IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) – The nuclear threat and fallout became a harsh reality as Russian shells hit the vicinity of the Kherson nuclear power plant early in the conflict in Ukraine. But as always, the INL team is at the forefront of research and development.
A new technology developed by INL has just hit the market to help first responders respond to a nuclear disaster or attack. It is called the colorimetric detection of actinides or CoDeAc.
“CoDeAc will be a game-changer for the military and first responders. It will allow them to carry something that isn’t a big, heavy instrument,” said INL Sr. Research Scientist Cathy Riddle, Ph.D. “Anyone who has seen an army in full gear knows that everything is heavy enough. The CoDeAc is a very small, lightweight backpack that can determine low levels of uranium and plutonium in under a minute.”
It works like a swimming pool dipstick or a pregnancy test. The solution is sprayed on surfaces, and if the chemical comes into contact with nuclear contamination, it changes color, purple for uranium and pink for plutonium.
“Imagine, you have … an explosion in the center of a large city. You’re going to have foot casualties. You’re going to have no idea where the radioactivity is spread,” Dr. Riddle said. “The first responders are going to come in, they’re going to start testing with CoDeAk, and instead of just having an area of ten squares … you might actually only have one square area contaminated right now.”
Researchers at INL and CoDeAk solutions believe the technology could help first responders avoid potentially radioactive landmines.
The application of the technology is not limited to first responders. CoDeAk will help workers avoid disasters in the future of nuclear energy.
“If you have a Small Modular Reactor, you have a Nuclear Power Plant. If you get the routine maintenance guys to check, swipe, with a CoDeAk tool or a damp washcloth, they can see if there’s a pinhole leak or before they even start the reactor, Some welds might not work. They can run those tests and they can fix the problem before it becomes a major problem.”
According to Dr. Riddle, CoDeAc is already being prepared for military and first responders in the US, UK, and Ukraine. The solution is already on the market and in high demand.