Nuclear industry needs innovative, cost effective and reliable technology to meet the challenge of disposal of nuclear waste. Plutonium contaminated materials (PCM) is one of the higher activity waste (HAW) waste generated as a result of the handling of plutonium during nuclear fuel reprocessing and related activities. Decades of such operations at the Sellafield site have resulted in the largest accumulation of PCM in the UK. The objective of this project is to get new insights into the plasma vitrification process for the conversion of simulant PCM into a chemically stable and durable glass-like slag for safe and permanent storage, and to bridge the gap between key science and technology in PCM disposal - limited understanding of volatility of radionuclides which end up leaving the furnace and reaching the filtering units and the washing column. Atomistic insights, e.g. intermediate (short-lived) species at the waste surface and essential reaction mechanisms, are currently a missing link in this field.
Plasma is the fourth state of matter, and has been widely used in many industrial fields. Plasma vitrification is a process that uses high temperature (1500-2000 oC) generated by plasma arc to melt waste with or without additives, producing a homogenous glass-like material, into which toxic substances (e.g. radionuclides) can be immobilised to become an integral part of the stable glass or glass-ceramic. In this process, organic components in the waste are completely destroyed by the high temperature, highly energetic electrons and reactive radicals generated by plasma. Plasma vitrification process could significantly reduce the waste volume by up to 80%, minimise secondary wastes (e.g. gas and liquid effluents) and enhance the stability and durability of the final waste form for safe and long-term storage, transport and eventual disposal, with the ultimate goal of reducing the overall cost of managing nuclear waste. https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/electrical-engineering-and-electronics/staff/xin-tu/
We are seeking to recruit a highly motivated student to work on this exciting and multidisciplinary project. You must possess a 1st class Undergraduate or Master degree in Chemical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry or other relevant disciplines. Research experience with plasma technology or thermochemical processing of waste is highly desirable.