Development of a mobile muography system for civil engineering and nuclear applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

This STFC RCUK Innovation Fellowship will support Dr David Mahon, an award-winning researcher at the University of Glasgow, to perform cutting-edge research and development into an innovative 3D imaging system for commercialisation and deployment within the civil nuclear and civil engineering industries. The Nuclear Physics group at the University of Glasgow perform world-leading research in the non-destructive testing field known as Cosmic-ray Muography, which uses naturally-occurring background radiation (cosmic-ray muons) to provide high-resolution 3D images of complex, shielded structures that cannot be inspected using conventional forms of imaging radiation e.g. X-rays or gamma rays. From 2009 until 2016, this R&D project received £4.8 million of funding from the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Sellafield Ltd. to develop an innovative solution to one of the biggest and most complex challenges facing society - the safe, time-efficient and cost-effective storage of nuclear waste.

Muography technology is the only means of inspecting the UK's vast inventory of heavily-shielded nuclear waste drums and can provide vital information regarding the waste type, its volume and most critically, its degree of degradation.

This research spun-out from the UofG in 2016 with the formation of Lynkeos Technology Ltd. - the first company in the UK specialising in this ground-breaking technology. In April 2017, Lynkeos was awarded a £1.6 million Innovate UK contract to commercialise and deploy a First-Of-A-Kind (FOAK) muography system within the nuclear industry to inspect the contents of legacy waste containers. This first-generation system has been developed with key stakeholders within the industry, namely National Nuclear Laboratory and Sellafield Ltd., to image 500 litre Intermediate Level Waste drums and has been highly successful in identifying small fragments of uranium within these containers. This FOAK system will be deployed at the National Nuclear Laboratory facility in Preston by April 2018 ahead of industrial imaging trials.

During this STFC RCUK Innovation Fellowship, Dr Mahon will research and develop the design of a second-generation muography system to help address new challenges within the civil nuclear and engineering industries. These include the imaging of larger nuclear waste packages and legacy silos on the Sellafield site. Also, recent engagement with the civil engineering industry has highlighted the potential to passively identify the corrosion of reinforced steel tendons within bridges to prevent structural failures in the future. Both of these new application areas require larger, cheaper and more portable detector technologies, which will be developed at the University of Glasgow as part of this fellowship and commercialised in collaboration with Lynkeos.

Dr Mahon will engage with both target markets to develop custom solutions to their unique challenges, as well as assessing the size of these markets, both nationally and internationally. In particular, he will work closely with representatives from the National Nuclear Laboratory and Sellafield Ltd. to further validate this technology in industry trials at Preston, and to commercialise the Lynkeos Muon Imaging System for its anticipated future deployment on the Sellafield site. This innovative technology has the unrivalled potential to reduce the cost of decommissioning for the industry and the UK Taxpayer by many £100 millions, as well as improving safety in the nuclear industry.

With the support of STFC as part of this three-year Innovation Fellowship, this innovation will be successfully transitioned from academic research into industrial deployment. In doing so, it will provide a massive boost to our economy and consolidate the UK's position as one of the world leaders in the exciting field of muography.

Publications

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Mahon D (2018) First-of-a-kind muography for nuclear waste characterization. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Yang G (2018) Novel muon imaging techniques. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

 
Description Interview by Nature 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed by Nature - "The Muon is going mainstream" - Nature 557, 620-621 (2018)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Interviewed by Physics World 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Interviewed by Physics World - March 2019 and April 2019 issues
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Interviewed by the Muographix Institute (Tokyo, Japan) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Interviewed by the Muographix Institute (Tokyo, Japan) in March 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://news.muographix.u-tokyo.ac.jp/2019/03/08/scientist-interview-david-mahon/news-local/
 
Description New Scientist Live 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk at New Scientist Live Science Festival, London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://live.newscientist.com/2018-official-show-guide
 
Description Webinar for TotalDECOM 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Webinar for TotalDECOM - "From academic research to nuclear industry deployment" - 20th June 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018