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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Accelerated learning

EDUCATION in West Cumbria can now take pupils from primary schools to PhDs as well as helping to bolster the West Cumbrian economy.

The Dalton Nuclear Institute is a nuclear research arm of The University of Manchester and last year it opened a new £20m research centre at the Westlakes Science & Technology Park.

The University of Manchester is the UK’s largest university and is ranked third in the UK in terms of the power of its research. Each year the University spends more than £400m on its research. The Dalton Institute was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Anniversary Prize in recognition of the quality and impact of its nuclear research and teaching.

At present work is being completed to install a £3m particle accelerator at the West Cumbrian site which will enable academic research designed to grow understanding of the way materials behave when exposed to radiation.

This research is applicable to all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, and also other areas including radiobiology and space exploration.

The accelerator at DCF works on the same principle as the large hadron collider at CERN but is designed to produce a much wider range of charged particles at energies designed to replicate the damage to materials occurring through long-term exposure to radiation. As an example protons generated at DCF will travel at around 15 per cent speed of light, fast enough to travel around the earth’s equator once every second.

The ions are charged before being accelerated by means of a five million-volt positive potential and targeted at materials in various experimental conditions that will simulate over a short period of time how damage would occur if they were in a nuclear reactor, waste storage container, or a variety of other situations applicable to the nuclear fuel cycle, for decades or even centuries.

The facility was created as a result of a collaboration between the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and The University of Manchester creating a £20m research centre that is unique in the UK.

Kevin Warren, commercial director of the Dalton Institute, said: “The facility provides the basis for the University’s research programmes in the areas of radiation science and nuclear engineering decommissioning.”

“The collaboration with the NDA has now established in West Cumbria a world leading research centre designed to attract academic research staff and students to the area from across the UK and from overseas.”

Kevin says as the facility grows the number of research students based at the site will gradually grow until there are around 30 researchers based at the site. Currently there are 14 post-graduate level students based out of DCF together with seven academic staff and seven operating staff from the University.

“We aim to provide growth in West Cumbria in terms of high-level skills and in supporting new technology progress through to commercial application.

“The University of Manchester’s Intellectual Property (UMIP) subsidiary has been hugely successful in helping develop academic research into commercial reality and we are working with the National Nuclear Laboratory and Britain’s Energy Coast to establish a similar approach in the local area encompassing other universities and local business.

“The growth of post-graduate level research in West Cumbria can only help provide additional opportunities for local students to further their education and to business through talented young people moving in to the area.”

The growth of the Dalton Cumbrian Facility could see further universities teaming up and the University of Liverpool is already involved in talks at getting involved at DCF and has signed an agreement to enable access to NNL’s facilities at Sellafield.

PhD students from Manchester are also working alongside technical staff at National Nuclear Laboratory in Sellafield, helping to create what Copeland MP Jamie Reed has described as a nuclear Silicon Valley.

Kevin added: “This is creating a broader education and bringing a new element to West Cumbria in terms of offering a
significant growth in the post-graduate education opportunities available. As Tony Cunningham MP said, for the first time we can now provide local students the opportunity to develop right through school until they achieve a PhD without ever leaving West Cumbria.”

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