Stage: Prototype

For years, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has been used in a variety of applications, from passports to inventory tracking in retail environments. Homeland security concerns have heightened the need for sensitive, real-time tracking of thousands of radioactive and hazardous material packages to ensure accountability, safety, security, and worker and public health. Through the support of DOE, Argonne researchers have developed and tested a patented RFID tracking and monitoring technology called ARG-US (which means “watchful guardian”) that will modernize the management of nuclear and

The heart of the ARG-US system is a battery-powered RFID tag that remotely monitors the vital parameters of packages containing sensitive materials in storage and transportation. The ARG-US RFID tag incorporates a suite of sensors for seal integrity, temperature, humidity, shock, radiation and battery strength. New sensors can be added via the tag’s built-in expansion interface. As designed and developed, ARG-US can add an extra layer of security, functionality  and savings to the handling, storage and transport of nuclear and radioactive materials and other sensitive items.

The ARG-US system provides continuous, near-real-time tracking and monitoring of packages during transport, in-transit stops and storage by using multi-functional RFID tags attached to each package, in conjunction with RFID readers, control computers, stand-alone and web-based software, and satellite or cellular-based channels. Two specialized software applications—ARG-US TransPort and ARG-US OnSite—have been developed, providing a powerful, customizable platform for full life-cycle materials management during transport and storage. The system incorporates secure communications, databases, and web services. Together, these features can dramatically increase efficiency while reducing costs associated with nuclear material operations and aging management.

The need for ARG-US technology has grown beyond its initial application of managing nuclear materials as a result of demonstrated performance, and now includes its application to civilian fuel cycles, incident responses, and emergency management.

In April 2011, ARG?US was chosen by an industry panel to receive RFID Journal’s prestigious “Most Innovative Use of RFID” Award. ARG?US was also selected as a finalist to present at the 2011 World’s Best Technology Innovation Marketplace, a preeminent technology forum. In February 2012, the system was featured in a case study in the U.S. for the World Institute for Nuclear Security and the World Nuclear Transport Institute Joint International Best Practice Guide on Electronic Tracking for the Transport of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Materials, Revision 1.0.

Applications and Industries

  • Civilian nuclear fuel cycle industries
  • Hospitals or other areas needing monitoring
  • Oil, gas and hazardous chemicals industries
  • International applications to enhance transparency, materials accountability, safety, security and safeguards


  • Security – ARG-US can monitor thousands of drums 24/7 via secured RF/Ethernet links. The system can also track and monitor drums during transport. Any abnormal situation will trigger an alarm for immediate action. Alarm situations include seal tampering, unauthorized move, high temperature, humidity, shock and radiation. Drum information is stored in tags and archived in local and central servers.
  • Longevity – Tags are resistant to radiation ( ≥ 30 kR) and have long battery life (10 yr)
  • Sensors – Various types of data (seal integrity, temperature, humidity, shock, radiation, battery strength) provide instant alarms, environmental data and event logs.
  • Versatility – Custom software modules (storage and transportation) are user-friendly and can be easily integrated into existing on?site databases. Drum information is stored in tags and archived in local and central servers.
  • Reduced cost