Nowadays radioactive sources are widely used in medicine, industry and agriculture. Their security has become a growing concern, particularly the potential that such a source could be used as a radioactive dispersal device or “dirty bomb”. The number of potentially dangerous nuclear transports is still high, as demonstrated by trucks containing radioactive material stopped on European roads (Austria, May 2013 – Italy, July 2013). Calls are so growing for more routine radioactive screening. Because of the high risk to citizens’ health if these radiation sources are deliberately or accidentally manipulated (death is possible in less than one hour if the exposure is high), most Western Countries have deployed a set of detection systems and maintain communication networks in order to try to avoid their introduction and spread. However, these systems are mostly set-up at borders (roads, ports, airports and rail controls) and do not cover a large surveillance area but only zonal ‘pinch point’ sites. Moreover they are highly sensitive, expensive, of large dimensions and not at all portable. It is therefore imperative to explore alternative and complementary detection strategies to the systems already in place.

REWARD (Real Time Wide Area Radiation Surveillance System) is the name of a 3 years project, started in December 2011 and partially funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme, developing novel mobile system for real-time, wide-area radiation detection and identification. The project brings together a consortium of eight institutions: three academic partners (Instituto Tecnológico e Nuclear, University of Freiburg and CSIC), two SMEs (Sensing and Control, XIE), two large companies (EDISOFT, Vitrociset) and one final user (Civil Protection Campania). Also three other final users (Spanish Guardia Civil, Civil Protection Catalonia and Italian Fire Brigades) are contributing as Advisory Board members.

The final REWARD product will be a complete radiation monitoring system that can be installed to mobile transport (car, motorbike, trucks, trains, helicopter, etc.) or in buildings/infrastructures across a wide area. The scenarios range from nuclear terrorism threats, lost radioactive sources, radioactive contamination or nuclear accidents. The areas where the system has been deployed will be controlled in real time from a central remote control station. An expert system will continuously analyze the sensor information received from the monitoring tags in order to detect risk situations not predictable through the analysis of data from isolated stations.

REWARD is based on the implementation of gamma radiation and neutrons detectors: one sensor is a CdZnTe detector for gamma radiation with precise energy measurement to identify the emitting isotope; the other sensor is a highly efficient neutron detector based on novel silicon technologies and a converter material. These detectors form the core of a sensing unit (or tag) which includes: a silicon-based neutron detector subsystem, a Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride gamma detector system, a processor to control the whole unit performance and link the data to the communications equipment, the battery system and housing for the whole unit. A wireless communication interface is also integrated to send the data remotely to a monitoring base station as well as a GPS system to calculate the position of the tag.

REWARD tags are small, mobile, portable modular units in the sense that virtually any number of sensing modules in a network is feasible, allowing the flexible adaption of the system to the end user needs. They can be deployed in patrol vehicles, emergency units and in general in any type of mobile equipment. The first prototypes of REWARD sensing unit are now available for the testing campaign in a real environmental scenario (Naples, Italy) and the external communication unit based on GPRS technology is already implemented.

REWARD’s tags targets easy integration and deployment in emergency systems at different levels, self-adapting to in-vehicle communication systems (TETRA, GPRS, etc…) embedded in current emergency, fire or police vehicles. The communication systems will upload geo-referenced radiation information to a central server throughout its own middleware.

The REWARD system incorporates middleware and high-level software to provide web-service interfaces for the exchange of information and an expert system to continuously analyse the information from the radiation sensor and correlate it with historical data in order to generate an alarm when an abnormal situation is detected. Multiple sensing devices and the communication system are neatly coupled to a centralized processing module via a Sensor Abstraction Layer (SAL) component. Neutron and gamma count, collected by the sensors, are used to identify and to calculate the position of the radioactive source from the sensors’ position, through algorithms based on geo-statistical techniques. The collected data are used to build a 2D/3D map of the radiations in the area of interest. A security framework is also developed to ensure protection against unauthorized access to the network and data, ensuring the privacy of the communications and contributing to the overall robustness and reliability of the REWARD system.

On 24th September 2013, REWARD project received a prize as the best Innovative project related to the Not Conventional Threat (NCT) Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear explosives (CBRNe) products. A highly distinguished jury stated that “the developed detection and surveillance system offers a perfect solution for end-users to enhance crucial capabilities in RN analysis, risk communication and surveillance in case of a radiation incident”. During a spectacular ceremony, hosted in Aloft Hotel grand ballroom in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), the winners of the first edition of the NCT CBRNe Awards were announced and REWARD project was granted the NCT CBRNe Innovation Award for the most innovative product, service or research paper.

During the first field tests for the monitoring of radiation, held in Naples on 12th 15th May 2014, the CBRN group of the Italian Fire Brigades deployed the REWARD mobile units inside the cars, provided by the Civil Protection of Campania Region, and two radioactive sources (60Co and 226Ra) were placed in a controlled environment inside the Fire Brigades Headquarter. During the field tests the radioactive background of the area was measured, the radioactive sources were detected and identified with their characteristic spectra and an alarm was forwarded and notified to the operator.

For further information on REWARD project and results from the validation phase, please visit our website www.reward-project.eu. Stay update on the REWARD mobile security system!

Contacts:
Project coordinator: Prof. Manuel Lozano – Email: manuel.lozano@csic.es
Scientific coordinator: Alberto Fernández – Email: alberto.fernandez@sensingcontrol.com
Dissemination Leader: Elena Turco – Email: elena.turco@sensingcontrol.com

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