LLNL and Argon Electronics Make Radiation Field Traning for Front-Line Workers More Realistic

Award Year 

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Argon Electronics (U.K.) Ltd. have partnered to commercialize the Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS), an ultra-realistic radiation simulator for training emergency responders.  (more)

Responders to a suspected act of nuclear or radiological terrorism or accident rely on radiation detectors to assess the threat and respond appropriately. However, interpretation of data collected is nuanced and requires clear understanding of equipment and the impact of different scenarios on performance. For example, some detectors show only the magnitude of the hazard or the presence of contamination. Others identify the radioactive isotope. All are affected by the details of the scenario. 

Because radiation is invisible, realistic detector-specific training is critical. Previously, training with high-hazard radioactive materials was accomplished only at specialized facilities not generally available to most emergency responders. Responders need the ability to train with their own equipment against the most realistic hazards in the locations where they are expected to respond. LLNL RaFTS technology makes this possible.

RaFTS can connect to radiation detection instruments of any type — and eventually from any manufacturer — generating signals indistinguishable from a real radiation source. Training for radiation emergencies can occur without risking unnecessary radiation exposure. RaFTS also eliminates the expense and transportation risk of training with radioactive materials.

RaFTS represents a paradigm shift in emergency response training, revolutionizing the way responders learn to detect and identify radioactive threats and perform their other operations. 

Moving this technology from lab to market required the dedicated effort and coordination of LLNL’s Innovation and Partnerships Office (IPO) and technical team to secure development opportunities and increasing levels of commercialization funding. The team carefully vetted potential partners over several years to secure a commercialization plan that would make RaFTS as widely available as possible to the first responder community, while minimizing the potential for any redesign or reengineering required of equipment manufacturers.

In 2019, Argon Electronics signed a two-year, $2.5 million Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to make RaFTS market-ready; an exclusive license followed in 2020. LLNL’s IPO could have licensed the technology to only one radiation detection instrument manufacturer, but that strategy would have constrained RaFTS to a limited number of instrument makes/models. By partnering with an internationally positioned developer and manufacturer of hazardous material detector simulators — U.K.-based Argon Electronics — the partnership ensures that the greatest number of users will benefit from this unique training tool.

Argon is developing versions of RaFTS to work with instruments of different types and from various manufacturers through a common interface to be standardized across the instrument manufacturing community. In the future, the RaFTS concept is expected to extend to instruments and scenarios involving chemicals or other hazards.

Team members 
Dr. Annemarie Meike, LLNL, Dr. Greg White, LLNL, Dr. Steven Kreek, LLNL, Josh Oakgrove, LLNL, Dan Bower, LLNL, Steven Pike, Argon Electronics (UK) Ltd., and Phil Dunn, Argon Electronics (UK) Ltd.