Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Drinking water protected from radioactive contamination

Water treatment works can be subject to contamination by radioactivity, be it an accident or a deliberate malicious act. An EU-funded initiative addressed this threat by developing a system that continuously monitors water supply.
Drinking water protected from radioactive contamination
Current national legislation on tap water in European countries requires laboratory tests for radioactivity. However, this can take a full day, making the process unsuitable for monitoring contamination levels, especially in emergency situations.

The aim of the TAWARA_RTM (Tap water radioactivity real time monitor) project was to improve the security of drinking water through real-time measurement of alpha and beta radioactivity in water. Based on radioactivity limits set down by EU legislation, this would help determine if rapid intervention is required.

A demonstrator prototype for a real-time monitoring system was designed, built and tested. The complete platform included a real-time monitoring system, a spectroscopic system, and an information and communication system that was designed to also include chemical and biological sensors in future.

In the TAWARA_RTM prototype, radioactivity monitoring occurs at the water distribution point with a second detection device placed at the intake point. This will help prevent contamination being introduced into the waterworks in the event of a terrorist attack.

When radioactivity thresholds are exceeded, an alarm is triggered and a warning message sent to the water plant management to verify whether water distribution should be halted. Simultaneously, gamma spectroscopy is used to identify the type of contamination and choose relevant counter-measures. The threat to the population is also established and a report produced for the civil authorities.

The prototype was installed at a water treatment plant in Warsaw, Poland. The site was selected as one of the rivers bringing water to the plant is near the Polish National Nuclear Waste Storage site, while another river comes from the Chernobyl region. Feedback from the end-user during the demonstration resulted in a number of improvements to the information and communication platform.

The TAWARA_RTM prototype will benefit water treatment plants, both in its current configuration and as a smaller-scale mobile system by providing rapid safety monitoring and emergency response to contamination of the water supply.

Related information


Radioactivity, tap water, TAWARA_RTM, real time monitoring, demonstrator prototype
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