PhD Opportunities

For job vacancies see our Vacancies page.

Fusion and Fission Graphite Analysis and Treatment

  • Supervising organisations: University of Bristol and UK Atomic Energy Authority 
  • Start date: September 2022
  • Studentship: tax-free stipend of £17,609.00 per year, for the 4 years project duration. Applications can only be accepted from UK nationals. 

The objective of this project is to develop techniques for processing graphite waste to reduce the volume of the waste needing disposal, initially on a lab-scale, by extracting key isotopes with potentially useful applications. Working with real samples of irradiated graphite from both fission and fusion reactors, you will be designing and testing processes to treat this fascinating material using chemical and physical techniques.

Working on the techniques for decommissioning is a contribution to supporting the UK’s clean energy aspirations and makes this PhD very applied rather than theoretical, where a large component of the project will be experimental. In addition to working in labs, interpersonal skills will also be important because interactions, collaboration and joint work with industry partners will be routine. You will develop a range of transferable practical skills relevant to nuclear industries, in particular fission and fusion.

This project is funded by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), based in Culham, Oxfordshire. The student will work closely with experts at UKAEA, who are developing significant new capabilities in this area for the national nuclear programme.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, so please contact Dr Chris Hutson with any questions you may have about the project. 

Your application will be very welcome, please submit it via the University of Bristol postgraduate portal, choosing “Physics PhD” as course, and mention Graphite/Chris Hutson

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Ventilation of Hydrogen in a Geological Disposal Facility

  • Supervising organisations: University of Bristol and Radioactive Waste Management 
  • Studentship: enhanced stipend of £18,000 per year, for the 4 years project duration.
  • Eligibility: Open to UK and overseas students. 
  • Deadline: apply by 29th October 2021

The aim of this project is to predict the behaviour of slowly-released buoyant gasses in a
Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) and inform the design of ventilation for such facilities.
Geological disposal involves isolating radioactive waste in a vault deep inside suitable bedrock
to ensure that no harmful quantities of radioactivity ever reach the surface environment. A
GDF will be a highly engineered structure consisting of multiple barriers designed to provide
protection over hundreds of thousands of years. 

Hydrogen gas – which is potentially flammable – can arise from the corrosion and degradation
of certain types of radioactive waste. Ventilation of hydrogen is a significant engineering
challenge for a GDF; new research is required to inform the design of the vaults themselves
and size the mechanical ventilation for them. Passive safety in the event of a loss of power is
a further consideration.

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

  • Supervising organisations: University of Bristol and British Geological Survey 
  • Studentship: fess and standard UKRI stipend
  • Eligibility: Open to UK and overseas students. 

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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