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Protect your nation: a complete, integrated radiological detection system

12/01/2023

Globally, the probability of a radiological or nuclear (R&N) event occurring is on the rise. Current geopolitical unrest, heavier reliance on nuclear power and weakening international frameworks against weapons of mass destruction all point towards deliberate and accidental radiological and nuclear events becoming more likely. Nuclear disasters from the past such as Fukushima and Chernobyl demonstrate the cascade of short and long-term consequences that occur when decision-makers act reactively, without up-to-date data at local, national and international scales. Incidents such as these can quickly spiral out of control without the necessary strategies or technology in place to monitor and manage them before, during and after they occur. This is especially significant where there are lots of international borders in close proximity.

To keep such devastation largely in the past, preventative action must now be prioritized. All decision-makers both on and off the site of an incident must be equipped with actionable intelligence to coordinate rapid, context-specific action. To achieve this, the approach must be holistic. The R&N incident must be detected, identified and mapped using concrete data from a range of reliable technology. From this, further action can then be taken to minimise harm to all those potentially affected by the event. Prepared responses can be set in motion, such as delivering the appropriate public message to minimise panic and contamination. Suitably equipped responders with modern PPE, equipment and training can also be deployed.

Unlike other CBRN threats, R&N threats are more predictable. As a result, responses to different scenarios can be prepared well in advance of an actual event. Decision-makers just need the right information and technology to know exactly what responses to implement quickly where and when. Complete situational awareness and successful deployment of the prepared responses relies upon a widespread and technically capable early warning system. If an R&N event occurs, essential spectral data from each deployed static, mobile or handheld detector can be streamed to a single platform, accessible from anywhere. As a result, responses on local, national and international scales can be coordinated and carried out in the appropriate timeframe. Decision-makers would need access to the data showing what, where, when and how a threat was occurring. Radiological data before and after the event is also essential to understand what has changed and continues to change in real-time, and, therefore, what needs to or can be done to stabilise the situation and possibly return to normal.

Static Detectors

A key element of monitoring and managing R&N incidents is rapid response spectrometry. To make crucial, time-dependent decisions, local and national resilience networks must be constantly updated on the situation, no matter how remote the incident.

With networkable Static Node R detectors, radiological data is relayed to a cloud-based monitoring network every second. This self-contained system detects and identifies gamma and neutron radionuclides in real time. Chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals can be detected as well. Easily installed and rapidly relocatable, these ruggedised detectors can be stationed anywhere, no matter how remote or war-torn the location is. Border posts and critical infrastructure e.g. industry plants, electricity-generating plants, around cities, communication nodes or key transport facilities can all be under constant surveillance. Robust satellite communications and flexible battery options reduce the risk of any interruptions. The pole mountings for detectors, accessories and cable routing for power and communications are all provided in a purpose-built, weatherproof case, which can be easily set up anywhere in under 15 minutes.

The Static Node R can be left anywhere to continuously collect spectral data, unattended

 

Handheld and Wearable Detectors

As well as equipping remote decision-makers with effective intelligence, those on the site of the incident must be rapidly alerted to any R&N threats or changes. As part of everyday equipment, the radiation detectors must be small and lightweight, but with no compromise on functionality. Instant alerts and spectral data are necessary for the rapid responses of both those on site and distant decision-makers. Knowledge of the specific radioisotope or mixture present is essential for the formation of more context-specific, accurate operational decisions and responses. This is something previous, dated technologies like Geiger Muller tubes or dosimeters are not capable of. For example, by identifying the half-lives of the radioisotopes present, decision-makers can determine when the contaminated area is safe for re-entry to begin a clean-up. Quick decisions must made by both parties to ensure context-specific action is taken as soon as possible, minimising contamination and harm caused to responders and others at risk from the incident.

Not only must the data be instant, but the alerts reliable. Kromek’s personal radiation detector, the D3M, has an ultra-low false alarm rate so users can be assured their mission will only be interrupted in the instance of a genuine R&N threat. This unnoticeable addition to everyday equipment alerts users to the presence of gamma and neutron sources at a rate twice as fast as the industry standard. With its superior sensitivity, even sources with very low levels of activity are unlikely to be missed. Although isotope ID is not directly displayed to the user, the D3M can store over 10,000 spectral data files with variables such as dose reconstruction over time. Specialist CBRN teams can extract this data to understand the appropriate next steps e.g. how to best treat contaminated individuals, items and areas.

For context-specific plans to be brought to action, both individuals and authorities on and off site need to gain and share the knowledge of the exact isotope or isotope mixture present. Optimised for usability, Kromek’s D3S ID gamma and neutron radiation detector constantly searches for radioactive sources. Once one has been identified, it delivers real-time isotope ID to the user via a paired phone or earpiece as well as to remote decision-makers via rapid reachback. Spectral data is obtained in seconds over a large focal area from a hand, belt, drone or vehicle, four times faster than the RIID standard. The D3S NET is more immediate in its transfer of spectral data to those situated remotely. Data is transferred via networked connections for real-time situational awareness and to support coordinated responses across entire cities, regions and other complex environments.

