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Investigating porosity changes and stress mechanics of corroding nuclear wastes under confined expansion


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Monday 15 July 2024
Project start date
Tuesday 1 October 2024
Country eligibility
UK only
Source of funding
Centre for doctoral training
Dr Ana Heitor
Additional supervisors
Professor Bill Murphy (Earth & Environment), Dr Timothy Hunter (Chemical & Process Engineering)
School of Chemical and Process Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, School of Earth and Environment
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

As the UK prepares to invest in new operational nuclear power plants, industry and research organisations are also looking to decommission the UK&rsquo;s existing nuclear legacy facilities. Fuel cladding, and corrosion products thereof, represent one of the major challenges to waste retrievals and storage at Sellafield and the wider nuclear industry. Waste is currently housed in aged storage facilities pressing retrieval and interim storage (such as the Magnox Swarf Storage Siloes) prior to immobilisation and geological storage. The volume and porosity changes arising are complex, and overall porosity increase and volume expansion have only been observed in unconfined cases, where reaction rates are appreciable.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p style="margin-bottom:11px">This PhD project will work alongside leading teams within the University of Leeds and Sellafield Ltd, to investigate the nature of waste evolution under storage conditions in order to predict volume changes and resulting forces generated on confinement packaging. Specifically, under interim storage, Magnox alloy undergoes a series of physical and chemical changes; such as corrosion reactions forming brucite, as well as with CO2 to form hydromagnesite and other magnesium hydroxycarbonate phases as a soil/clay like sediment bed, which will gradually dry-out over long timescales. Behaviour under confined conditions and over the timescales of storage (many decades) is poorly understood, resulting in significant costs to the UK taxpayer to ensure wastes are safely stored. This is an exciting interdisciplinary project, combining chemistry and civil engineering with soil mechanics and geotechnics. It will also involve a close working relationship with the nuclear industry.</p> <p><strong>About&nbsp;SATURN_Nuclear_CDT</strong></p> <p>This project is part of the <a href="">Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in SATURN (Skills And Training Underpinning a Renaissance in Nuclear)</a>. It is led from the University of Manchester and includes leading nuclear research universities in the North of England and Scottland (University of Leeds, University of Sheffield, Lancaster University, University of Liverpool, University of Strathclyde). We aim to deliver the next generation of nuclear researchers to help the UK achieve its Net Zero targets and beyond, in a collegial cohort environment. The CDT will also include technical training in the nuclear fuel cycle to ensure all candidates are familiar with the nuclear sector, and specialist research skills training.</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the Planned Course of Study section that you are applying for <em><strong>EPSRC CDT SATURN &ndash;&nbsp;Nuclear Science and Engineering</strong></em>,&nbsp;in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is <em><strong>Investigating porosity changes and stress mechanics of corroding nuclear wastes under confined expansion</strong></em> as well as&nbsp;<a href="">Dr Ana Heitor</a> as your proposed supervisor and <em><strong>in the finance section, please state clearly that the funding source you are applying for is EPSRC CDT SATURN</strong></em>.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p> <p class="MsoNoSpacing">Applications will be considered on an ongoing basis. &nbsp;Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the supervisors for an informal discussion before making a formal application. &nbsp;We also advise that you apply at the earliest opportunity as the application and selection process may close early, should we receive a sufficient number of applications or that a suitable candidate is appointed.</p> <p>Please note that you must provide the following documents in support of your application by the closing date of 15 July 2024:</p> <ul> <li>Full Transcripts of all degree study or if in final year of study, full transcripts to date</li> <li>Personal Statement outlining your interest in the project</li> <li>CV</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Candidates will have, or be due to obtain, a Master&rsquo;s Degree or equivalent from a reputable university in an appropriate field of Engineering. Exceptional candidates with a First Class Bachelor&rsquo;s Degree in an appropriate field will also be considered. Applicants are advised to check with the relevant School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p class="MsoNoSpacing">A highly competitive EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Skills And Training Underpinning a Renaissance in Nuclear (SATURN)&nbsp;studentship in partnership with Sellafield Ltd, offering the award of fees, together with a tax-free maintenance grant of &pound;19,237 per year for 4&nbsp;years.&nbsp; Training and support will also be provided.<br /> <br /> This opportunity is open to UK applicants only. All candidates will be placed into the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in SATURN Studentship Competition and selection is based on academic merit.<br /> <br /> Please refer to the&nbsp;<a href="">UKCISA</a>&nbsp;website for&nbsp;information regarding Fee Status for Non-UK Nationals.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information about this project, please contact Dr Ana Heitor by email to&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>For further information about your application, please contact Doctoral College Admissions by email to&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p> <p>For further information about the CDT SATURN programme, please contact the CDT SATURN Programme Team by email to&nbsp;<a href=""></a>&nbsp;or Dr Timothy Hunter CDT Programme Director) by email to <a href=""></a></p>