Anita Crompton

“My father was an engineer and I have always had an interest in how things work. After working in education for several years, and a period of self-employment, I decided to change career and returned to university as a mature student. I undertook a Masters Degree in Mechatronic Engineering.

“Following this, I was employed in the nuclear section of a large engineering company which is where I discovered my love of nuclear engineering. I left this post to pursue a PhD in nuclear engineering to enhance my career prospects and to fulfil a lifelong ambition to achieve a PhD, with the offer of a return to my previous employers once my research was completed.”

The project

Alpha radiation is highly dangerous if ingested into the body. Whilst detection can be hazardous and time consuming, and therefore expensive, it is vital for nuclear power stations to ensure that any alpha contamination is detected and its location established, especially during decommissioning.

This research looks at how alpha particles can be detected from a distance (up to 10 meters away). As alpha particles travel through the air, they deposit energy (ionisation). This causes a faint glow (air-fluorescence) and it is this glow that this research is seeking to detect. As daylight obscures this glow, it is like trying to see a candle flame outdoors in full sunshine; this makes detection very difficult. This research looks at ways that the glow can be distinguished from daylight so it can be detected. By using ‘solar-blind’ detectors to look for ultraviolet light outside of the range of sunlight, it is hoped that the air-fluorescence can be detected and therefore the alpha contamination location identified.