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  Fully-funded PhD Studentship in Disposal MOX for Immobilisation of the UK’s Plutonium Inventory: A Study of Its Fabrication and Stability under Geological Disposal Conditions


   School of Engineering

  ,  Friday, May 31, 2024  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The UK has a substantial inventory of separated plutonium from its historical reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The Government’s preferred option for this is re-use as a Mixed uranium-plutonium OXide (MOX) fuel. However, 5% is not suitable for re-use and is recommended for disposal in a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) after having first been immobilised in a ceramic wasteform.

The NDA is evaluating processes for plutonium immobilisation. One option being considered is ‘Disposal MOX’ which is the manufacture of regular MOX but intended for disposal to GDF not irradiation. Regular MOX is manufactured by heterogeneous blending of uranium and plutonium feed powders and then forming fuel pellets through a technologically-mature cold-press and sinter process, yielding a heterogenous MOX product.

For Disposal MOX production this may be modified by increasing the plutonium loading and introducing neutron poisons into the material for criticality safety/safeguards purposes. Alternatively, advanced manufacturing technologies such as Flash and Spark Plasma Sintering may provide routes to higher quality, denser Disposal MOX.

Thus, underpinning the UK’s policy on the direct disposal of plutonium, this project will aim to use plutonium simulants to:

1.   Explore modifications to existing manufacturing routes and advanced manufacturing technologies described above to develop novel Disposal MOX pellets or wasteformes; and

2.   Determine the stability and robustness of the resultant Disposal MOX materials under disposal conditions through use of simple static leaching trials, accelerated electrochemical corrosion experiments and advanced scanning probe mircroscopy studies.

Particular attention will be paid to the effect of the processing parameters explored during Aim 1 on the microstructure of the resultant candidate Disposal MOXs, and how that microstructure influences the material robustness and corrosion susceptibility determined during Aim 2.

Experimental work will be conducted primarily in Lancaster’s UTGARD (Uranium-Thorium beta-Gamma Active R&D) Lab (https://www.nnuf.ac.uk/utgard-laboratory ) and Materials Science Lancaster’s Scanning Probe Microscopy Labs (https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/fst/3D-Nano-MappinginSPM_release.pdf )

This project is offered through the SATURN CDT (Skills And Training Underpinning a Renaissance in Nuclear Centre for Doctoral Training): https://www.saturn-nuclear-cdt.manchester.ac.uk/

SATURN_Nuclear_CDT 

Informal enquiries and how to apply

For informal enquiries, please contact Professor Colin Boxall (). Candidates interested in applying should first send an email expressing interest to  as soon as possible and by the closing date: 31st May 2024.

For further information: https://www.saturn-nuclear-cdt.manchester.ac.uk/

For further information: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/engineering/

For further information: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/materials-science/

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Materials Science (24) Physics (29)

Funding Notes

Supported by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), UKRI/EPSRC and Lancaster University through the SATURN CDT (Skills And Training Underpinning a Renaissance in Nuclear Centre for Doctoral Training), this studentship is available to start from 1st October 2024. For UK applicants the studentship is fully funded for 4 years, covering fees and a maintenance grant (£19,237) (all tax free).

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