Pipe Explorer System


The Pipe Explorerª is a system used to carry sensors into pipes to detect radioactive contamination on the interior surfaces. In the past, only the exterior portions of pipe systems could be surveyed. The system consists of an airtight, flexible membrane inside a canister. One side of the membrane has a tether, and sensors and detection devices can be attached. The canister is then attached to one end of the pipe being inspected. As the canister is pressurized, the membrane inverts inside the pipe. The tether attached to the protective membrane tows along the detectors and their cabling. Once the survey is completed, the canister is decompressed to retrieve the detectors. Sensors that have been demonstrated with the system include gamma-ray detectors, beta-ray detectors, alpha-ray detectors, video cameras, and pipe locators. If contamination is found, the potentially exposed membrane must be replaced, and possibly treated as radioactive waste.

Limitations and Concerns

The system cannot be used in pipes with standing water or significant debris.

The Pipe Explorer does not differentiate isotopes

Some membranes must be disposed of as low-level radioactive waste. However, the technology should reduce the total amount of low-level radioactive waste because some uncontaminated pipes would otherwise be treated as radioactive.


This technology is used to detect radioactivity within pipes.

Technology Development Status

The Pipe Explorer system has been demonstrated at numerous DOE sites. It is available as a commercial service for alpha, gamma, beta, and video surveys. The system is capable of deploying in pipes as small as 2-in. diameter and up to 250-ft long. The technology is commercially available through Science and Engineering Associates, Inc., (SEA).

Web Links



Other Resources and Demonstrations

Although the initial demonstration pointed out that the pipes must be accessible and therefore pipes embedded in concrete or underground would have to be excavated, the 2004 Decommissioning Handbook by Thomas LaGuardia states, ÒThe main value of the explorer is its ability to free-release embedded pipe without excavating the pipe.Ó