UK first for Costain (2)

5 October 2011

Costain has led the UK with the introduction of a new type of density measurement gauge that both makes the Company greener and frees it from some onerous bureaucracy.

Geotechnical Services Division (GSD) has taken delivery of a new generation of dielectric measuring gauges. By calculating the degree of resistance encountered by an electro-magnetic beam as it passes between two rings, the gauges can measure the density of soil, asphalt or other materials under examination.

The instruments have a self-contained Global Positioning System to provide precise location information, operate on ubiquitous Windows software and can download results electronically. They are also lighter and significantly easier to handle by staff.

The arrival of the new gauges – the first in the UK – has made life considerably simpler for GSD staff as it allowed them to phase out earlier-generation nuclear-powered gauges.

The old instruments contained americium and caesium isotopes and operated by measuring a beam of neutrons passed from one to the other.

Although the amounts of radioactivity involved were extremely small, the mere fact that they were radioactive necessitated considerable precautions.

“It’s not that dramatic, but they had to be held in lead-lined boxes all the time and the operators had to wear film badges that were sent away every month to determine any exposure to radiation,” said GSD’s Cheadle Lab Manager, Nathan Busby.

“There was a ton of bureaucracy involved because they had to be stored away from personnel, the Environment Agency had to come and visit us once a year, we had to have a licence and the police and fire brigade had to be informed wherever they were in the world.”

Even police anti-terrorist branch officers visited GSD premises periodically to check on the equipment.

There was also the potential for causing a radioactive spill if, for example, one had been run over and crushed by a vehicle on site. 

“Everybody erred on the side of caution because obviously there was a safety aspect to them,” added Nathan. “We’re now taking that risk away.”

Their removal allows Costain to become more environmentally-friendly as well as freeing considerable amounts of administrative time.