LLNL Team Wins R&D 100 Award for Radioactive Waste Imaging System

LIVERMORE, Calif. — A group of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees, led by Harry Martz and Pat Roberson, were recently awarded an R&D 100 Award for their project, Waste Inspection Tomography using Non-Destructive Assay (WIT-NDA).

Many industries dispose of toxic or radioactive waste by sealing it into 55-gallon drums for safe handling and disposal. However, once those drums have been sealed, scientists often want to know what is inside without having to open the drum again.

The award-winning project allows scientists to "see" the contents of a waste barrel after it has been sealed by using a technology not unlike a CT-scan. Old techniques simply measured the amount of radiation being emitted and absorption from the barrel in segments. To be more precise, WIT-NDA uses two measurements over small volume elements to determine the radioactive potential of a barrel. The first looks at the attenuation of the barrel’s contents. The second measurement is of the radiation that is being emitted, and more importantly, from which part of the barrel it is coming. Similar work has been done in the past, but Martz and Roberson wanted to make sure that their system was more versatile.

"The problem with work done in the past is that people assumed the waste was homogeneous," Martz said. "We knew it wasn’t, that it was a jumble of waste inside the barrels."

After testing at LLNL, Bio-Imaging Research, Inc. became interested in the project. The technology was transferred to them and installed in a mobile trailer. WIT/NDA was then tested and demonstrated at various DOE sites, where it passed several blind performance tests. WIT-NDA has spent the last year traveling the country performing waste assays for DOE and other corporations.

The R&D 100 Awards, sponsored by R&D Magazine, were established in 1963. The judging process for the awards has been designed for one purpose only: to pick the 100 most technologically significant new products from among the entries. Over the years, the R&D 100 Awards have recognized winning products with such household names as the flashcube (1965), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), the printer (1986), the Nicoderm antismoking patch (1992), and Taxol, an anticancer drug (1993).

Since 1978, LLNL researchers have captured 82 R&D-100 awards.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Sept. 18, 2000


Steve Wampler
[email protected]