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Dalton Nuclear Institute

Dalton Cumbrian Facility viewed from field outside on a sunny day

Cumbria facilities

Our dedicated research base, the Dalton Cumbrian Facility, provides academia and industry the opportunity to carry out high-end research in radiation science and nuclear engineering decommissioning.

Robotics in Cumbria

The Robotics for Extreme Environments Laboratory (REEL) is a sister site to the Dalton Cumbrian Facility based in Cleator Moor, Cumbria.

Here we host researchers working on a range of projects including:

  • mobile ground robots for exploration or routine inspection;
  • water vehicles for inspection and maintenance;
  • characterisation methods as well as path planning and map generation.

Read more about the facilities on the website:

Our facilities allow scientists to simulate several decades of in-service exposure in an operating environment, providing important data for lifetime behaviour predictions and models.

Visiting researchers have support from our experimental team as well as access to analytical and inspection laboratories, meeting rooms and hot desks in our research office.

We are part of:

  • The National Nuclear User Facility, part of the government's Nuclear Industrial Strategy enabling greater accessibility to highly innovative technologies as a collaborative effort.
  • The EPSRC UK National Ion Beam Centre, providing a single point of access for the UK research community to ion beam modification and analysis infrastructure and expertise.
  • The Henry Royce Institute, the UK National Centre for Research and Innovation of Advanced Materials.

Our equipment

The Dalton Cumbrian Facility hosts a variety of industry-leading equipment vital to UK nuclear research. Details of this equipment are listed below:

Pre and post-irradiation characterisation and analytical equipment

The Dalton Cumbrian Facility provides fully equipped analytical and post-irradiation examination laboratories to closely examine the impacts of radiation exposure.

Our equipment can be used to measure gas production, analyse ions in solution, measure polymers and other organics, determine macromolecular weight distributions, perform isotopic analysis, detect radiation induced free radicals and a wide range of other measurements to analyse the molecular structure and surfaces of materials and samples.

Analytical techniques available include:

  • Absorption, reflectance and fluorescence spectrometry
  • Quanta 250 FEG ESEM (bio and wet samples, nonstandard detectors: EDT, EBSD and WDS)
  • FT IR and FT Raman spectroscopy
  • Gas, ion and liquid chromatography
  • Raman microscopy
  • Surface area and pore size analysis (Mercury porosimeter and BET method)
  • Electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • 3D printing
  • Class II biosafety cabinet
  • Total organic carbon (TOC) analyser
  • Positron annihilation lifetime spectroscopy (PALS)
  • Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) up to 2200oC
  • High temperature high vacuum furnace, up to 2000oC
  • Empyrean K-alpha XRD system (for powder, thin film and texture analysis)
  • Duramin hardness tester
  • A range of high quality and high precision equipment to do sample preparation pre and post-irradiation

Gamma irradiator

Our FTS Model 812 gamma irradiator is designed specifically to support a wide range of research applications in order to understand the mechanistic effects of gamma radiation on exposed materials.

Example research areas are:

  • effects of gamma radiation on nuclear waste forms and waste storage media;
  • graphite management (long term radiation effects on graphite, development of moderators for future reactor designs);
  • polymers - Irradiation can enhance or deteriorate mechanical characteristics; eg irradiated polyethylene can be 60% thinner than un-irradiated films with identical mechanical performance;
  • biomedical materials – eg artificial hip prostheses are radiation sterilised to reduce the risk of postoperative complications.

More information about the gamma irradiator:

  • fabricated from lead, providing shielding from the high levels of radiation emitted by the sources;
  • sources located at the back of the chamber;
  • lead attenuators available to reduce dose rates;
  • currently capable of supplying absorbed dose rates from 0.5 to 350 Gy/min;
  • experimental flexibility enabled by a large sample chamber (approx. 200 mm wide x 250 mm deep x 270 mm high), incorporating a range of sample configurations;
  • three turntable mechanisms - for more even dose delivery to larger or multiple samples;
  • two 19 mm diameter access ports enabling connection between in-situ samples and ex-situ experimental rigs;
  • high temperature loop and autoclave to investigate effects on materials under high temperature and high pressure conditions while they are simultaneously exposed to gamma radiation;
  • dewar available for low temperature measurements in liquid nitrogen, dry ice or other cooling bath mixture.

