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Applications are invited from candidates who have an interest in the PhD projects listed below.

The list of projects available is not exhaustive, although the projects listed have preference: they have funding agreed and are available immediately.

Applicants who cannot find a suitable project listed should discuss their preference with the CDT admissions panel; although we will do our best, there is no guarantee we can find an appropriate supervisor or funding. Specific research topics will be agreed with candidates when an offer is made.

 


Project details

Advanced materials for challenging isotope separations

Title: Advanced materials for challenging isotope separations
Description: Deuterium (D), as a stable heavy isotope of hydrogen, plays an essential role in nuclear energy production, for example, in heavy water neutron moderators in current nuclear fission reactors. However, as D is only found naturally as a dilute mixture with the more common, lighter hydrogen isotope, protium (H), efficient methods for H/D separation are required if nuclear energy is to become more widely adopted. This project is aimed at exploring the mechanisms around challenging gas separations using adsorptive separation in highly porous materials such as zeolites and metal-organic frameworks or porous organic cages.
Institution: University of Bristol
Supervisor(s): Dr Valeska Ting (UoB) and Dr Tim Johnson (Johnson Matthey)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Johnson Matthey

Ageing of plutonium oxide powders: evolution of physical properties

Title: Ageing of plutonium oxide powders: evolution of physical properties
Description: Nuclear Forensics is the science of determining the identity, history and origin of nuclear or other radioactive materials, and as such is a critical component of security and safeguards controls. This PhD project presents an exciting opportunity to investigate how these nuclear forensic signatures of plutonium dioxide evolve as a result of radioactive decay and ageing processes, through the use of multiscale modelling and simulation techniques.
Institution: Bangor University
Supervisor(s): Dr Simon Middleburgh (BU), Dr Michael Rushton (BU) and Matthew Gilbert (AWE).
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and AWE

An investigation of metallic uranium corrosion in a Geological Disposal Facility

Title: An investigation of metallic uranium corrosion in a Geological Disposal Facility
Description: Geological disposal is internationally recognised as the safest long-term solution for higher activity radioactive wastes and the UK’s legacy wastes, including those containing uranium metal, are intended to be managed in this way. This PhD project will investigate the corrosion behaviour of unirradiated Magnox uranium metal, under conditions analogous to a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) both (i) pre-closure and (ii) post-closure.
Institution: University of Bristol
Supervisor(s): Prof Tom Scott (UoB)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Radioactive Waste Management Ltd

Assessment of radiogenic lead as a coolant for Lead-Cooled Fast Reactors

Title: Assessment of radiogenic lead as a coolant for Lead-Cooled Fast Reactors
Description: Radiogenic lead has been proposed as a possible coolant for Lead Cooled Fast Reactors. Radiogenic lead is lead that occurs in nature as the decay product of the radioactive decay of previous actinides (such as uranium and thorium). The project will examine the technical potential (in terms of reactor physics) of radiogenic lead and also assess the economics of obtaining such material at scale in contrast to nuclear physics based enrichment of natural lead.
Institution: The Open University
Supervisor(s): Prof Bill Nuttall (OU) and Dr Eugene Shwageraus (Cambs)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and The Open University

Atom probe tomography and microscale mechanical testing of RPV steel

Title: Atom probe tomography and microscale mechanical testing of RPV steel
Description: This project offers the unique opportunity for a student to study real surveillance Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) material that has been neutron irradiated in the UK’s only civil pressurised water reactor (Sizewell B). The aim of the project is to study how the neutron irradiation damage has evolved at the nano-scale and compare how microstructural changes, made by pre-straining the material, before irradiation, have changed the radiation response of the steel.  This will be used to determine the dose-damage characteristics of the different microstructures, when used in conjunction with micromechanical testing.
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s): Dr Mark Wenman (IC), Dr Giuseppe Scatigno (EdF Energy) and Katharine Chivers (EdF Energy)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and EdF Energy

Constraint effects on creep crack growth behaviour in 316H stainless steel

Title: Constraint effects on creep crack growth behaviour in 316H stainless steel
Description:
Life extension of the UK’s advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) is dependent on the assurance of the safety of their structural components. As many AGR components operate in the creep range, it is important to understand and to be able to predict creep and creep-fatigue crack growth for real or postulated defects in these components. The main aim of this work is to investigate the effects of constraint (in-plane and out-of-plane) on creep crack growth in 316H steel at 550°C, with particular emphasis on developing an improved understanding of crack growth behaviour in thin section components.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Catrin Davies (ICL), Prof Karam Nikbin (ICL), Prof David Dean (EdF Energy) and Dr Daniel Hughes (EdF Energy)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and EdF Energy

Dynamic fracture testing techniques for alloys

Title: Dynamic fracture testing techniques for alloys
Description: The effect of loading rates is known to affect the mechanical properties of alloys, especially the yield strength and fracture toughness. The aims of this project are to understand the influence of strain rate and sample size/constraint on the fracture toughness of nuclear grade A508 forged steel in addition to Ti-6Al-4V manufactured through laser powder bed fusion. 
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s): Dr Paul Hooper (IC), Dr Catrin Davies (IC), Dr Mike Cox (AWE) and Dr Giles Aldrich-Smith (AWE)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and AWE

