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Probabilistic corrosion analysis for secure long-term geological disposal of nuclear waste in high-chloride environments


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Monday 15 July 2024
Project start date
Tuesday 1 October 2024
Country eligibility
UK only
Competition funded
Source of funding
Centre for doctoral training
Professor Richard Barker
Additional supervisors
Professor Harvey Thompson, Dr Joshua Owen, Dr Timothy Hunter (Chemical & Process Engineering)
School of Chemical and Process Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Geological Disposal Facilities (GDFs) are deemed the safest option for nuclear waste disposal, employing a system of natural and engineered barriers for secure storage. Crucial to this process are robust containers manufactured from materials such as stainless or carbon steel, shielded by backfill materials consisting of cement or clay at depths reaching hundreds of meters into rock. Preserving these containers for thousands of years requires a clear understanding of corrosion rates, corrosion product formation, and gas generation, particularly in high-chloride aqueous environments; a vital yet understudied aspect relevant to the UK&rsquo;s GDF program.

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

<p style="margin-bottom:11px">This research programme employs short-term electrochemical and long-term exposure methods to enhance comprehension of material corrosion in hypersaline environments. Reliable test methodologies and statistical analysis techniques will be employed to assure conclusive, quantitative results. Particular emphasis is placed on discerning the impact of pre-closure environments on post-closure corrosion, addressing the potential re-initiation, or continued propagation of existing localised corrosion in high-chloride conditions. The project also capitalises on an array of analysis techniques to understand corrosion product formation and hydrogen evolution. This comprehensive approach mitigates the risk of localised attack on infrastructure materials in GDFs, promoting the longevity and efficacy of nuclear waste disposal systems.</p> <p>Objectives of the PhD project include:</p> <ul> <li>Develop and implement short-term electrochemical/statistical techniques to create probabilistic pit stability maps for various material/environment combinations representative of GDFs.</li> <li>Identify boundaries in pit stability maps where localised attack is likely, assigning confidence limits to support material selection/suitability decisions.</li> <li>Develop long-term corrosion test methodologies to quantify general/localised corrosion rates, hydrogen evolution and corrosion product formation, reducing uncertainty in corrosion prediction.</li> <li>Perform long-term periodic removal of coupons to determine whether attack is propagating/non-propagating, providing enhanced understanding in severe conditions.</li> <li>Support a PhD student to become a specialist in the field of corrosion relevant to GDF environments.</li> </ul> <p>The PhD researcher will become part of the Corrosion and Mineral Scaling Research Team within the Institute of Functional Surfaces (University of Leeds), a vibrant and diverse research group with expertise in electrochemistry, material characterisation and interfacial science. The project is in collaboration with Nuclear Waste Services who bring together the UK&rsquo;s leading nuclear waste management capabilities, working closely with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.</p> <p><strong>About&nbsp;SATURN_Nuclear_CDT</strong></p> <p>This project is part of the&nbsp;<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 style="text-align:start; margin-bottom:24px">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&nbsp;<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&nbsp;<em><strong>Probabilistic corrosion analysis for secure long-term geological disposal of nuclear waste in high-chloride environments</strong></em>&nbsp;as well as <a href="">Professor Richard Barker</a>&nbsp;as your proposed supervisor and&nbsp;in the finance section, please state clearly that the funding source you are applying for is <em><strong>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>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>A highly competitive EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Skills And Training Underpinning a Renaissance in Nuclear (SATURN)&nbsp;studentship, 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 Professor Richard Barker 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 (Programme Director) by email to&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>