National Physical Laboratory

Hire of therapy level Cobalt-60 facility

Theratron set up ready for use

A therapy level 60Co Gamma-ray facility is maintained by NPL's Radiation Dosimetry group and is available for hire for short or long term gamma-ray irradiations with supporting dosimetry and technical services if required. The facility can be used for instrument, materials and components radiation hardness testing in the nuclear, aerospace, defense and electronics industries, particularly where manufacturers or users are seeking to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of national standards.

Operating conditions and facilities

The facility comprises a Theratron Radiotherapy irradiator manufactured by the Canadian company, Theratronics, positioned to give a beam at any angle in a plane down the long axis of an irradiation cell that is approximately 6 m x 10 m x 4 m. The temperature in this cell can be kept constant to better than 0.1 °C in the range 15 °C to 30 °C. Irradiations and experiments are controlled from a similar sized control room adjacent to the irradiation cell. Both rooms are electrically screened from external radio frequency interference and communication between equipment under test and its controller can be achieved using (7 m long) cables passing through 10 cm diameter ducts in the radiation shielding. The cobalt unit is fitted with a collimator to provide rectangular fields of up to 35 cm x 35 cm at 80 cm source to surface distance (SSD).

Equipment for irradiation can be mounted on a carriage system. This allows experiments to be moved in three dimensions to a precision that is a fraction of a millimetre. The carriage is mounted on 6 m long rails enabling movement along the long axis of the irradiation room. The cobalt head is provided with a high level of shielding and is loaded with a 300 TBq (8.1 kCi) source. The dose rate to water is up to 1.0 Gy min-1 at 100 cm from the source (October 2017).

Cosmic Radiation
Cosmic radiation is a threat
to spacecraft electronics

Radiation Hardness Applications

NPL's 60Co Gamma-ray facility has a proven track record in radiation hardness testing and research on new materials, components and instruments used in the aerospace, telecommunications and electronics industries. For manufacturers and contractors seeking to demonstrate radiation hardness against high doses of gamma radiation (1 MeV photons), NPL's 60Co irradiator offers a cost-effective testing capability for accelerated ageing.

Radiation in the space environment can be simulated, providing:

  • Testing of radiation detectors
  • Testing of semiconductor devices for radiation hardness
  • Confirmation of shielding calculations with respect to 1 MeV photons
  • Irradiation of devices up to specified doses

Possibilities for use and hire

Research and investigations can be carried out with this facility by NPL staff on a contract basis. The unit may be hired on a half-day, day or week basis and the hire fee includes the use of a Perspex® or water phantom if required. Other dosimetric equipment can also be hired in conjunction with the hire of the Theratron itself.

Any dosimetry required can be made traceable back to either the National Standards of absorbed dose and of air kerma.

If technical assistance with dosimetric problems is requested, it will be charged for on an hourly basis.


Customer Services tel: +44 20 8943 8695

Last Updated: 14 Dec 2017
Created: 17 Apr 2007


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