Gamma Irradiation Facility

Photo of Gamma Irradiation Facility

The Gamma Irradiation Facility (GIF) provides high-fidelity simulation of nuclear radiation environments for materials and component testing. The low-dose irradiation facility also offers an environment for long-duration testing of materials and electronic components. Such testing may take place over a number of months or even years.

Research and other activities

The single-structure GIF can house a wide variety of gamma irradiation experiments with various test configurations and at different dose and dose rate levels. Radiation fields at the GIF are produced by high-intensity gamma-ray sources. To induce ionizing radiation effects and damage in test objects, the objects are subjected to high-energy photons from gamma-source arrays composed of cobalt-60 pins.

Typical experiments at the GIF include the following:

  • Testing and radiation certification of satellite and weapons system electronic components
  • Dosimetry calibration
  • Investigations of radiation damage to materials

Test objects at the GIF can be as large as tanks or as small as microchips. These objects are often tested for their abilities to withstand the damaging radiation environments they might experience in space, near stored nuclear materials, or during a wartime nuclear exchange.

Special features and equipment

Three test cells of various sizes (two 10 × 10-ft. test cells and one measuring 18 × 30 ft.) are provided at the GIF for dry irradiation experiments, such as the following:

  • Testing for electronic-component hardness
  • Materials-properties testing
  • Investigations of various physical and chemical processes

The GIF also offers a 5.5-m (~18-ft.) deep pool of demineralized water. Radioactive sources are held in a submerged irradiation fixture near the bottom of the pool, which can accommodate a variety of in-pool irradiation fixtures and source configurations. The GIF pool is used for submerged irradiation experiments, such as the following:

  • Thermal- and radiation-effects studies
  • Weapons degradation
  • Reactor accident effects
  • Electronic-component certification

To accommodate specific irradiation needs for experiments, the following custom features have been incorporated into the GIF design:

  • Configurable radiation sources that provide different geometries for the source array (e.g., point, planar, and circular)
  • Shielded windows that enable experiment observation during irradiation
  • Remote manipulators that can be installed to facilitate experiment or source handling
  • Pass-throughs in the shielding walls so that experiment power and instrumentation cables can penetrate the shield walls
  • A movable wall that measures 5.5-m (~18-ft.) wide in the large cell, providing access for large components (e.g., space vehicles or military vehicles)
  • Removable cell-roof-shield plugs that provide access for large and/or massive experiments
  • An overhead bridge crane that spans the facility’s high bay and that can access the cells through the cell-roof-shield plugs