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Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post
Tom Pegden

GF Tomlinson finishes work on nuclear physics bunker ‘built with safety and security of the utmost priority’

A Derbyshire building contractor has finished work on a new nuclear physics bunker at the University of Birmingham.

GF Tomlinson, which is based in Little Eaton in Derby, has completed the site which is due to house the UK’s first High Flux Accelerator-Driven Neutron Facility.

It will allow researchers a chance to better understand how neutrons interact with matter, and should help pave the way in applying their work to nuclear medicine and the study of space.

The new bunker is located at the university’s Edgbaston Campus, on the site of the Physics East Building which forms part of The School of Physics and Astronomy.

G F Tomlinson oversaw the design and build of the project, with construction starting in September 2020. It saw a bank of land excavated down to around 24 ft at one end under guidance from geologists.

The contractor worked closely with concrete structure specialists Northfield Construction and M&E engineers Dodd Group to erect a steel frame followed by a concrete structure – with a near 18ins thick floor, 2ft walls and a 1ft thick floor slab on top. Specialist radiation doors also had to be installed.

G F Tomlinson also put in a gantry crane and roller shutter to enable the installation of the High-Flux Accelerator, which has now been lifted into place.

The contractor is due to return later this year to then install a wall in place of the shutter, sealing the highly specialised equipment safely into its final location which is due to be fully operational by summer this year.

The facility will be the first of its kind in the UK, and only the second such facility in the world – the other located in Helsinki in Finland.

It forms part of the National Nuclear User Facility (NNUF), which is funded by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Chris Flint, managing director of G F Tomlinson, said: “We’re incredibly proud to have completed the construction of this new bunker.

“It will be home to an important international facility designed to perform crucial research in the nuclear sector, which can be used to further specialised nuclear medicine and the understanding of materials in space.

“The bunker has been meticulously designed and built with safety and security of the utmost priority – the thickness of the concrete structure will ensure protection from radiation, as well as the installation of specialist radiation doors into the facility.

“Once fully installed, the facility will be operated in accordance with strict guidelines set out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency.

“We worked on site whilst the adjacent Physics East Building was occupied and being used for studying and essential testing throughout each day of the project, we therefore took great care to ensure our works did not disrupt the existing building users.

“The University of Birmingham has a long-standing history and track record of carrying out vital scientific research and it is wonderful to have worked with them to provide the ideal location for this unique facility, which will set a benchmark for further investment and development in the UK’s nuclear research future.”

GF Tomlinson has offices in Derby, Newark, Lincoln and Birmingham, and works on major multi-million-pound developments.

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