PhD Opportunities

For job vacancies, visit our Vacancies page

EPSRC iCASE Studentship on the Effect of Molten Lead on Structural and Fuel Materials for Generation IV Nuclear Fission and Fusion

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  • Supervising organisations: University of Bristol School of Physics and National Nuclear Laboratory
  • Funding: UK students - tuition fees and an annual stipend for up to four years
  • Application deadline: 21st March 2021

An EPSRC iCase funded PhD studentship opportunity is available within the Interface Analysis Centre Research Group in the University of Bristol School of Physics working in collaboration with the National Nuclear Laboratory on the effects of molten lead on materials for advanced fission and fusion energy. 

Decarbonising the energy sector is critical to achieving net zero. Innovative molten lead-based technologies supporting both fission (reactor coolant) and fusion (breeding blanket) show enormous promise. This PhD addresses significant gaps in scientific and technological understanding of interactions between molten lead and advanced materials. The corrosive conditions in an irradiated lead coolant circuit are highly challenging to conventional materials. The project will undertake materials degradation test work at small scale using a variety of materials and make mechanistic advances to allow prediction and control of corrosion, as well as facilitating development and qualification of new materials.

The student will have the opportunity to contribute to addressing materials degradation (corrosion) challenges facing advanced nuclear reactor technologies and barriers to application of new materials in these challenging environments.

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Characterization of Ceramic-matrix Composites under Extreme Conditions

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  • Supervising organisations: University of Bristol School of Physics
  • Funding: UK students - tuition fees and an annual stipend for up to 3.5 years
  • Application deadline: 21st March 2021

Ceramic-Matrix Composites (CMCs) is considered to be one of the prime structural materials to replace metals for high temperature applications such as accident tolerant fuel cladding in nuclear reactor core (post Japanese Fukushima accident) or in an aerospace jet engine. However, there is still a lack of understanding in the failure modes of this class of ceramic-like materials under extreme conditions, for example, at high temperature and post neutron radiation.

In this project, you will study the damage tolerance of a range of CMCs with novel designs provided by industrial collaborators in both nuclear and aerospace areas (e.g. Rolls Royce and US Westinghouse).

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PhD: Thermal Modelling of Spent Fuel Drying

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  • University of Bristol Faculty of Engineering
  • Funding: Up to £17,000 p.a. subject to confirmation and meeting eligibility criteria
  • Start date: from February 2021
  • Application deadline: 15th May 2021

The UK has a substantial inventory of used nuclear fuel, which has been discharged from nuclear reactors and is being stored, awaiting eventual disposal.  This highly radioactive “spent” fuel is currently stored in purpose-built water-filled ponds. However, as an alternative to pond storage, the owner of the fuel (the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, NDA) wishes to investigate if it could instead be transferred into dry storage canisters.

This project will develop and demonstrate models for spent fuel drying and construct a statistical framework for estimates of drying performance. We will derive suitable models for vapour flow across the humidity range. The fuel drying model will include variables such as gas flow, humidity, spent fuel decay heat, thermal conductivity of the spent fuel and cladding materials. Lattice-Boltzmann and Monte-Carlo techniques will be used to represent the statistical mechanics. To develop a useful tool at the larger scale, we will develop a more conventional Eulerian CFD model that tracks fluxes of probability density functions of water vapour.

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PhD: Understanding the consequences of steam formation for the sealing performance of barrier bentonites

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  • Supervising organisations: University of Bristol School of Physics and British Geological Survey
  • Funding: UKRI Studentship fully funded by Radioactive Waste Management Research Support Office
  • Application deadline: 25th June 2021

This project will investigate the effects of steam formation within partially saturated bentonite and its subsequent performance on the engineered barrier system. Maintaining and demonstrating an adequate Engineered Barrier System sealing performance will be of fundamental importance to safety assessments for the disposal of HHGWs. This PhD will specifically address two key questions: (i) whether the interaction between partially saturated bentonite and steam results in a marked reduction in the bentonite swelling capacity, and (ii) whether the bentonite permeability is increased as a consequence.

The PhD will answer these questions by conducting a series of experiments in bespoke testing apparatus at the British Geological Survey (BGS) to establish the swelling capacity and permeability of steam treated bentonites under a range of repository conditions. Laboratory experimentation will be conducted both within the Transport Properties Research Laboratories at the BGS and using the state-of-the-art facilities at the University of Bristol Interface Analysis Centre, at which the student will have membership.

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PhD: Probabilistic Approaches to Engineering Critical Assessment

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  • University of Bristol Faculty of Engineering, Solid Mechanics Research Group
  • Funding: Minimum £18,000 p.a. subject to confirmation and meeting eligibility criteria
  • Application deadline: June 2021

Engineering analysis methods that can predict and prevent the failure of safety-critical structures are fundamentally important to the energy industry.  Recently, new structural integrity assessment methods based on Probabilistic Fracture Mechanics (PFM) have emerged in the nuclear energy industry.

This project will focus on developing PFM-based methods so that they can be confidently used to assess a wider range of energy structures: particularly those where less restrictive risk profiles are acceptable. You will investigate the limits of probabilistic structural integrity assessment and the interplay between assessment and measurement methods including Ultrasonic Non-Destructive Testing (UNDT) and residual stress measurement. You will work at the National Structural Integrity Research Centre (NSIRC) in Cambridgeshire and the University of Bristol. The new probabilistic understanding of structural failure that you will develop will inform the UK standard BS 7910 and specialised nuclear-specific structural assessment codes, providing a safer and more rational underpinning for the next generation of energy infrastructure.

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PhD: Materials for Zero Carbon Energy Systems

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  • University of Bristol Faculty of Engineering, Solid Mechanics Research Group
  • Funding: Enhanced stipend, up to £17,000 per year
  • Start date: September 2021

A PhD opportunity is available, involving developing new materials for nuclear energy systems and improving understanding and performance of existing materials. There is sufficient flexibility within the
UoB research programme to carry out both modelling and experimental work. There is also opportunity for you to design, plan and then deliver experiments at central X-ray and neutron facilities in the UK and internationally. Your research work may result in significant industrial benefit – helping towards the UK’s zero carbon aims.

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Nuclear Energy Futures Centre for Doctoral Training

Applications for October 2021 entry are now open.

Projects with the University of Bristol:

For a full list of available projects from this Centre for Doctoral Training please see:

CDT website

PhD in Robotics

If you wish to study for a PhD or MSc by conducting research in Robotics, please send an email directly to the Research Lead of your area of interest. BRL will then identify an Academic Supervisor who may be interested in your proposal and who will guide you through the application process.

PhD vacancies with GAU-Radioanalytical

All PhD projects linked to this research group at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton can be found via the link below.

TRANSCEND (Transformative Science and Engineering for Nuclear Decommissioning)

A collaborative research consortium of 11 universities and 8 industry partners. The £9.4million research programme comprises 40 projects which will address some of the key challenges within the areas of nuclear decommissioning and waste management.

All PhD projects linked to this research programme can be found via the link below.