NNUF – Results of the Consultation Process


NNUF – Results of the Consultation Process

The sessions began with an introduction to the NNUF equipment list and the responses to the consultation that took place earlier in 2013, then proceeded into an open discussion of the NNUF, what it may need, how it will function and how it could evolve.

Additional input into the scope of NNUF is expected from DECC and BIS, as well as NIRO and NIRAB when they are set up. It is expected that as the NNUF develops there will be engagement with other, non-nuclear, communities. And it was suggested that this should begin sooner rather than later.

In consulting with the community any lists of proposed equipment will need to be considered against what is already available. It is clear that some of the equipment proposed in the first consultation is already available; it may be that what is really needed is to make the broader community aware of the equipment’s existence or to demonstrate that such equipment is still required in order to create the most effective/efficient environment for users at the host facility.

It was also noted that the focus on equipment is good, as the availability of analytical equipment often determines the shape of research bids into larger programmes such as the EU; if you haven’t got access to equipment X then you cannot do certain research no matter how good your ideas are.

Additional areas identified

Whilst this session was not specifically set up to get additional equipment suggestions a handful were identified.

  • Anoxic glove box (possible also transport?)
  • Equipment for the retrieval and transport of radioactive sludges
  • Equipment for chemical characterisation of samples as well as their material properties.
  • Advanced reprocessing technology (electrometallurgical pyro-processing & transmutation).

Linkages to complimentary research disciplines

As noted above the nuclear engineering community work in areas that overlap with other research disciplines and the NNUF management group should seek to discuss NNUF these communities.

  • Overlaps with NERC community should be investigated.
  • Actinide condensed matter physics community: may have equipment and could potentially engage with the nuclear engineering community.

Materials handling/transfer

In the first consultation returns the transport and handling of active materials emerged as a common theme. The discussion suggested that it is possibly not as difficult as sometimes perceived and that existing protocols were adequate. It was dependant on the following though;

  • Excepted packages
  • Level of activity/ size of packages
  • Ultra high vac or inert gas

There was an offer by NNL to put together a summary of the procedures involved for various types of material/activity level.

Library/Directory of sample materials

Some universities are disposing of radioactive material sample inventories, due to storage issues, case for;

  • Distributed ‘library’ to minimise the necessary inventory (avoid duplication); or,
  • Centrally held in a ‘site licenced’ facility.

Knowing what material samples are available will determine what research can be done, what additional samples may be needed etc.

State of the art

There was a suggestion that it would be useful to understand what other nations are doing, in the facility area. Are they doing things that we need to be doing too, commissioning equipment that we ought to be commissioning? Or are there facilities that we should not be duplicating rather acquiring access to (eg JHR).

The question “What is the cutting edge analytical capability?” was raised.  The existing lists are what we know is currently available.  What is the really state of the art equipment and what would it enable us to do that we cannot do now?

Importance of synchrotron facilities

The need for a beam line capable of taking active samples was identified in the initial consultation.  There was discussion around this need and a Diamond representative stated that active samples can already be tested, though it is not easy and there are size/activity restrictions.  It was decided that this is an area that needs further examination/discussion with the Diamond facility.

Longer term planning/facility support

It was emphasised that there is a strong need to support the facilities in the longer term, not only via R&D programmes but also making sure that there are sufficient people trained and competent to use them. The funding agencies are aware of this and will continue to seek ways of providing support for the facilities in ways that does not compromise the core research budgets.

It was also stated that there is a need to be able to respond quickly with support/business cases for additional equipment should funding become available at short notice.


In addition to issues identified above there is a need to make sure that the people in universities are trained in the needs of handling active materials, not only researchers but also the safety reps (for authorisation purposes). It was noted that CCFE, NNL etc also need to properly understand the university requirements (both research and administrative) .


  1. Circulate the following documents to the meeting attendees and the college database (as in the first consultation). Include actinide chemist in the circulation list
    a. Composite response document from the first consultation exercise.
    b. Amended consultation document for a second consultation.
    c. List of existing facilities

  2. Ask for input from the recipients of the circular email into what equipment identified in the first return (that is the equipment identified for the future phase of NNUF beyond the £15M already allocated) already exists.

  3. Modify the proforma to ask for more detail of what the equipment will enable us to do in addressing future nuclear technologies.

  4. Ask the original submitters to the consultation to submit info on what the level of radioactivity is likely to be low/med/high in samples that are likely to be used on the equipment the propose (if appropriate).

  5. NNUF management group to arrange a dedicated workshop for early Jan/Feb 2014.

  6. NNUF management group to frame guidance on how the community can access the equipment.

  7. NNUF management group to convene a meeting with university safety officers to discuss procedures for dispatch, transport and receipt of active material.