The University of Leeds in England is to lead a consortium of 10 universities in a national research programme looking at ways of dealing with the country’s nuclear waste.
The eight million pound (13 million US dollars, 9.6 million euros) project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will start in February 2014 and bring together the nuclear industry, the government’s nuclear advisors and the country’s leading academic researchers.
The university said more than 40 doctoral and post-doctoral researchers will work over the next four years on issues including how best to handle different types of spent fuels, packaging and storing waste, and dealing with nuclear sludges in ponds and silos at nuclear power stations.
Research will be organised under four themes: advance gas-cooled reactor, Magnox and exotic spent fuel; plutonium oxide and fuel residues; legacy ponds and silo waste; infrastructure characterisation, restoration and preservation.
Professor Simon Biggs, director of the University of Leeds’ Institute of Particle Science and Engineering, will lead the university consortium. He said the project is primarily focused on developing new technologies and providing confidence in the safe storage and disposal of legacy waste.
The National Nuclear Laboratory, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Sellafield Limited, which operates the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, will be partners in the project, alongside the universities of Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Imperial, Lancaster, Loughborough, Manchester, Sheffield, Strathclyde and UCL.
Much of the UK’s legacy waste is kept at the Sellafield site.
Sellafield Ltd’s research alliance manager Neil Smart said Sellafield faces a challenge for which there is no blueprint. Work at the site includes emptying and demolishing some of the most difficult and complex nuclear buildings in the world, the decommissioning of historic reactors, reprocessing facilities and associated legacy ponds and silos.