Growing society’s energy needs cause the
development and utilization of nuclear power in
combination with nuclear fuel recycling. Nuclear
energy is very important in the sectors of industry,
agriculture and medicine. Countries with nuclear
reactors need to transport radioactive materials to
reprocessing plants prior of storage of residuals.
Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that sea
transportation of radioactive materials will be
increasingly involved. Coastal countries, including
maritime industry in general, have to provide
transportation of radioactive materials that include
irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and high-level
radioactive wastes by ships in safe, reliable and
secure manner.
Today nuclear power provides approximately 10%
of the world’s electricity. Due to the clime change,
80% of all electricity will need to be clean and low
carbon by 2050. Therefore, nuclear capacity should be
considerably increased to meet climate goals. Russia,
India and China are currently leaders in expanding
nuclear power production. For instance, China has
now nine reactors under construction. Finland,
United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Bangladesh and
Turkey are also building new reactors. Currently, in
total 450 nuclear power reactors operate worldwide
However, nuclear power is a controversial energy
source. Plans for increasing nuclear capacity are
always connected with huge and high risk
investments. The Londonderry (Pennsylvania) in
Modelling Radioactive Materials Tracking in Sea Transportation by
RFID Technology
S. Bauk
Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa
ABSTRACT: The demand for radioactive materials has been increasing over the past decades, and therefore it is
to be expected that the need for radioactive cargo transportation shall also increase. The Radio Frequency and
Identification (RFID) technology has become the most spread for tracking and tracing radioactive cargo in road
and rail transportation. The easy installation, simple and fast data transfer from the sensors through RFID
readers have provided a safe and easy way of using this technology. A variety of sensors, such as seal,
temperature, humidity, shock, gamma radiation and neutron detector are the key, but not the only ones of the
complex system that is responsible for the safe transportation of radioactive cargo. By the appropriate software,
on-site databases and secured Internet, the operator has insight into the condition of the radioactive material
inside the containers without the risk of exposure to radiation, and without compromising the safety and
security of the data exchange at any time. Thanks to the latest-generation crypto tools, security is additionally
guaranteed. Within the context, this article presents a model of radioactive cargo tracking by RFID technology
in sea transportation. The model is based on the ARG-US RFID system successfully deployed in road and rail
transportation and its possible implementation at ships specialized for nuclear cargo transport.
the International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 14
Number 4
December 2020
DOI: 10.12716/1001.14.04.29
1979, Chernobyl (Ukraine) in 1986 and Fukushima
(Japan) in 2011 accidents have raised serious safety
concerns. Consequently, several countries moved
away from nuclear power, citing safety risks and
financial costs.
Small modular reactors as an alternative solution
allow combining nuclear power with renewables, i.e.,
sources of energy that are not depleted by use, such
as water, wind, solar power, etc. The environmental
consciousness is generally rising and it becomes
evident that energy needs could not be satisfied in the
future by sole use of coal or natural gas. Besides for
producing electrical power, nuclear energy is used for
variety of research, industry, agriculture, and
medicine purposes.
With increase of nuclear capacity worldwide, it is
to be expected that the need for massive radioactive
materials (RAM) transportation will increase.
Thereby, sea transportation shall undoubtedly play
an important role in satisfying requirements for
irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and radioactive
waste [27].
In this article, we focused on literature review in
the field of RAM transportation by means of sea, road
and rail transport (Section 2). An overview of the
ARG-US project achievements, when it comes to
tracking and tracing RAM in road and rail
transportation, is presented (Section 3). Then, an
attempt to conceive a similar model of RAM tracking
in sea transportation is presented at high level of
abstraction (Section 4). Finally, conclusion and some
directions for further investigation in this domain are
given (Section 5).
There is a scarcity of research studies on nuclear
cargo transportation available online. Below are
shortly presented some of the articles, which have
been found after an extensive web search.
Legislative framework of maritime transportation
of irradiated nuclear fuel (INF), plutonium and
radioactive wastes together with widely expressed
concern that an accident may occur to a ship carrying
such cargo has been studied in [27]. The same study
reviews the legal issues associated with the right of
emergency access to a foreign seaport by a ship
transporting nuclear materials. It also considers
whether seabed characteristics should be assessed in
determining the routing of such ships, bearing in
mind that ocean floor topography and seawater depth
will be crucial in determining whether recovery of
nuclear materials would be practicable in the event of
ship sinking.
The description of ship carrying nuclear cargo
construction requirements has been given in [5]. This
paper presents INF Code requirements due to the
ship’s construction, fire safety measures, electrical
power supply, cargo stowage and segregation,
emergency planning and security measures.
World Nuclear Transport Institute (WNTI) has
published a fact sheet on the transport of nuclear fuel
[28]. This study gives relevant data on the nuclear
fuel cycle, front-end operations, fuel fabrication,
reprocessing, transport packaging, sea transport,
purpose-built vessels, etc.
A model of radioactive transportation accident
response in Japan has been presented in [26]. The
authors have given an overview of the tracking
system for radioactive material transport including
sensor unit, communication network, central
monitoring center and sub-terminals, which provide
trend viewer, abnormal situation detection support
system, current situation and next step during the
The authors of the references [6;7;25] have given
description of applying RFID technology in nuclear
material-cargo management. They have provided
prototype tag design and production, prototype
application software including graphical user
interface and preliminary test results in terms of read
range, sensor performance, memory read/write, seal
sensor, battery life, etc. It is worth to mention that
reference [23] gives a general insight in RFID
technology and its applications.
The authors of the reference [18] have dealt with
mathematical modeling and simulations, based on
special tran function theory (STFT), in estimating
temperature of plutonium in transportation.
The authors of [14] have investigated efficiency of
detectors for intercepting illicit trafficking of
fissionable material in container cargo in maritime
transportation. They have suggested tagged neutron
inspection system in addition to container content X-
ray scan, etc.
In 2008 Argonne National Laboratory (Chicago,
Illinois, USA) Packaging Certification Program (PCP)
team has developed RFID tracking and monitoring
system for the management of RAM packages during
storage and transportation [24]. This system, called
ARG-US, is composed of appropriate hardware
modification, application software, secured database,
protected web access, and irradiation experimental
measurements. The B fissile material drums (models
9975, 9979 and ES-3100) certified by US Department
of Energy and US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
have been used for testing the prototype. The
demonstration of the system successfully integrated
Global Positioning System (GPS) for vehicles and
railway wagons positioning, including their RAM
cargo, satellite and cellular General Radio Package
Service (GPRS) wireless communications, the RFID
tags attached to the RAM drums, and Geographic
Information System (GIS) technology in geo-fencing
purposes [17], etc. The RFID tags and GPS technology
in combination with GIS enable dedicated software to
trigger a response when a mobile device enters or
leaves certain geographical area. The RFID in
combination with GPS generate an alarm in the case
of an incident with the RAM drums. An ARG-US
sensor’ unit sealed at each RAM drum is presented in
Figure 1. The ARG-US tags enable sophisticated
sensing, monitoring and communication capabilities