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Name of scholarship/program

Dissolution and reactivity of nitride fuels in high temperature molten salts for reprocessing



Important description
The student will work in the REFINE (A coordinated materials programme for the sustainable REduction of spent Fuel vital In a closed loop Nuclear Energy cycle) consortium which aims to explore key issues in the development of high temperature molten salt technologies for the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The recent international recognition of nuclear energy as a vital future low carbon energy source in the fight against global warming has stimulated much interest and investment. Substantial research challenges in nuclear energy generation still exist in legacy waste clean-up, decommissioning and disposal. Further technical challenges have emanated from the planned new nuclear build and future (generation IV) reactor systems. Examples include the management of carbide and nitride fuels that being proposed for use in Gen IV reactors. Research programmes of work are currently needed to ensure the delivery of safe, reliable, economic and sustainable nuclear energy on the scale required in both the short and long term, through Gen III+ & Gen IV reactor systems, and the development of specific spent fuel reprocessing technology compatible with current and future reactor technologies is now essential. Materials electrosynthesis through direct oxide reduction and/or selective electrodissolution and electroplating from molten salt systems containing spent nuclear fuel offers a realistic solution to this problem. However, understanding, optimising and controlling these processes requires a fundamental understanding of the electrolytic and chemical behaviour of radionuclides in the molten salt environment. The REFINE consortium brings together the UK’s expertise in molten salt technology, involving the Universities of Manchester, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Cambridge, University College London and the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), and aims to provide a coordinated UK research programme that will contribute to the scientific understanding required to develop a sustainable spent fuel reduction process using molten salts, thereby delivering a closed loop nuclear energy cycle.

The project will initially study metal nitride dissolution/reactivity in chloride melts, specifically molten CaCl2 which is the medium used in the FFC Cambridge process for the electrorefinement of titanium. The project will involve developing an understanding of the oxidative capability of chloride melts (both with and without additives like oxygen, oxides etc) and characterisation of the products obtained when metal nitrides are placed in a molten salt medium. Characterisation will be obtained for the quenched melt (e.g. analysis, vibrational spectroscopy), in situ (UV-vis, XAS at a synchrotron facility) and any off gases generated (e.g. NOx). Once characterization of the melt is established, experiments investigating the electrorefinement of the resultant mixtures will be conducted. It is hoped that similar experiments with uranium nitride will be performed towards the latter half of the studentship but will be dependent on research progress and access to facilities.

The student will be based at National Nuclear Laboratory – Central facility (Sellafield, Cumbria) but may also involve work at the National Nuclear Laboratory facility at Workington (Cumbria), the state-of-the-art Dalton Cumbrian Facility (Westlakes, Cumbria), the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science (The University of Manchester) and the Centre for Radiochemistry Research (The University of Manchester).


Eligibility and other criteria
This research project is one of a number of projects at this institution. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects. Usually the project which receives the best applicant will be awarded the funding. Applications for this project are welcome from suitably qualified candidates worldwide. Funding may only be available to a limited set of nationalities and you should read the full department and project details for further information.


Application deadline
Applications accepted all year round


Additional information, and important URL
Direct funding for this project (fees and stipend) is provided by the Dalton Cumbrian Facility through the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Nationality is not restrictive but the student will be required to obtain security clearance in order to work at NNL-Central Lab.

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in chemical engineering, chemistry, materials or similar discipline. The ability to meet the security clearance requirements in order to work at UK nuclear licensed sites.


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