Environmental effects on creep crack growth behaviour

Title:  Environmental effects on creep crack growth behaviour
Description: Life extension of the UK’s advanced gas cooled reactors (AGRs) is dependent on the assurance of the safety of their structural components. As many AGR components operate in the creep range, it is important to understand and to be able to predict creep and creep-fatigue crack growth for real or postulated defects in these components. The aim of this project is to investigate the creep crack growth behaviour of Type 316H steel in both a pressurised simulated AGR CO2 environment and an inert environment or vacuum to discover the significance of any environmental contributions to creep crack growth in both a laboratory air environment and a pressurised simulated AGR CO2 environment.
Institution: Imperial College
Supervisor(s): Dr Catrin Davies (ICL), Prof Karam Nikbin (ICL), Prof David Dean (EdF Energy) and Dr Daniel Hughes (EdF Energy)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and EdF Energy

 

High performance radiation transport methods with ray effect mitigation

Title: High performance radiation transport methods with ray effect mitigation
Description:
The aim of this PhD project is to develop novel numerical algorithms on modern, multi-core and many-core, high performance distributed computing (HPC) architectures for radiation shielding analyses of small modular reactors (SMRs) such as the steam raising nuclear power plants (NPPs) of nuclear submarines or the new Rolls-Royce, civil nuclear, SMR concept. The successful candidate will join, and be supported by, a vibrant and dynamic group with world class expertise in the numerical modelling of radiation transport and multiphysics phenomena for nuclear engineering. They will be trained in the latest state-of-the-art numericalmethods for simulating radiation transport in nuclear reactor cores, parallel high performance computing (HPC) techniques, object oriented programming, and scalable solvers as well as trained in the use of the industrial reactor shielding software for verification and validation (V&V) purposes.
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s): Dr Matt Eaton (ICL)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Rolls-Royce

High temperature digital image correlation of small punch test

Title: High temperature digital image correlation of small punch test
Description: Creep damage is the principal life limiting factor in the life of a thermal plant. Materials behaviour in creep regime is evaluated using uniaxial tests. However, the majority of components experience a multi-axial stress state. Stress multi-axiality can have a significant effect on the rate of initiation and growth of creep cavities. This project is aimed at designing, optimising, and eventually exploiting optical techniques for creep study of small punch tests.
Institution: University of Bristol
Supervisor(s): Dr Harry Coules (UoB) and Dr Yiqiang Wang (UKAEA)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority

Improving the performance of advanced technology fuels

Title: Improving the performance of advanced technology fuels
Description: The drive for change in nuclear fuel design is towards accident tolerance, which specifically relates to the absence or delay of high-temperature clad oxidation by coolant. The PhD is at the forefront of current UK research and development in nuclear fission. It will investigate potential avenues for improving fuel-water performance, including dopants and surface coatings, providing a comprehensive review of possible options.
Institution: University of Bristol
Supervisor(s): Dr Ross Springell (UoB) and Dr David Goddard (NNL)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and NNL

Investigating actinide oxide reactivity in waste

Title: Investigating actinide oxide reactivity in waste
Description: Work has just begun at the UK's chief nuclear waste site, Sellafield, on repackaging stored plutonium waste for processing. However, there have been some significant changes to the conditions within some of the cannisters from when they were originally sealed, which has foreground difficult issues. These issues revolve around the interaction of plutonium oxide powder with water and potential evolution of hydrogen (or lack of) over time. A deeper understanding of the plutonium oxide reactivity, and more generally, actinide oxides, and their ability to affect the local gaseous environment, is  important.
Institution: University of Bristol
Supervisor(s): Dr Ross Springell (UoB) and Dr Helen Steele (Sellafield Ltd)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Sellafield Ltd

Mathematical and computational modelling for nuclear criticality safety analysis

Title: Mathematical and computational modelling for nuclear criticality safety analysis
Description: The aim of this project is to develop novel mathematical and computational methods for modelling the nuclear criticality excursion behaviour of interacting arrays of loosely coupled systems containing fissile material, where some of the array components are sub-critical and some are super-critical or where an extraneous (or external) neutron source is introduced into the system. Overall the findings will provide a unique set of methods that can be used to model a wider range of scenarios than currently possible.
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s): Dr Matthew Eaton (IC)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and MoD Contractor

Modelling delayed hydride cracking and crack growth in Zr cladding

Title: Modelling Delayed Hydride Cracking and Crack Growth in Zr Cladding
Description: A previous PhD project  led to the establishment of new fracture mechanics understanding and methods for crack growth in fuel cladding zirconium alloy materials. The crack growth paths are highly tortuous and mainly crystallographic such that novel crystal plasticity and stored energy density methods could track their nucleation sites, propagation paths and to some extent rates of growth under cyclic loading. We wish to develop these capabilities to address the problem of delayed hydride cracking. The new project is to establish crystal plasticity coupled hydrogen diffusion models, including hydride formation and dissolution, with crack nucleation and growth such that computational predictive modelling can be developed for Zr component design for reactor cores.
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s): Prof Fionn Dunne (IC)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Rolls-Royce

