IFIC and ENRESA develop innovative technology to characterise radioactivity stored in nuclear waste bulks

radioactive waste containers
radioactive waste containers
The Institute of Corpuscular Physics (IFIC, UV-CSIC) and the National Radioactive Waste Company (ENRESA) have developed a system to visualise the activity of waste stored in nuclear safety bulks. It is a technique that combines gamma ray tomography and artificial vision. Its portability and independence from the geometry of the radioactive waste allow complex tomographic reconstructions to be carried out, thus optimising nuclear waste classification processes.

One of the main activities of the nuclear industry is the characterisation of radioactive waste based on the detection of gamma radiation. Large volumes of waste are classified based on their average activity inside the containers, but radioactivity often exceeds the maximum permitted by regulatory bodies in specific parts of the container.

Currently, radiation detection is carried out using clinical tomography techniques, based on static systems in which the geometry of the object to be observed and also that of the detector are fixed and well known. These systems are not portable and depend on transporting patients to the locations where the detection systems are located. However, in the case of stored radioactive waste, in which the geometry varies and its transport is complex, the situation gets complicated.

The Institute of Corpuscular Physics - a joint centre of the University of Valencia (UV) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) - and the National Radioactive Waste Company (ENRESA) have developed a new nuclear waste management model that provides a solution to these problems. It is a portable, geometry-independent tomographic system that allows three-dimensional reconstruction of images for the detection of gamma radiation.

This system uses a gamma radiation camera and a visible camera that, combined, allow radioactivity to be visualised using augmented reality (AR) and computer vision techniques; a disruptive innovation in the nuclear industry that will allow the real activity of radioactive waste to be precisely detailed, which will optimise the classification process for its subsequent treatment, its correct storage and its definitive control.

"This technique allows us to develop transportable devices that can be easily maneuvered by workers in the sector and that guarantee precise measurements of waste activity, making the invisible visible", comments Salvador Tortajada, co-author of the work. "This means safer management of radioactive waste and reduces uncertainties regarding control and management by future generations", adds Francisco Albiol, CSIC researcher at the IFIC and also co-

The collaboration between Enresa and IFIC for the development of the new technology has already generated two doctoral theses, one on research on environment recognition applied to resources and another, of an industrial nature, on volumetric evaluation systems. These, in turn, have generated two new industrial patents.


A portable geometry-independent tomographic system for gamma-ray, a next generation of nuclear waste characterization . Salvador Tortajada , Francisco Albiol , Luis Caballero , Alberto Albiol & JosÚ Luis LeganÚs-Nieto. Scientific Reports