Beam lines

The Dalton Cumbrian Facility has two ion beam accelerators which feed a total of eight operational beam lines with six end stations available for irradiations, two of which are shared between the two accelerators, giving dual beam irradiation capability.

The irradiation facilities available include:

  • general purpose materials damage end station with thermal control of samples between room temperature and ~650oC;
  • general purpose radiation chemistry end station using a collimator and exit window to allow irradiations in atmosphere;
  • lead shielded ‘hot cell’ for high current / high energy irradiations, providing shielding and handling capabilities for activated samples;
  • an autoclave system for irradiation of fluids;
  • dual beam end station for irradiation with multiple ions, allowing for the effects of radiation damage (from heavy ions) in a radiation rich (proton or alpha) field;
  • ion beam analysis end station incorporating RBS, PIXE, NRA and ERD analysis for characterisation of samples.

The ion beam facility is used primarily for radiation damage studies of materials or radiation chemistry studies of processes that are of interest to the nuclear energy industry.

The facility is also suitable for research in a variety of other areas, for example radiobiology and space missions.

2.5 MV single ended accelerator

An NEC Model 7.5SH-2, capable of accelerating ions to energies up to 2.5 MeV. Equipped with an RF plasma source capable of producing protons, helium ions or heavier gas ions.

It operates two beam lines which are configured to coincide with two beam lines from the 5 MV tandem accelerator to provide two dual beam irradiation end stations.

  • High current RF source for:
    • Up to 100μA of 1H+ (up to 2.5 MeV ions)
    • Up to 50μA of 4He+ (up to 2.5 MeV ions)
    • Lower currents of heavier gas elements (typically Ar, Kr or Xe)

5 MV tandem pelletron ion accelerator

An NEC model 15SDH-4, capable of creating proton beams up to 10 MeV in energy, helium (alpha) beams up to 15 MeV or heavy ions up to a possible maximum of 35 MeV.

Six beam lines are available for selection from the 5MV tandem, including the high dose 'hot cell' and the ion beam analysis end station.

It has two ion beam sources; one for high current proton and alpha beams, with a second source for lower currents of heavier ions.

  • High current TORVIS source for:
    • Up to 100μA of 1H+ (up to 10 MeV ions)
    • Up to 15μA of 4He2+ (up to 15 MeV ions)
  • Low current SNICS source for heavy ions
    • Wide selection of heavy ions (most of the periodic table is available) at energies up to 35 MeV

Accessing our facilities

We welcome academic and commercial users from the UK and overseas. Information about the booking processes for our equipment and accommodation options are detailed below:

Facility booking process

Accelerator systems

Our accelerator facilities are scheduled quarterly (Feb-Apr, May-Jul, Aug-Oct, and Nov-Jan) with calls for proposals usually published in February, May, August and November for the following quarter. If you would like your name added to the Accelerator Users list to be notified of calls for proposals, please contact us.

Proposals are panel-assessed and for the best chance of a successful application we would expect you to contact us for an informal discussion prior to submitting a proposal.

The following process applies:

  1. User contacts Dalton Cumbrian Facility for informal discussion.
  2. Experimental activity is outlined and agreed informally, subject to final confirmations.
  3. User submits proposal form (below) to Dalton Cumbrian Facility in response to call.
  4. Proposal undergoes technical evaluation at Dalton Cumbrian Facility.
  5. Proposal undergoes scientific review and prioritisation.
  6. Facility time is allocated, subject to availability.
  7. Experimental activity is scheduled.

The proposal can be rejected at any point in this process. Informal discussion at the earliest stage is therefore advised.

EPSRC grant-holders are also eligible to apply for access via the UK National Ion Beam Centre (UKNIBC) framework. Please contact us to initiate a discussion.

Gamma irradiator

We allocate irradiation slots one month at a time, one month in advance. However, it is best to contact us as early as possible to discuss your requirements.

We reserve a fixed percentage of time each month for commercial work with the remainder for academic projects. Occasionally there may be short notice slots available.

If you would like your name to be added to our Irradiator Users list to be notified of scheduling deadlines and availability, please contact us.

Accommodation for visitors

Summergrove Halls provides dedicated accommodation for short and medium-term student, academic and industrial visitors to the Facility and are located just a short walk away.