URENCO on Safeguards Trends, 2009 Edition

The 2009 URENCO report about which I posted the other day contains some claims about trends in safeguards implementation. Obviously, these observations may not currently apply.

Remote Monitoring:

The physical presence of inspectors on nuclear sites is invaluable. Many ideas are being discussed for installing safeguards monitoring equipment in GCEP’s – for example to make better use of inspectorates’ resources – but there will always be benefits in people inspecting nuclear sites. These include the direct human interaction between operators and inspectorates to avoid misinterpretations, and the ability of intelligent inspectors to spot potential indicators of misuse of a GCEP. 

Equipment Replacing Inspectors:

Will more equipment reduce total costs? Some claimed that costs for safeguards verification would be reduced by partially replacing inspectors by monitoring equipment. Others doubted that that would be so: they thought that equipment developers always underestimate the lifetime cost of equipment – particularly when such equipment is still in the early phase of development. 

Various Other Safeguards Technologies:

Cascade header enrichment monitor (CHEM).This instrument has been used to measure the U235 enrichment in cascade header pipes during limited frequency unannounced access (LFUA) inspections for many years in Japan and UK (although the instrument in use in UK became unreliable and was withdrawn in 2008). The instrument is used to confirm the presence of LEU. Whilst delegates could see that CHEM was useful for detecting HEU production, many thought that the instrument seemed cumbersome to use and that the effort was hardly worth the limited information gained from it. Nevertheless, others were in favour of upgrading the current instrument, to improve its usability, by replacing liquid nitrogen cooling by an electrically-powered cryostat. 

Current continuous enrichment monitor (CEMO). This instrument has been used to continuously to measure the U235 enrichment in 22 cascade product header pipes in UK for many years. Many thought that the instrument was too expensive, and that its old software made it difficult for inspectors to use. Most seemed to prefer a modified version of CEMO, which would be installed on a unit, rather than on each cascade

Flow monitoring. An instrument could be developed to monitor the flow of UF6 gas in a pipe. Most were not interested in this idea, because they thought in unnecessary or too intrusive to monitor the flows of UF6 in pipes, or because the flows could be measured more easily by load cell monitoring. 

Radio frequency identification devices (RFID’s). In theory, a RFID could be fitted to each UF6 cylinder to track its location on a GCEP site. There are many different types of commercially available RFID’s, and these have been tested extensively in recent years – both in the laboratory and in the field. The conference generally felt that such a device held promise for the longer-term future, but that all of the current RFID’s had limitations which would prevent their routine use in the near term. 

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