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£20m funding for new northwest nuclear research centre

A major new nuclear research facility is to be established in Cumbria with £20million of initial funding from The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

The University and the NDA have signed an initial collaboration agreement, which will see each organisation invest £10million over a seven-year period.

The money will be used to provide specialist research equipment and facilities and to drive forward research into radiation sciences and engineering decommissioning.

The new laboratory will include accelerators and experimental equipment to study the irradiation damage and effects on materials and chemical systems used in nuclear environments, as well as cutting-edge computational modelling and simulation tools.

The new multi-million pound centre, which will initially house around 60 staff and postgraduate students, will be built on the Westlakes Science and Technology Park, near Whitehaven in West Cumbria, and will have close links with the existing British Technology Centre (BTC) at Sellafield, which is managed by Nexia Solutions, and will form part of the recently announced National Nuclear Laboratory..

As part of the investment agreement with NDA, The University of Manchester will recruit a team of new academic staff and will work to extend access into the BTC for academic researchers from other universities.

Professor Simon Pimblott, who has been appointed from the United States to head up the research into radiation sciences, said: “This is a major opportunity for The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute and the NDA to build truly world-leading research capabilities in the fields of radiation chemistry and radiation damage on materials.

“The scale of the investment is a major indication of both parties’ commitment to establish one of the world’s leading research groups in the field. This is what has personally attracted me to the UK from the United States, together with the bigger vision for building nuclear research and education at the Dalton Nuclear Institute.”

Dr Ian Hudson, Head of Technology and Skills with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, says:

“The establishment of new research and development facilities is an important part of the NDA’s skills initiative and supports our broader socio-economic responsibilities. The partnership with Manchester will deliver a world class operation of high quality research providing excellence in education and skills for the decommissioning and clean up mission. It will also make an important contribution to the economy of West Cumbria. Alongside other related developments such as the National Nuclear Laboratory and the National Nuclear Skills Academy these new facilities will play an integral part in our aspiration to see the UK and West Cumbria as an internationally recognised centre of excellence for the nuclear industry.”

Professor Richard Clegg, Director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester, said: “The signing of the agreement with the NDA is an extremely important development in our ambition to make The University of Manchester into one of the world’s most prestigious nuclear research and education centres and will act as a magnet for attracting leading scientists and researchers.

“The investment is a significant step towards co-ordinating the UK’s nuclear research base as part of the creation of a National Nuclear Laboratory, as announced by Alistair Darling in October 2006.

“The Dalton Nuclear Institute is looking forward to working with the NDA, Nexia Solutions and local and national stakeholders to make the investment reach its full potential.”

Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland has welcomed the announcement and its importance to West Cumbria:

“This facility will develop to become one of national and international importance, in line with the aspirations and ambitions of the West Cumbrian community. In addition to unlocking our local potential, it will also attract some of the best scientists from around the world, boost our economy and have a fundamental and transformational effect on higher education in West Cumbria. Our ambitions are now being met with investment and the foundations of our future prosperity are being laid.”

Jon Keighren | alfa
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