The South West Nuclear Hub is a gateway to nuclear energy related research capability across the region. Enquiries are welcome from potential new partners, from industry, academia or other organisations seeking to engage in nuclear energy research.
Many of these facilities provide on-demand access to a powerful network of research and training facilities and expertise. The opportunities are scalable, from small projects to multi-year programmes involving sponsored PhDs and postdoctoral researchers, with opportunities to leverage public and private sector funding.
Facilities in the South West Nuclear Hub network include:
Interface Analysis Centre
The IAC (Interface Analysis Centre) is a cutting-edge multidisciplinary research hub at the University of Bristol. It specialises on a range of materials-science-based problems focused on real-world problem-driven applications.
The Centre maintains several laboratories which house a complementary array of analytical equipment for conducting surface, materials and solution analysis. This includes specially equipped laboratories to safely handle radioactive materials.
Earthquake and Large Structures (EQUALS) Laboratory
The EQUALS laboratory is a unique facility that combines strong walls and strong floors allowing a wide range of different types of structures (e.g. intake towers, bridges, buildings etc.) to be tested. The facility also houses the 15t 6DOF shaking table so that large-scale seismic tests can be performed in addition to more conventional static or pseudodynamic testing.
The shaking tables in this lab and in SofSI are available for use on a commercial basis for seismic qualification of electro-mechanical plant.
National Facility for Soil Foundation Structure Interaction (SoFSI)
The SoFSI facility has been designed to be capable of dynamic testing large prototype foundations and structures, and testing piles under static and dynamic loading. It is part of the national UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) network and it will be available for industrial and academic researchers to test large to full-scale equipment.
Bristol Robotics Laboratory
Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is the most comprehensive academic centre for Robotics in the UK. It comprises of a community of over 450 academics, researchers and industry practitioners. BRL is also a partner in national research programmes such as the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR) and Robots for Nuclear Environments (RNE).
BRL houses an experimental test bed for nuclear robotics. The test bed is a 64m² simulated nuclear facility that acts as test bed for technical developments and user studies. It consists of a separate ‘room in a room’ that can be completely closed so that one cannot see inside from the outside, similar to a real nuclear facility. The closed room is equipped with four network cameras to allow supervision of experiments.
Creep and Residual Stress Laboratories
The creep laboratory is a dedicated facility, in a temperature controlled environment, used to support research on understanding the behaviour of metals operating at high temperature, permitting tests on metals at temperatures up to a thousand degrees centigrade.
This laboratory is a facility for measuring residual stresses within engineering components. It is a laboratory jointly created by the Solid Mechanics group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Veqter Ltd and is used to develop and apply novel research tools to interrogate locked-in stresses in components.
GAU-Radioanalytical Laboratories (GAU) is a long-established and experienced commercial group based at the University of Southampton providing radioanalytical services, consultancy and research support for government, industrial (nuclear and environmental) and academic sectors. Its expertise in radiometric analysis, particularly for difficult-to-measure (DTM) radionuclides; radioanalytical project management; R&D and training is widely recognised.
Bristol Isotope Group
The Bristol Isotope Group uses isotope measurements to investigate natural processes, providing a high-precision and accurate means to date objects, determine the rates of geochemical processes and trace the origin of material. The facility has a reputation for the novel isotope methods that take advantage of a suite of five magnetic-sector mass spectrometers, two Excimer laser-ablation systems and a HEPA filtered clean laboratory.
National Nuclear User Facilities
The National Nuclear User Facility (NNUF) project is a Government investment in the UK’s nuclear future, providing state-of-the-art experimental facilities for research and development in nuclear science and technology. NNUF was established to support the Government Nuclear Industrial Strategy launched in March 2013 , with facilities available for external access to undertake work on nuclear materials. In 2019 a further £80m to enhance national facilities for the study of radioactive materials, which supports 30 individual projects in UK universities and national laboratories.
The National Nuclear User Facility for Hot Robotics offers UK academia and industry access to cutting-edge equipment for research in robotics and artificial intelligence for application in extreme and challenging nuclear environments.
The University of Bristol’s Fenswood Facility (one of four national facilities in this project) offers 245 acres of space for developing mobile robotic applications and test deployments. It specialises in UAVs and mobile ground vehicles as enhanced tools for environmental field surveying.
EXACT (Next Generation Accelerated Characterisation Technologies) is an easily accessible state-of-the-art test-bed facility, with supporting infrastructure for research and technology development and validation. It provides training in in-situ, on-site and off-site characterisation and remediation methods and access to supporting facilities the University of Southampton, University of Bristol and National Physical Laboratories.
Facility for Radioactive Materials Surfaces (FaRMS)
FaRMS (Facility for Radioactive Materials Surfaces), based at the University of Bristol, hosts a thin film growth system capable of fabricating high quality active thin films and surfaces for fundamental and applied studies.
This system is already available for use, and will be upgraded and complemented with an X-ray Photoemission Spectroscopy (XPS) system enabling surface analysis and depth-profiling. Users can engineer samples, from idealised single crystal model systems, to more complex, multi-element, granular structures that more closely represent the real world. The properties of thin film samples are dominated by surface/interfacial effects, and hence are ideal to understand phenomena such as oxidation, dissolution, pitting, cracking, species migration, hydriding and interaction with water, which are of crucial importance across the nuclear sector.
A key aspect of this facility is that typically, sample activity will range from 0.1 –10 Bq/g, which means that samples can be easily accepted into universities and national facilities that do not currently have licenses for large quantities of active material.
Active Nano Mapping Facility
The Active Nano Mapping Facility hosts the world’s fastest atomic force microscope (AFM), a high-speed AFM (HS-AFM). The microscope is housed in a dedicated active lab capable of handling samples up to a contact dose of 50 μSv/hr. Full glovebox facility enables the processing and imaging of samples without exposure to ambient conditions.