Spent Fuel and Nuclear Material

Webinar Date: Wednesday 7th September 2016, 12:00-13:00. Email phdbursary@nnl.co.uk to register.

The NDA is requesting applications to its bursary scheme, to support the NDA mission to deliver safe, sustainable and publicly acceptable solutions to the challenge of decommissioning and clean-up of the UK's civil nuclear legacy. This year, up to £500,000 is available and Universities and Research Institutes are invited to make proposals in the a number of areas. This page provides details about the Spent fuel and nuclear material theme.

Spent Fuel and Nuclear Material

  1. Research to determine the fundamental mechanisms of the corrosion and corrosion inhibition of irradiation sensitised AGR fuel cladding under pond storage conditions. This should, for example, consider the potential impact of stress and the microstructure on corrosion mechanisms and corrosion inhibition by agents such as hydroxide or boron in the presence of potential impurities such as chloride or sulphate in the water.

  2. Research into the behaviours of irradiation sensitised AGR fuel cladding under moist and dry storage conditions, including the potential impact of stress and the microstructure of the cladding; notably behaviours which could compromise future containment or mechanical strength. This might consider the impact of surface oxides, potential storage gas compositions and impurities including the influence of variables such as temperature, humidity, radiation dose rate and free or ‘fixed’ moisture presence.

  3. Research to demonstrate methods which could replicate the metallurgy of neutron irradiated stainless steel to provide representative simulant materials which could be used to examine the behaviour of neutron irradiated sensitised stainless steel in various wet, moist, or dry storage environments. The simulant material should enable experimentation without the requirement for heavy shielding and remote handling. The approaches might consider alternative forms of irradiation, such as proton or heavy ion irradiation, or techniques to develop bespoke microstructurally engineered simulants of neutron irradiation sensitised metallurgies. 

  4. Research into potential methods of treating damaged and degraded spent fuel materials, eg from ceramic, oxide or metal fuels, following exposure to water or air, to stabilise and immobilise them in a form suitable for long-term storage and/or final disposal.

  5. Research into methods of improving performance of containment packages for intact or damaged, degraded spent (oxide and/or metal fuels) to facilitate long-term interim storage and/or final disposal. Such improvements might, for example, include ‘gettering’ or recombination of radiolysis products from moisture or cover gas impurities; residual moisture capture; or provisions to limit container pressure while maintaining radionuclide containment.

  6. Research into novel techniques which could support detection, (3D) mapping or tracing of very low level radionuclide releases in spent fuel storage ponds (typically containing hydroxide dosed water). The techniques might be used to monitor and confirm the levels of ongoing releases from historic sources such as ‘plate out’ on storage equipment; to provide ‘near real time’ mapping of radionuclide contaminants (typically, but not exclusively, caesium) in the pond water; to enable rapid detection and location of any incipient new sources of contaminant. Techniques might include remote scanning, in-situ sampling and analysis, use of low/zero maintenance tell-tale instrumentation or materials which could show low level contaminant concentration changes.

  7. Research into potential novel approaches which may detect at an early stage the onset of general or local conditions which might promote corrosion of cladding or other fuel containment in fuel storage ponds. The approaches may, for example, involve real time measurement mapping of minute concentration changes of aggressive ions, or other species, or use corrosion electrochemistry measurements which may signal potential changes in the corrosion risk at an early stage.

  8. Non-destructive testing, other than ultrasonic techniques, to assess the integrity of steel Pu storage cans, specifically in relation to internal corrosion (eg pin-hole formation from the interior to the exterior). This could involve the development of a risk based approach to repackaging rather than having to use a conservative approach and repack when design life has been reached.

  9. Research into potential approaches to reuse of plutonium so that the vast majority of UK plutonium can be converted into fuel qualified for use in new reactors.

  10. Research into immobilisation technologies (e.g. process simplification) for all types of plutonium materials including oxide powder, MOX manufacturing scraps and residues.

  11. Research into alternative approaches to geological disposal for the management of surplus uranic stocks.


Details and Further Information

Funding will be available to UK academic institutions for PhD projects and to SMEs seeking ‘top-up’ funding for CASE awards and EngDocs in relevant areas. Only project proposals with a total cost to NDA of less than £100,000 will be considered (excluding cost of any collaboration with US research organisations). Eligible projects will include PhD projects involving universities or subcontractors where the bursary is used as a grant top-up in order to access national facilities for research involving the handling of radioactive materials.

To comply with the Government's protective security procedures all employees/contractors will be subject to an Industry Assurance check and a level of National Security vetting. Proposals will be assessed by a group of nuclear industry specialists. Contractual arrangements will be administered by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) on behalf of the NDA.

Proposals must be submitted via https://ndaphdbursaryapplications.co.uk by 15:00 on the Friday 21st October 2016.


Further information on the scheme the assessment criteria and selection process is also available by contacting the administrator:

Dr Mark Bankhead



Email phdbursary@nnl.co.uk to register.