National Nuclear Laboratory


Monday 14 March 2016

NNL Announces Movement of First Radioactive Material into Central Laboratory’s High Alpha Labs

The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) is pleased to announce the first movement of radioactive material into the High Alpha Labs in our Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site. (The High Alpha Labs are a suite of alpha radiation laboratories, formerly known as “Phase 2”). The High Alpha Labs were largely constructed 15 years ago but completion and commissioning of these laboratories was put on hold for a number of years, whilst we discussed with customers their likely needs.

This important step represents the culmination of a huge amount of work by many people – not just within NNL but also colleagues in Sellafield Limited, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Office for Nuclear Regulation. We will now move on to full commissioning of the facilities, which is scheduled to lead to them being taken to full operation later on this year.

NNL’s Facilities and Safety Director, Keith Johnson, commented:

“I am delighted for both the company and the team that we have delivered this long term project successfully and with an impeccable safety record.  We have spent the past 5 years configuring this highly specialist area to meet the specific demands of our major customers. The introduction of active material into this part of the facility is major landmark for NNL, and the facility is set to play a significant role in the UK’s future R&D programme.”

James Millington, Head of Programme – PMF at Sellafield Ltd, said:

“As a key customer, Sellafield Ltd welcome the start of active operations in the High Alpha Labs and congratulate NNL on this important step. The High Alpha Labs are a significant national asset, which will provide vital underpinning science to support the Sellafield mission.”

About the High Alpha Labs

The High Alpha Labs include a number of laboratories containing gloveboxes that can be used to carry out a range of operations on alpha-emitting materials, including plutonium.

The facility can receive, store, process and export packages and plutonium-containing materials from other parts of the Sellafield site. Processing operations include ceramography, pressure relief (and gas capture) of cans, characterisation, analysis, treatment and re-packaging of material.

Examples of equipment in the laboratories include a Scanning Electron Microscope (which can examine materials at nanometre resolution), a suite of ceramography and metallography gloveboxes,furnaces for heat treatment of plutonium product and residue material,an x-ray diffractometer, which is used to determine the atomic and molecular structure of materials and a gas chromotograph which is used for analysing gas samples from pressurised cans.