A pre-clinical characterization of the first fission converter based epithermal neutron beam (FCB) designed for boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) has been performed. Calculated design parameters describing the physical performance of the aluminium and Teflon filtered beam were confirmed from neutron fluence and absorbed dose rate measurements performed with activation foils and paired ionization chambers. The facility currently provides an epithermal neutron flux of 4.6 x 10(9) n cm(-2) s(-1) in-air at the patient position that makes it the most intense BNCT source in the world. This epithermal neutron flux is accompanied by very low specific photon and fast neutron absorbed doses of 3.5 +/- 0.5 and 1.4 +/- 0.2 x 10(-13) Gy cm2, respectively. A therapeutic dose rate of 1.7 RBE Gy min(-1) is achievable at the advantage depth of 97 mm when boronated phenylalanine (BPA) is used as the delivery agent, giving an average therapeutic ratio of 5.7. In clinical trials of normal tissue tolerance when using the FCB, the effective prescribed dose is due principally to neutron interactions with the nonselectively absorbed BPA present in brain. If an advanced compound is considered, the dose to brain would instead be predominately from the photon kerma induced by thermal neutron capture in hydrogen and advantage parameters of 0.88 Gy min(-1), 121 mm and 10.8 would be realized for the therapeutic dose rate, advantage depth and therapeutic ratio, respectively. This study confirms the success of a new approach to producing a high intensity, high purity epithermal neutron source that attains near optimal physical performance and which is well suited to exploit the next generation of boron delivery agents.