Applications are invited from students who have an interest in PhD projects in any of the themes detailed below.  The list of projects available under each theme is not exhaustive.  Applicants who do not find a suitable project listed should discuss their preference with the EPSRC ICO CDT admissions panel. Specific research topics will be agreed with students at the time of interview.


Research Themes

Ageing

Time dependent changes in materials and processes are crucial in all aspects of operation and maintenance of current operating nuclear facilities. Projects in this topic area involve modelling and experimental studies of the effects of radiation, temperature, time and atmosphere on key nuclear materials including fuels, wasteforms and integrity of structures. They will largely involve current reactor operators such as EdF Energy and users of nuclear facilities such as UKAEA and AWE.

Projects within this theme are available from Imperial College and Cambridge University.

Research projects

Title: Novel hybrid method for reliable surface residual stress measurement
Description: All manufacturing processes impart internal stresses, and can have a significant impact on the integrity of the component. Using finite element simulations, this project develops a novel analytical approach for measuring residual stress.
Institution: Open University
Supervisor(s): Prof John Bouchard (OU) and Geoff Shrimpton (AWE)
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and AWE

Title: Understanding the role of hydrogen-dislocation interactions
Description: Nuclear reactor fuel pins are commonly clad in zirconium alloys. Whilst corrosion resistant they do corrode over time in service producing atomic hydrogen. In this project you will build a robust Gaussian Tight Binding model for H in Zr, using DFT to provide reference data. You will use the model to investigate the interaction of H with individual dislocations in Zr.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Mark Wenham (Imperial), Dr Andrew Horsfield (Imperial), Prof Adrian Sutton (Imperial)
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Rolls-Royce

Title: Multiscale analysis of creep cavity development in 316H stainless steel

Description: Creep cavitation is an important failure mechanism in components operating at high temperature, in particular for nuclear power plants. There is a current lack of understanding about development of creep cavities and how their interaction as a matrix of porosity aggregates into the macro scale material behaviour observed in larger scale testing. In this project, state of the art measurement techniques will be used to cover a variety of length scales using links with the new international stress engineering centre (I-SEC), which is a joint venture between the Rutherford Appleton facility at Harwell (ISIS) and the Open University.

Institution: Open University

Supervisor(s): Dr Hedieh Jazaeri (OU), Dr Alexander Forsey (OU), Prof John Bouchard (OU) and Dr Mike Spindler (EdF Energy)

Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and EdF Energy

Ceramics Materials

Developing improved and durable ceramic, glass, glass composite and cement wasteforms.  This includes developing novel production routes for new ceramic materials for accident tolerant fuels and providing a mechanistic understanding of their alteration and corrosion in water and under a radiation field, especially for in reactor materials and spent nuclear fuel.

Projects within this theme are available from Imperial College and Cambridge University.

Research projects

Title: Carbide MAX Phases for Accident-Tolerant fuels
Description: Following on from the accident at Fukushima, MAX Phases are being extensively studied as cladding/coating materials for Accident-Tolerant fuels in nuclear reactors. This project will model the stability of MAX Phases in the Zr-Al-C system using a range of modelling approaches.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Prof M W Finnis and Prof Bill lee
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Carbides for Future Fission Environments (CAFFE)

Earth Sciences

Modelling of severe accidents to enable events arising from accidents such as those at Chernobyl and Fukushima to be predicted; examine near field (waste and in repository materials) and far field (geology of rocks surrounding the repository) issues including radionuclide sorption and transport of relevance to the UKs geological repository (especially in geomechanics and rock fracture).

Projects within this theme are available from Imperial College and Cambridge University.

Metallurgy

Reactor life extension and structural integrity: steels in reactor and storage applications, Zr alloy cladding, welding, creep/fatigue and surface treatments for enhanced integrity as well as corrosion of metallic waste containers during storage and disposal.

Projects within this theme are available from Imperial College, Cambridge University and the Open University.

