Realising a standardised data exchange format for radiation monitoring instrumentation
To better protect European citizens in case of emergencies, radiation monitoring networks have adopted digital radiation detection devices. Such digital devices offer fast distribution of radiation data and improved scalability compared to analogue devices. However, the process of adopting these newer devices was complicated by the need to manage the sometimes-incompatible proprietary data formats that are designed to distribute measurement data between devices and networks. Proprietary formats also acted to limit choices of hardware and software, while for hardware manufacturers, the need to devise unique formats added to development costs.
A requirement for standardisation was raised by the Societal and Citizen Security technical committee of the European Standardisation Organisation CEN, that was mandated in 2011 by DG HOME to perform a gap analysis and prioritisation of the security landscape in Europe.
The EMRP project Metrology for New Generation Nuclear Power Plants developed a candidate measurement signal to digital format for digital detectors, as the basis of a proposed new standard to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This resulted in a draft standard, that included provision for location information and other data from any kind of sensor, and could support applications such as drones and robots, that might offer an improved type of vehicle for emergency or routine monitoring.
This EMPIR project developed the standard right through from draft to publication, supported by five equipment manufacturers and one university. In October 2016, a New Work Item was proposed to the IEC Technical Committee 45 ‘Nuclear Instrumentation’, accompanied by a draft developed by the consortium. This committee accepted the proposal and appointed experts, including two project partners (NPL and JRC). At a working group meeting in March 2016, comments were discussed, and solutions agreed. A June 2016 stakeholder workshop held at the JRC in Geel, Belgium, ironed out some technical aspects of the standard and some hardware and software implementation issues. These were included in a first Committee Draft standard approved in January 2017. Comments were addressed in a second Committee Draft, presented at the main committee meeting in Shanghai in October 2017, circulated to National Committees in January 2018.
Finally, in October 2018 IEC published the international standard IEC 63047, specifying a data format for list-mode digital data acquisition for use in radiation detection and measurement.
The JRC later field-tested the standard using a mobile demonstrator device made from off-the-shelf components including a single-board computer, a spectrometric radiation detector and a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver. This verified compliance, finding data collected from the GNSS receiver accurate to a few centimetres while moving at up to 3 metres per second. Fraunhofer FKIE later successfully tested an integration of the device and robotics software, mounted on an unmanned ground vehicle, considered rugged enough for in-field radiation monitoring. In addition, at least one nuclear spectroscopy instrument manufacturer has promoted the capability of its data acquisition and analysis software to create and export data using the IEC 63047 format, showing the standard has started to support interoperability in the market.