation

If a radioactive gauge is accidentally smelted in the furnace, how will you know? If proper action is not taken immediately there is risk to your personnel as well as your products.

Visual identification of a radioactive source is virtually impossible: sources can be hidden in items such as aircraft parts and gauges; or be in plain sight as previously contaminated, but innocent looking scrap metal. Despite best practices, contaminated feed material continues to enter the supply chain so that steel making operations still experience one to five incidents annually involving the smelting of radioactive material, usually gauges. It is impossible to achieve 100 per cent protection even when a company has a system of detection in place… and if there isn’t a detection system already, what are the costs and the risks?

Where the radioactivity ends up after melting depends on the type of source. For example, Caesium-137 is almost exclusively found in the off-gas dust. Other radioisotopes will contaminate the metal, such as Cobalt-60, infecting that particular melt and all future batches unless the furnace is decontaminated.

The human cost

As with all radiation, it cannot be seen or felt. Without detection and a timely response, the workforce may be subjected to an unnecessary exposure to the radiation. The effects of this exposure can take several hours or even weeks to manifest themselves. By then it is too late, the damage to health has been done.

Financial implications

Information from specialist insurers Aston Lark indicates that if a company supplies radiated metal, their policy probably will not cover their liabilities. Unless they have a Spoiled Melts extension they will be liable to bear all the costs of the damage and subsequent rectification that may run into millions of Euros. 

The solution

Whilst these incidents cannot be completely eradicated, having an early warning system in place, will reduce the impact of an accidental smelting of a radioactive source, both in terms of the human and monetary costs. A vehicle monitoring system will help prevent contaminated scrap entering the facility; further detectors employed strategically around the melt shop furnace and off-gas dust collection areas will provide instant alarms, removing excessive and costly delays in response. This is exactly the premise behind one such system – the RadMelt from RadComm Systems. Centrally controlled and customisable to an individual plant’s response plan, this is the perfect solution for protecting businesses and their most valuable assets – their staff.

Contact: RadComm Systems, Tel: +44 (0) 1562 824406, email: info@radcommgb.com