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  Nearfield Interactions of Vitrified Intermediate Level Waste; Radionuclide Transport at the Glass-Canister-Backfill Interface


   Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering

  Dr Clare Thorpe, Prof Russell Hand  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

In order to pursue new nuclear power as part of the solution to the UK’s pressing low carbon energy needs, safe disposal of legacy radioactive waste must be achieved. Glasses are flexible in composition with good long-term durability which is why many countries consider vitrification to incorporate radioactive elements. In the UK, high activity liquor from spent fuel reprocessing is currently immobilised in borosilicate glass and destined for disposal in a geological disposal facility (GDF). Meanwhile, vitrification techniques are also under consideration for a range of intermediate level waste (ILW) streams including plutonium contaminated material and pumpable wastes associated with the Site Ion Exchange Effluent Plant (SIXEP). These waste forms, if produced, are also likely to be disposed of in a GDF either alongside vitrified HLW or cementitious ILW. 

Thermal treatment of intermediate wastes has the potential to produce heterogeneous products across a wide compositional envelop. Before acceptance for disposal, it must be ascertained that these products will not only contain the target radionuclides but also that long-term alteration of these wasteforms will not compromise the design of the GDF. This PhD will use laboratory based glass dissolution testing and field experiments to develop a fundamental understanding of ILW glass leaching behaviour and the interaction of released radionuclides with secondary glass alteration products, container corrosion products and backfill. 

This PhD project is laboratory based and multidisciplinary spanning the fields of materials science, geochemistry and mineralogy. You will learn aqueous chemistry, solid state chemistry, glassmaking, environmental science, imaging and x-ray spectroscopic techniques.

You will be part of a team working towards the safe disposal of the UK’s nuclear legacy. You will take your place in the next generation of nuclear experts by joining our Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in SATURN (Skills And Training Underpinning a Renaissance in Nuclear). This collaborative CDT involving the Universities of Manchester, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Strathclyde will work towards building the skills base needed to support the UK’s Net Zero targets. Through the SATURN CDT program, you will be in regular contact with industry based project partners Sellafield Ltd as well as part of a wider team at Sheffield dedicated to wasteform development.

Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to contact the project supervisor () to discuss their interest in and suitability for the project prior to submitting an application, also register their interest with the EPSRC CDT SATURN () for this project.

Application link: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgradapplication/

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Geology (18) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

The project will be part of the EPSRC-supported Centre for Doctoral Training in SATURN (Skills And Training Underpinning a Renaissance in Nuclear). This is a fully funded PhD studentship, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Sellafield Ltd. The funding covers tuition fees and provides an annual tax-free stipend for 4 years, commencing at £19,237 at the start of the project. It is available for a student from the UK or from the EU with 3 years residency in the UK. There will be a £46,500 research support and training grant over the lifetime of the award.

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