Contact: Dr Joel Turner
***Due to security restrictions this project is ideally for UK Nationals***
This PhD project aims to explore the feasibility of increasing the uranium content in research reactor fuels, and to investigate the effects this may have on metallographic texture and microstructure, as well as mechanical and thermo-physical properties. If possible, the project will utilise ion beam irradiation for preliminary studies of the irradiation performance of high-uranium-content metallic fuels. Specifically, this project will involve the manufacture of a range of uranium-zirconium alloys using depleted uranium at the Nuclear Fuel Centre of Excellence (NFCE), based in the School of Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester (School of MACE, UoM). Material will be manufactured using arc melting, and cold-worked to introduce texture. The resulting texture and microstructure will then be characterised for a range of compositions, alongside bulk mechanical and thermal property measurements. The industrial sponsor for this project is Rolls-Royce Nuclear, and the relevance of this research covers both current research reactor technology as well as future reactor concepts which may be commercially relevant.
Research reactors often employ a metallic fuel form with a limited uranium content. Difficultly in manufacturing fuels with high U-contents and uncertainty in their in-reactor behaviour has limited research in this area to date.
Future test reactor designs could be optimised if higher weight percent alloys had predictable through-life behaviour.
Specifically, this project will address two key areas of understanding for uranium-zirconium alloy fuels for a wide range of uranium weight percent compositions; metallographic texture response and irradiation performance.
The effects of varying texture and grain structure on fuel performance for high uranium weight percent alloys are currently relatively poorly understood, and this has impacts on the manufacturing steps required and the structural integrity of the reactor. Irradiation performance for high weight percent uranium alloys is also relatively poorly understood, and can be investigated using more easily accessible surrogates for neutron irradiation, such and protons and heavy ions.