UK Irradiated Materials Archive Options Study

Lead Research Organisation: EURATOM/CCFE
Department Name: Culham Centre for Fusion Energy


For a lot of academic and industrial research into nuclear energy, using NNUF and other facilities, it is important that neutron-irradiated material of known provenance is available. Getting samples irradiated in reactors is both time-consuming and expensive, and as much use as possible should be made of existing material. There is a wide range of surveillance and other samples in the UK, owned by organisations like the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), EDF Energy and Rolls-Royce. Establishing either a central or distributed archive of a selection of this material that can be accessed by researchers has been identified as a priority by the UK Government's Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB). The archive is the second item in the table of favoured investments in EPSRC's NNUF Phase 2 call. While the Irradiated Materials Archive Group (IMAG), comprising universities, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), NDA and other stakeholders, has developed this concept, further work is required before the key stakeholders are in a position to decide if and how to proceed. Options could range from leaving the material where it presently is and having systems that enable individuals to ascertain the material and pedigree available, and request samples for their research, to bringing samples from locations in the UK to dedicated stores at Sellafield (higher activities) and UKAEA's Culham site (low-activity). It is, therefore, proposed that the archive is taken forward in two stages. Stage 1 is an option study and the subject of this proposal. At the end of Stage 1, key stakeholders - including EPSRC, the owners of the material and the managers of proposed stores - would decide whether to proceed and with which option. Stage 2 would require a new proposal for funding based on cost estimates established in Stage 1. However, an upper bound for the latter is indicated in this proposal.

Important considerations in Stage 1 include: ascertaining what material samples are available and which are of interest to UK researchers; logistical issues including ownership and liability, transport and waste disposal; and the requirements for the archive database(s). An attractive option for the last of these may be for NDA and other owners of material to manage their own databases in a way that permits users to interrogate these and request samples.

UKAEA, NNL and the University of Bristol (UoB) propose to undertake Stage 1 and produce an options appraisal for EPSRC and its NNUF Management Team, having consulted all stakeholders. This would take 19 months and require £524,000.

Wide-ranging support for this proposal is confirmed by letters from Dame Sue Ion (first chair of NIRAB), the CEO of the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials and AWE. The NDA has been consulted in the drafting of this proposal and expressed its willingness to collaborate in the project, as has Rolls-Royce in its letter of support. The US has had a national archive for some years and learning from its experience would be part of this project; a letter confirming the value of the archive is from the Director of Nuclear Science User Facilities at Idaho National Laboratory.

Planned Impact

The key stakeholders will be much better informed than now about whether and how to proceed with a national archive of irradiated material. Given the nature of the material, there is a complicated set of stakeholders with in some cases onerous requirements associated with its ownership, liability, transport, waste implications, etc.

UK nuclear researchers (not just in universities) will be much better informed about what material is available. A related benefit is we expect that new research collaborations between the owners of the material (e.g. NDA, Rolls Royce, EdF Energy) and universities will result.


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Description A recommendation to EPSRC, BEIS and others that a UK archive of irradiated materials should be established.
Exploitation Route An archive could be implemented under NNUF if key stakeholderes agree it should be funded
Sectors Energy

Description Advice to nuclear stakeholders that there is demand and need for a UK archive of irradiated materials
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Description NNL-UKAEA partnership in irradiated materials 
Organisation National Nuclear Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Co-ordination of the jotint work
Collaborator Contribution Major input into our study of options for a UK archive of irradiated material
Impact Report recommending an archive with many contributions from NNLis nearing completion
Start Year 2019
Description UK archive - NDA partnership 
Organisation Nuclear Decommissioning Authority NDA
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have identified universities that are interested in using NDA irradiated material for their research
Collaborator Contribution NDA has provided information about samples that it could make available to the archive and about procedures that would be useful for its operation
Impact NDA has provided valuable information for the UK irradited material archive that we propose
Start Year 2019
Description UK-US collaboration on irradiated material 
Organisation Idaho National Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Our recommendation for a UK archive of irradiated material has been informed by US experience and is expected to lead to increased UK-US collaboration in this area.
Collaborator Contribution US partner has given advice on implementation of the proposed UK archive
Impact See above
Start Year 2019