The PSI Hotlaba unique Swiss facility
Radioactive substances are produced and/or used in basic research (e.g. particle accelerators), in industrial (e.g. nuclear reactors) and medical applications (e.g. radiopharmaceuticals).
The PSI Hotlab facility is the only Swiss installation, allowing safe and secure handling as well as examination of highly toxic radioactive substances and components. Therefore, an extensive safety infrastructure is necessary which includes beside others:
- a complex ventilation system maintaining several low-pressure levels;
waste air and water cleaning systems as well as conditioning devices for liquid and solid waste;
a control room to supervise and operate the laboratory.
The PSI Hotlab houses:
31 Laboratories (rooms) type A (highest activity class in Switzerland);
12 lead or steel shielded cells for analytical instruments or sample preparation;
several gloves boxes and hoods.
The building was constructed in between 1961 – 1963 and has been ever since continuously enlarged, extended and upgraded. The last big refurbishment was the exchange of the sewage treatment system, with which the complete radioactive waste water from the PSI east side is cleaned.
The handling and investigation of highly radioactive material requires remote controlled operation and dedicated instrumentation to ensure both the confinement of the radioactivity and the safety of the operators. During its 50 years of operation, the PSI Hotlab has continuously upgraded its basic infrastructure and its analytical tools.
Actually, with its well-educated scientific and technical staff, its analytical infrastructure and its capability to prepare small specimens for further investigation on other PSI large research facilities (SINQ, SLS), the Hotlab is a key facility for the Nuclear Energy and Safety department, supports the other departments at PSI and offers a unique and efficient platform for the Swiss and international research community.
The PSI Hotlab has also a user lab function and provides the technical infrastructure and a broad spectrum of services, methods and instrumentation for the manipulation, characterisation and analysis of radioactive materials:
- Hot cell line for sample preparation, material testing and dismantling of large components from the nuclear fuel cycle or accelerator systems
- Specimen preparation from irradiated materials incl. micro-specimens for use in non- or light-shielded instrumentation
- Radiochemical analysis
- Microstructure analysis (optical and electron microscopy)
- Gamma, X-ray and Mass spectrometric techniques for the elemental and isotopic analysis of gaseous, liquid and solid samples incl. surface analytical techniques
- Education of academic and technical junior staff members for the research community and nuclear industry