Modelling the behaviour of compacted bentonite for nuclear waste disposal

Title: Modelling the behaviour of compacted bentonite for nuclear waste disposal
Description:
Compacted bentonite clays are envisaged as part of engineered barrier systems (EBS) in geological disposal facilities (GDF). Most of the existing research (experimental, field, numerical) on the behaviour of compacted bentonite, in relation to nuclear waste disposal, has considered its exposure to temperatures of up to 100oC. The objective of the proposed research is to explore the behaviour of bentonite buffers at temperatures above 100oC, by conducting predictive modelling with the software ICFEP, of the thermal, hydraulic and mechanical evolution of the buffer and host rock, associated with the HotBENT experiment at Grimsel Test Site in Switzerland. The research is aimed at helping optimisation of GDF design in terms of the footprint of the network of underground vaults and deposition holes within a GDF.
Institution: Imperial College London
Supervisor(s): Prof Lidija Zdravkovic (IC), Prof David Potts (IC) and Simon Norris (Radioactive Waste Management)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Radioactive Waste Management

Perfecting weld technology for nuclear energy systems using advanced Ni alloys

Title:  Perfecting weld technology for nuclear energy systems using advanced Ni alloys
Description:
Nuclear power plant systems comprise hundreds of kilometres of pipework joined by thousands of welds. For efficient harnessing of nuclear energy, dissimilar metals have to be joined by welding, that is mainly austenitic stainless steel to ferritic-martensitic steels which have significantly different thermo-physical properties. A Nickel based weld filler, Alloy 52, is increasingly being used to construct such dissimilar metal welds (DMWs) in water cooled nuclear power plants across the globe to mitigate historic susceptibility of DMWs to stress corrosion cracking (which has compromised plant safety). However, Alloy 52 is prone to the occurrence of ductility-dip cracking (DDC) during welding (in the temperature range 750 to 1000 oC). The innovative idea behind this project is to study the development of DDC “in-situ” during a “Programmed Deformation Test” and elucidate the fundamental mechanisms and controlling conditions.
Institution: The Open University
Supervisor(s): Prof John Bouchard (OU), Dr Richard Moat (OU), Dr Joe Kelleher (ISIS Facility) and Dr Miguel Yescas (Framatome)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Framatome

Plasticity-induced damage in high temperature reactors

Title: Plasticity-induced damage in high temperature reactors
Description: Creep damage is the principal life limiting factor in the life of a thermal plant. In a plant the damage accumulates over decades but to study creep damage root-cause and effects in reasonable timescale, short term experimental testing (creep acceleration) is required. The project will employ advanced experimental techniques such as digital image correlation, electron backscattered diffraction and synchrotron X-ray diffraction. These will be combined with state-of-the-art modelling, including crystal plasticity finite element analysis.
Institution: University of Bristol
Supervisor(s): Prof David Knowles (UoB) and Dr Marc Chevalier (EdF Energy)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and EdF Energy

Simulation and experimental validation of creep–fatigue interaction

Title: Simulation and experimental validation of creep–fatigue interaction
Description: Capitalising on the knowledge and expertise of long-term operation of high temperature reactors, the UK is well positioned to lead international efforts to design and build the high temperature components of a fusion reactor. However, the loading profile of a fusion reactor is different from that of a fission reactor. While a fission reactor experiences only a few hundred major cycles with long dwells in its lifetime, a fusion reactor is expected to see thousands of cycles a year. This will make the damage mechanism from which fusion reactor components suffer unique. This project is aimed at simulating this creep fatigue interaction using finite element modelling and validating the model using advanced experimental techniques.
Institution: University of Bristol
Supervisor(s): Dr Mahmoud Mostafavi (UoB) and Dr Mike Gorley (UKAEA)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority

Using artificial intelligence to predict and validate nuclear data

Title: Using artificial intelligence to predict and validate nuclear data
Description: Nuclear data, such as cross sections and reaction products, underpins all of nuclear science and technology. Even the most complex and concisely written nuclear data analysis tools can be unreliable and untrustworthy if they use old or un-benchmarked nuclear data. Common problems encountered in nuclear data are missing and conflicting data and large and untrustworthy uncertainties. The best way to tackle these problems is via targeted experiments. However, nuclear data experiments are complex, expensive and the lifecycle time to plan, perform and analyse the results is relatively long.  Hence, the current approach involves the use of statistics and theory in conjunction with experiments. To date, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the field of nuclear data evaluation has not been fully explored. Hence, this project aims to explore whether or not it would be advantageous to use AI/ML in conjunction with other nuclear data evaluation methods to assist and enhance the evaluation process.
Institution: University of Cambridge
Supervisor(s): Dr Eugene Shwageraus (Cambs) and Dr Lee Morgan (AWE)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and AWE