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.

 

Please note applications close on Friday August 31st 2018 at 4pm. This is the last year the CDT will recruit students.


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.

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: 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

Title: Testing and modelling of environmental damage in high-temperature components
Description: Higher efficiency and cleaner technology is resulting in an increase in operating temperatures making increased demands on the safe operability of advanced steels. The aim of this proposal is to develop and validate methodologies for the modelling needed to support the design and progressive failure assessment of structural metallic microstructures under creep/fatigue and environmental loading conditions. Based on the findings recommendations can be made in the development and fabrication of new alloys and safe structures operating at elevated temperatures.
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s): Dr Kamran Nikbin and Dr Catrin Davies
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:  Durability of Magnesium-Silicate-Hydrate-Based Cements made from Brucite

Description: Magnesium silicate hydrate cements are a new type of cement that exploits the strength generated when magnesium oxide is made to react with a soluble silica source to form a mostly amorphous hydrated gel of magnesium silicate (M-S-H gel). It is a perfect candidate for reducing the volume of waste from the fuel ponds in Sellafield as the solids in those ponds are mostly magnesium hydroxide, which can also be converted in M-S-H gel under the right circumstances, i.e. the waste would effectively be a large component of the binder in which it is immobilised.                

Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Hong Wong
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT

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 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: Modelling Methods for Optimal Functionally Graded Materials by Novel Processing
Description:  Hot isostatic processing (HIP) is a methodology in which metal (eg nickel alloys and steel) particulates are consolidated at temperature and pressure in order to produce functionally graded engineering structures with optimal but spatially varying properties. An example is in graded structures coupling pressure vessels and piping in a nuclear power plant. This project addresses the establishment of computational material modelling methods to facilitate optimally designed HIPped materials and structures, and will likely be partnered with an experimental programme, in collaboration with Rolls-Royce.
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s): Prof Fionn Dunne (IC) and Dave Stewart (Rolls-Royce)
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Rolls-Royce

Title: Testing and modelling of environmental damage in high-temperature components
Description: Higher efficiency and cleaner technology is resulting in an increase in operating temperatures making increased demands on the safe operability of advanced steels. The aim of this proposal is to develop and validate methodologies for the modelling needed to support the design and progressive failure assessment of structural metallic microstructures under creep/fatigue and environmental loading conditions. Based on the findings recommendations can be made in the development and fabrication of new alloys and safe structures operating at elevated temperatures.
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s)Prof Kamran Nikbin and Dr Catrin Davies
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and EdF Energy

Title: Generating macroscopic material property data from in-service components
Description:
Reliable tensile, fatigue and fracture mechanics properties of materials used to construct nuclear power plants are required to carry out initial design calculations and to evaluate the life and structural integrity of safety critical components. Properties of materials change during design service life owing to thermal ageing, irradiation, creep damage, cyclic loading and reaction with the environment meaning reliance on virgin material data is unstatisfactory. Using carefully controlled specimen preparation and testing using modern measurement techniques (e.g. 3D Digital Image Correlation), methods to deduce microstructurally relevant characterising parameters will be developed.
Institution: The 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

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

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: One of the main components of planned deep geological repositories for nuclear waste is a layer of compacted bentonite which is to act as a buffer between the canisters containing the waste and the host formation. The scope of the project is to study the effect of the compaction process on the hydraulic, mechanical and thermal behaviour of bentonite with the aim of optimising its ability to resaturate while ensuring that its thermo-mechanical behaviour (e.g. swelling potential) is not compromised.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Katerina Tsiampousi and Prof Lidija Zdravkovic
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Radioactive Waste Management Ltd

Title: Durability of Magnesium-Silicate-Hydrate-Based Cements made from Brucite

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Description: Magnesium silicate hydrate cements are a new type of cement that exploits the strength generated when magnesium oxide is made to react with a soluble silica source to form a mostly amorphous hydrated gel of magnesium silicate (M-S-H gel). It is a perfect candidate for reducing the volume of waste from the fuel ponds in Sellafield as the solids in those ponds are mostly magnesium hydroxide, which can also be converted in M-S-H gel under the right circumstances, i.e. the waste would effectively be a large component of the binder in which it is immobilised. However, while hydrated magnesium silicate gels have been known for a long time as a by-product of magnesium sulphate attack on normal Portland cement, much less is known about its durability and long term behaviour. Therefore the project would explore (i) how sludges should be pre-treated to enable the production of a suitable wasteform as too much water will reduce the mechanical properties substantially and (ii) the durability, i.e. long term stability of such cements, to ascertain whether this new type of cement is likely to remain stable.

Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Hong Wong
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT

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.

Research Projects

 

Title:  Computational studies of the effect of surface defects on boiling in reactors

Description: The influence of surface imperfections on the initiation of boiling and their consequences on boiling heat transfer is important for safety assessment of the cooling systems of nuclear reactors. Although there are extensive studies that have been performed on boiling heat transfer and many CFD models that have been developed over decades of research, the CFD models tend to be based on semi-empirical correlations, which do not take into account the physics of local boiling initiation, growth and detachment of individual bubbles from surfaces.  Therefore, we propose to perform detailed computational studies of the contribution of surface imperfections on boiling heat transfer under conditions of pool or forced flow boiling and incorporate these results into CFD models.   

Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Michael Bluck
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Imperial College

Title:  Application of machine learning to the development of nuclear thermal hydraulics

Description: : The study of thermal hydraulics in a nuclear reactor, in both primary and secondary circuits is vital in the assessment of the performance and safety of any reactor design. The flow of coolant is a challenging problem in which coolant flows through a complex arrangement of channels, ducts, valves and other components and is subject to wall heat transfer where a wide range of boiling regimes could occur, particularly in accident scenarios. The objective of this project is to investigate more rigorous and reliable means by which reduced order models (ROMs) may be obtained that combine the efficiency of System Codes with the accuracy of Computational Fluid Dynamics. The approach here is to use recent developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Michael Bluck
Funding: EPSRC Nuclear CDT and Imperial College

 

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.