PhD Opportunities

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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: 1st 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: Ventilation of Hydrogen in a Geological Disposal Facility

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  • University of Bristol Faculty of Engineering
  • Funding: 4 year Studentship fully funded by Radioactive Waste Management Research Support Office
  • Start date: from 1st October 2021
  • Application deadline: 15th June 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.

Laboratory experiments measuring vault circulation and release concentrations directly (primarily using non-invasive optical methods) will provide validation for Computational Fluid Dynamics models that will inform the design of GDF vaults and ventilation structures. A sensitivity analysis of the flow will guide suitable locations for a network of hydrogen leak sensors designed to solve the inverse problem of leak source-finding amongst the many individual radioactive waste packages that will be stored in the vault.

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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: available now 
  • Application deadline: 25th June 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.

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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 for 3.5 years 
  • 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.

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