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April 12, 2024

‘More flexible than a hot cell, more protected than a typical lab’ Medium-Activity Materials Testing Lab a new capability for CNL

(Pictured are lab supervisor and R&D physics scientist Lucile Cogez and R&D Officer Kevin Randing)

If you walked into the Medium-Activity Materials Testing Lab (MAMTL) at Chalk River Laboratories expecting to see a conventional, all-sides shielded hot cell, you’d be surprised to see that the two shielded working areas inside are completely open on top.

Concrete walls shield the perimeter of the cells, but they look like boxes with no lids.

Why? Because the irradiated materials scientists work on in these cells don’t require it.

“This lab is built for mid-range radioactivity level testing, and its design is different from the hot cells because of that,” says Zia Haque, manager of the Materials & Fuel Performance Testing branch. “The MAMTL is the first-of-its-kind for CNL, offering a flexible, open environment for mechanical testing and materials investigation and examination – ensuring safe, reliable, and efficient performance of nuclear components,” he explains.

In place of the typical concrete ceiling you’d see in a hot cell is a moveable ventilation “elephant trunk” hovering over each shielded work area in the MAMTL. These trunks draw in air and filter out particles, helping ensure that any radioactive contaminants are contained and monitored.

(Seen in the top left of this image is a moveable blue “elephant trunk” that provides ventilation to shielded areas in the MAMTL)

Another unique feature of the MAMTL is the one-meter-tall monitors mounted on the outside of each shielded work area, replacing the thick leaded window you’d usually see in front of a hot cell’s manipulators.

Connected to three different camera views set up inside the shielded work area, the monitors offer scientists operating the manipulators a considerably more flexible sightline of what work they’re conducting inside, particularly because the cameras can pan across the cell, tilt, and zoom in.

Further, the monitors and the manipulator arms have the ability to move as one along a track on the front wall of the shielded areas, meaning scientists can access just about anywhere in the cell with their manipulator arms. This provides a large, fully reconfigurable workspace that significantly increases the adaptability of the space.

(A moveable, one-meter tall monitor replaces the typical thick-paned window you would see in front of hot cell manipulators)

“There was a gap between working in a regular lab and working in a hot cell. Some material cannot be worked on in a regular, unshielded lab because of the dose rate that could be received from it, but a hot cell is maybe a bit excessive for it, so our lab has closed that gap,” says Lucile Cogez, lab supervisor and R&D physics scientist.

Work in the MAMTL started late 2022, following about five years of Lab Directed Science and Technology (LDST) funded renovations to the space. This included removing asbestos and unnecessary equipment, reinforcing the floor, and fitting the area with active ventilation air units and radiation monitoring.

There is high commercial demand for a material inspection and mechanical testing facility, as understanding a material’s properties and performance is essential to ensuring the successful, reliable and safe manufacturing of nuclear components. This demand has been proven by the MAMTL being completely booked for the next four years, with the facility scheduled to build enclosures in the near future to support environmentally assisted degradation testing.


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