Portsmouth Site tests radiation-detecting drone

November 2, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
A radiation detection drone was tested at the Portsmouth site in southern Ohio. (Photo: DOE)

Through a collaborative effort between the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and the state of Ohio, a drone outfitted with radiation detectors underwent testing recently at the site of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant for potential future use.

The testing collected data for the Ohio Department of Health to further develop its procedures and policies.

“The Portsmouth site has the radioactive source materials while the Ohio Department of Health has the drones,” said Tom Hines, the Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office’s nuclear safety oversight lead. “We’re hoping to follow ODH’s lead and incorporate this into the DOE emergency management program. The potential to use a drone to detect chemicals following an accidental release would be a highly valuable asset for the DOE response capability.”

A technician operates a drone at the Portsmouth site in a test effort to collect data for potential future use by the DOE and the state of Ohio. (Photo: DOE)

The equipment: The drone has video and photographic capabilities and can connect wirelessly to a laptop. Data can also be shared through a smartphone app.

What’s next? The data collected through the testing will be analyzed to determine if the technology is beneficial for use at the DOE’s cleanup sites.

They said it: “This event allowed ODH to utilize radioactive source material they would not normally have access to,” said Rob Litten, source control coordinator for Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, the DOE's decontamination and decommissioning contractor for the Portsmouth site. “This increased the scope of their testing and confirmed the detection capabilities of the drones and detection equipment.”

Kevin Banks, nondestructive assay oversight with Enterprise Technical Assistance Services, the Portsmouth site’s technical support contractor, said, “ODH’s initial goal was to be able to create an exclusion zone with their technology in the event an accident containing radioactive material occurred. Prior to today’s event, they had not been able to test the capabilities of their equipment due to their limited radioactive source access.”

Notes: Personnel would be prohibited from entering an exclusion zone due to an accident involving radioactive material.

The Ohio Department of Transportation supported the testing.

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