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£9.4 million research projects tackle technical challenges

Friday May 10th, 2019

A series of new research projects are now under way as part of a £9.4 million initiative to tackle some of the technical challenges at the earliest UK nuclear sites and deal with radioactive waste.Government Opportunities

The TRANSCEND (Transformative Science and Engineering for Nuclear Decommissioning) consortium brings together 11 universities with industry experts, involving more than 40 post-doctoral researchers and PhD students in a diverse range of specialised research that will take place over the next 4 years.

Launched last autumn, TRANSCEND’s first annual meeting took place in Bath, where academic leads, newly recruited researchers and industry representatives were able to share details of the projects that will unfold over the next 4 years. Also among those present were representatives from NDA Site Licence Companies, the Environment Agency and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

As well as tackling new topics, the projects will build on work carried out during 2 earlier 4-year programmes, DISTINCTIVE and DIAMOND.

As progress is made on dismantling NDA’s 17 nuclear sites, numerous challenges emerge, particularly in dealing with radioactive waste, together with other nuclear materials, and understanding how they will behave once treated, packaged and stored over long timescales. Some issues have long been anticipated while others are unforeseen.

Funding for TRANSCEND has been provided by a core grant of £4.6 million from EPSRC, with additional sponsorship from AWE, LLWR, NDA, NNL, Sellafield Ltd, RWM, TÜV SÜD Nuclear Technologies and Cavendish Nuclear. Support is either in the form of funding or industrial expertise and guidance for the researchers.

TRANSCEND’s programme is aimed at tackling some of the fundamental technical problems facing the industry and developing high-level expertise that will be vital in the decades ahead.

The researchers are a mixture of PhDs and post-doctoral researchers, each with academic and industrial supervisors.

Research topics have been agreed by the consortium sponsors and reflect NDA’s main themes: Integrated Waste Management, Site Decommissioning and Remediation, Spent Fuels and Nuclear Materials.

Examples include:

  • new methods of decontaminating radioactive effluent
  • durability of new types of cement encapsulation
  • improved understanding of solidified waste products that have undergone a thermal treatment process
  • predicting dose rates from buried pipelines where information is limited
  • investigating the potential corrosion behaviour of exotic fuels in a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF)
  • predicting the corrosion of spent nuclear fuels
  • modelling the ageing behaviour of stored plutonium

NDA Research Manager Rick Short said:

“This event was a first face-to-face meeting for many of the researchers, so it was helpful for them to understand the range of themes and how their own work will fit into the overall decommissioning mission. Collaboration and knowledge-sharing are essential to making real progress in some areas.

Our mission stretches for another 100 years at least, so having programmes like TRANSCEND, in which future subject matter experts are nurtured, is really important for the industry. Furthermore, the research they will carry out during the consortium will have a direct impact on the strategies we develop in NDA, and contribute to the UK’s nuclear clean-up tasks.

To develop the safest treatment, storage and disposal methods, it’s essential to expand our understanding on a wide range of topics. There is no tried and trusted formula for us to follow as we decommission sites, and it may take years to arrive at answers but we are committed to carrying out both fundamental research that expands our understanding and finding solutions.”

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