The wearable D3S ID used to attain isotope ID in real-time from the belt or hand of an operator

 

The D5 RIID, the smallest and lightest RIID on the market, also rapidly identifies and pinpoints radiological threats, even those in highly masked environments or from mixed or weak sources. Localisation mode allows for the exact location of shielded sources to be disclosed, enabling action to be taken to reduce an R&N incident from escalating.

On-site operator safety should always be a priority when investigating possible sources. When mounted on a robot/UGV, the D5 RIID is ready to be deployed into any high-risk environment at any time ahead of any person. The remote mode of the detector allows operators stationed at a safe distance to detect and identify any radioisotopes present in a defined area or suspect package. Isotopic data is delivered in real-time to a wired or wirelessly connected device at a distance. This includes isotope ID, high accuracy dose measurements for gamma and neutron radiation, exact counts per second and all energies present across spectra. Those situated remotely can also be alerted to the situation, with ANSI N42.42 files sent directly from the field via rapid reachback. The D5 RIID can be integrated into any existing network and, as a result, constant situational awareness can be maintained by those on and off site, and quick in-field adjudication made possible. On-site adjudications with minimal exposure and reduced risk of contamination to the operators opens the door to rapid action being taken, sensitive to the context of the R&N event.

The D5 RIID alerting a user to high dose rates of gamma or neutron radiation, along with isotope ID, so context-specific action can be taken

 

Aerial Detectors and Large-Scale Surveys

The ability to conduct aerial or ground surveys supports the safety of responders, distanced operators and civilians alike. By mapping out the location of hotspots with detectors fixed onto drones or vehicles, such as the D3S ID or the D5 RIID, safe evacuation routes can be identified. It is also important to consider that the state of the environment and atmosphere after such an incident is rarely stagnant. For instance, the presence of wind and water can further disperse radioactive material. Therefore, the ability to continuously monitor the situation with near-real time data is fundamental; responses already in motion can quickly be adapted to maintain control of the situation. Those operating drones and analysing the data must be able to do so remotely, minimising further contamination and putting no more lives at risk.

The Kromek AARM drone-borne solution allows aerial surveys to be routinely completed to delineate the areas affected by radiation and map the different radiation intensities, all from a safe distance. Repeated flight paths ensure the affected area is consistently monitored overtime, with any changes identified allowing the adaption and progression of planned strategies.

Any confidential data collected cannot be intercepted with the AARM Lite, as it is transferred exclusively via encrypted one-to-one radio communications. The recorded data, however, can be uploaded to a secure cloud server or sent to select individuals as a single file post-flight, so remote decision-makers are still informed of the overarching situation and how it may change overtime.

Image of the map data captured showing the flight lines over the Red Forest

Bristol University were able to complete a repeated set of flight paths using the AARM to investigate the positioning of radiation hotspots in the Red Forest, Chernobyl

 

Networkability Completes the Solution

This integrated, radiological solution is complete by proactively establishing and maintaining monitoring networks on local, national and international scales. Integrating the data from all connected detectors to a central hub gives way to a comprehensive view of the entire situation, before during and after the R&N event. A quickly established radiation monitoring network would provide a means of mapping any changes as a function of time, gaining an understanding of original baselines to be restored, where the best areas are for clean-ups or sampling and allocating hazard areas. Responses already in motion can also be adapted to maintain control of the situation, and any illicit transport of radioactive material can be tracked and the material seized in advance of an attack. Ultimately, remote decision-makers can coordinate any necessary responses with shared actionable intelligence, viewing the data from each detector positioned throughout a target area or region in near real-time.

The ability to implement integrated local and national responses is already recognized as essential for nuclear or radiological countermeasures by the UK Government in their ‘UK Government Nuclear Emergency Planning and Response Guidance – Preparedness’. Highlighted in the document is the REPPIR Schedule 7 Part III. This states the minimum information required in an off-site emergency plan should enable local authorities and associated resilience partners to: ‘quickly alert and call out emergency responders, coordinate resources necessary to implement the plan, undertake off-site mitigation actions to protect the public’. In the Preparedness document itself, it is also stressed that those responding to the emergency in its acute phase need to make urgent decisions on countermeasures, and any delays in these decisions could largely impact the benefit of any actions taken. Therefore, by having a complete early warning system in place with multiple networked detectors, both static and deployable, key spectral data can be relayed to these decision-making authorities in near real-time. From anywhere, their responses can be quickly coordinated and the appropriate protective actions executed in a timeframe short-enough to have the benefits realised. For example, those far-removed from the local area who may be worried they are at risk can be quickly advised on the situation, thus reducing panic.

With geopolitical unrest, conflict and climate change both present and likely to escalate in the future, never has there been a more urgent call for the strengthening of radiological and nuclear global preparedness. Integrating a variety of detectors into a scalable early warning system will help ensure planned countermeasures can be implemented quickly and adapted in the long-term. It is essential that preventative action is carried forward into the future, the level of preparedness to achieve this increasingly recognized and used to advance current strategies and help deploy planned countermeasures effectively.

In summary, yes, Kromek believe a fully integrated radiological detection system is in fact achievable, and can protect your citizens, infrastructure and nation. Do you?

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