Published 02-03-2021
| Article appears in April 2021 Issue

Human-free way to handle radioactive waste

02-03-2021
The waste will be transported through a combination of conveyors, pallets (including 908 individual pallet locations), racking, and Swisslog’s S12 Vectura crane.

Nuclear waste is extremely dangerous when mishandled and can lead to untold human and environmental damages.

That’s why Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which produces nuclear medicine vital to the Australian health industry, turned to Swisslog’s automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) to handle the task of handling waste.

The Federal Government campus in Lucas Heights, NSW, about 40km south of the Sydney CBD, will utilise Swisslog’s advanced and proven technology to safely move 200 litre drums of low-level contact handled radioactive waste.

The waste will be transported through a combination of conveyors, pallets (including 908 individual pallet locations), racking, and Swisslog’s S12 Vectura crane.

ANSTO conducts some of Australia’s most important national scientific research and operates much of Australia’s landmark and national infrastructure, including one of the world’s most modern nuclear research reactors, OPAL.

“The technology solution for ANSTO has a number of additional safety benefits, specifically designed for this unique application,” says Swisslog Head of Sales and Consulting, Mr Sean Ryan.

“We included a drum inspection station, from which ANSTO will continue to accurately monitor drum characteristics. The entire system provides end-to-end traceability to optimise safety, tracking and efficiency,” said Mr Ryan.

In addition to safety benefits, ANSTO’s new ASRS optimises use of available space by stacking pallets in a compact grid-like racking area, to make the best use of the available footprint of the site.

Swisslog’s ASRS is seamlessly integrated with ANSTO’s Warehouse Control System (WCS) to provide receipt and inspection timestamp tracking (such as compliance to pallet, weight dimensions and auto-receipt), zoning, accurate reporting, and an intuitive interface with the host system.

Paula Berghofer, General Manager, Waste Management Services, ANSTO, says that in order to optimise safety and ensure the responsible, traceable management of radioactive waste at the facility, “the drums will be inspected periodically, and radiation levels will continue to be monitored.

“These drums will be housed in the ASRS and then will be processed through a super-compactor into over packs. It is intended that they would eventually be destined for Australia’s National Radioactive Waste Management Facility once it is established.”

ANSTO manages radioactive waste safely and in accordance with all standards set by several regulators including the independent nuclear regulator, ARPANSA.

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