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Fission Product Chemistry During Nuclear Fuel Recycling

Important description
The global increase in energy demand has been accompanied by a significant rise in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Meeting demand in a low carbon, secure and economic manner is an global priority. According to a 2006 UK Sustainable Development Commission report, nuclear power is demonstrably low carbon, and it is now internationally recognised as a vital low carbon energy source in the fight against global warming.

Substantial research challenges still exist in nuclear energy generation, especially with regards to the recycling of used nuclear fuel. Used fuel is comprised of unused fuel materials (actinide species such as uranium and plutonium) and spent fuel waste products, predominantly fission products such as caesium, strontium and transition metals. It is recycled both to recover the unused actinides (for re-fabrication as new fuel) and to condition the wastes / fission products ready for final disposal.
This project is concerned with understanding the fundamental chemistry of a key fission product, ruthenium, during nuclear fuel recycle so that improved disposal routes may be developed.

Radioactive ruthenium isotopes form part of the highly active (HA) waste stream generated during spent fuel recycle. The HA stream is the aqueous, highly acidic nitric acid solution that remains after all of the actinide species (uranium, plutonium etc) have been extracted from spent nuclear fuel that has been dissolved in HNO3.

This HA waste stream is concentrated by evaporation and mixed with glass before being vitrified to produce a stable, solid wasteform ready for disposal. During the vitrification process, ruthenium encounters temperatures conducive to ruthenium volatilisation. Given the high specific radioactivity ruthenium, this volatilisation presents a challenge to the nuclear industry in effectively managing its disposal. Part of this challenge is to fully understand the highly complex solution chemistry of ruthenium under conditions relevant to HA waste streams and vitrification. This project aims to provide that understanding.

The project is intellectually challenging and involves well-integrated elements of chemistry, materials science and engineering. The successful applicant will become familiar with techniques needed to tackle major problems in the nuclear industry and be part of an established team within the Engineering Department that seeks to address industrial problems while maintaining a strong 'science and technology' base.

The appointee will interact with both Sellafield Ltd and the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the UK’s largest nuclear research facility for the conduct of radioactive experiments. There will be an opportunity for a period of placement at the NNL’s Central Laboratory in Cumbria.

Eligibility and other criteria
European/UK Students Only
This research project has funding attached. Funding for this project is available to citizens of a number of European countries (including the UK). In most cases this will include all EU nationals. However full funding may not be available to all applicants and you should read the full department and project details for further information.

Application deadline
*11 December 2012

Additional information, and important URL
Deadline for applications: 11th December 2012. Interviews will take place shortly thereafter.

For further information about this project, contact
Professor Colin Boxall c.boxall@lancaster.ac.uk, Tel: +44 (0) 1524 593109 or +44 (0) 781 405 5964
Please include a CV with your enquiry

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