Research projects

Title: Influence of stress and strain on hydride matrix interactions in Zr alloys
Description: The influence of hydride formation on zirconium reactor cladding will be investigated with micromechanical testing and characterisation techniques.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Ben Britton (Imperial) and Rob Bentley (Rolls-Royce)
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Rolls-Royce

Title: Creep measurement and modelling based upon 2D/3D Digital Image Correlation
Description: Pressure vessel and pipework systems operating at high temperatures and pressures are vulnerable to creep degradation, especially in the region of weldments. The aim of this project will be to develop techniques to fully utilise the vast amount of data on creep deformation obtained by Digital Image Correlation (DIC) tests for optimising empirical creep models and improving physics-based creep behaviour and damage models.
Institution: Open University
Supervisor(s): Dr Salih Gungor (OU), Prof John Bouchard (OU), Dr Catrin Davies (Imperial) and Mike Spindler (EDF Energy)

Title: Understanding the role of hydrogen-dislocation interactions
Description: Nuclear reactor fuel pins are commonly clad in zirconium alloys. Whilst corrosion resistant they do corrode over time in service producing atomic hydrogen. In this project you will build a robust Gaussian Tight Binding model for H in Zr, using DFT to provide reference data. You will use the model to investigate the interaction of H with individual dislocations in Zr.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Mark Wenham (Imperial), Dr Andrew Horsfield (Imperial), Prof Adrian Sutton (Imperial)
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Rolls-Royce

Title: Creep crack growth at material interfaces
Description: Creep crack growth is a failure mechanism of significant interest when designing and lifting reactor pressure vessels and their associated pipe cooling loops. Making measurements of crack propagation parameters at material interfaces is a significant challenge, which when solved will lead to improved safety and efficiency of these structures. Using the state of the art creep lab at the OU, and auxiliary techniques offered by I-SEC, the advancement of a creep crack can be monitored. This will primarily be achieved by using DIC, which is a computational imaging technique, which allows the strain field around a crack to be monitored at high temperature.
Institution: Open University
Supervisor(s): Dr Alexander Forsey (OU), Dr Salih Gungor (OU) Dr Catrin Davies (Imperial), Dr Dave Dean (EdF Energy)
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and EdF Energy

Title: The effect of back-stress on creep fatigue life using high-resolution DIC
Description:  Life assessment evaluation in steam-plant and gas turbines can be improved by increasing the understanding of creep fatigue behaviour. Of interest are the effect of creep fatigue cycles with dwell interruptions at various points around the cycle, as this is the situation found in nuclear plants. HRDIC is a new and very active area of research using electron microscopy imaging to correlate micro-scale displacements and strain and combining them with grain orientation data from electron back scatter diffraction (EBSD). Using these techniques in this way allows the analysis of a statistically relevant sample of grains, and simultaneously spatially resolved strain data to enable individual grains to be analysed further.
Institution: Open University
Supervisor(s): Dr Alexander Forsey (OU), Dr Salih Gungor (OU), Dr Richard Moat (OU), Mike Spindler (EdF Energy)
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and EdF Energy

Title:  Tribological response of bearings for nuclear power plants
Description: Cobalt-based alloys offer excellent properties in terms of wear and corrosion resistance, and hence are used in a variety of tribological applications within the nuclear industry. In nuclear applications, however, these cobalt-based alloys can cause high background radiation dose levels from activation of cobalt-containing wear and corrosion, and hence component lifing and irradiation dose become intricately linked.  One such application of these alloys is bearings in pressurised water reactors where due to the nature of the water-wetted environment and stringent chemistry controls, typical anti-wear palliatives such as oils, greases and other lubricants cannot be employed to minimise wear and prolong component life. Due to long manufacturing lead times and the requirement for increasing of service lives, it is not practicable to validate by physically testing all tribological and chemical interactions of such systems. This study will therefore develop a combined experimental and modelling approach that can be used to understand and quantify the surface modifications and, hence, to develop a predictive tools for bearing life, cobalt-based material release and to assess potential alternative solutions.

Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Daniele Dini (Imperial) and Dr Dave Stewart (Rolls-Royce)
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Rolls-Royce

Nuclear Policy, Safety, Security and Regulation

Nuclear policy and its impact on energy generation scenarios within the UK and for other countries that are developing nuclear power.  Generation of base-load electricity by nuclear power stations with minimal emissions. Questions surrounding the economic viability, and perceived risks and public acceptability associated with powerplant operations and radioactive wastes.

Projects within this theme are available from Imperial College and the Open University.

Research projects

Title: The Regulation of a Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facility
Description: The effective management of radioactive waste is an essential pre-requisite for the use of nuclear energy. This project examines how a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) should be regulated, and in doing so assure politicans and the public that underground disposal of radioactive waste is safe, secure, and not a risk to nuclear proliferation and the environment.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Prof Laurence Williams and Dr Andrew Buchan
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Radioactive Waste Management Ltd

Title: The Development of a Regulatory Framework for a Nuclear Fusion Power Station
Description: The design of a nuclear installation is best carried out within a regulatory framework that encompasses nuclear safety, nuclear security, non-proliferation safeguards and environmental permitting. To date unlike that for nuclear fission power stations, there is not a national or international framework for the regulation of fusion power stations. This project will examine the development of a regulatory framework for the siting, design, construction, commissioning operation and decommissioning of a nuclear fusion power station for electricity production.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Prof Laurence Williams and Dr Mike Bluck
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) / Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE)

Nuclear Waste Management

Interactions occurring in the near-field of a Geological Repository such as the radiation and aqueous stability of spent nuclear fuels and radioactive waste glasses arising from conventional nuclear generation operation and re-processing.

Processing nuclear waste forms, the development and testing of selective waste forms such as molten salt wastes and selective radionuclide absorbents for sequestration from waste streams or in a nuclear accident scenario. Beyond the near-field, projects are available both in coupling of source terms to larger scale Geological Repository models and verifying and developing larger scale repository models.

Projects within this theme are available from Imperial College, Cambridge University and the Open University.

Research projects

Title: Effect of compaction process on the re-saturation potential of bentonite buffers
Description: Experimental and numerical investigation of the thermo-hydro-mechanical characteristics of bentonite. The aim is to advance our understanding of the influence of the compaction process on bentonite as a buffer material in deep geological disposal of nuclear waste.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Katerina Tsiampousi and Prof Lidija Zdravkovic
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Radioactive Waste Management Ltd

Title: The Regulation of a Radioactive Waste Geological Disposal Facility
Description: The effective management of radioactive waste is an essential pre-requisite for the use of nuclear energy. This project examines how a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) should be regulated, and in doing so assure politicans and the public that underground disposal of radioactive waste is safe, secure, and not a risk to nuclear proliferation and the environment.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Prof Laurence Williams and Dr Andrew Buchan
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Radioative Waste Management Ltd

Reactor Engineering

Analysis and design of potential future nuclear reactor systems and fuel cycles, especially from the reactor physics, thermal-hydraulic and fuel management perspectives. A particular interest in the exploitation of thorium-based fuels both in current and future power generation technologies. Development of advanced reactor physics and multi-physics analysis methods for the design and safety assessment of nuclear reactor systems.

Development of next generation fission reactors such as examining flow behaviour of molten salts, new fuel materials, ultra-high temperature non-oxide and MAX phase ceramics for fuels and cladding, thoria fuels and materials issues including disposal of wastes from Small Modular Reactors. Areas of symbiosis in research for next generation fission and fusion reactors.

Projects within this theme are available from Imperial College, Cambridge University, and The Open University.

Reactor Physics

Radionuclide transport, neutron transport in reactor systems, simulating radiation-fluid-solid interactions in reactors and finite element methods for transient kinetics of severe accident scenarios; Reactor Thermal Hydraulics (assessment of critical heat flux for reactors, buoyancy-driven natural circulation coolant flows for nuclear safety, simulated dynamics and heat transfer characteristics of severe accidents in nuclear reactors).

Projects within this theme are available from Imperial College and Cambridge University.