A University of Leeds-led consortium is working on an £8m, four-year research project to find ways to deal with different types of spent fuels, packaging and storing waste, in addition to nuclear sludges in ponds and silos at nuclear power stations.
The project, known as the 'Decommissioning, Immobilisation and Storage solutions for Nuclear waste Inventories (DISTINCTIVE)', brings together the nuclear industry, the government's nuclear advisors and the country's academic researchers.
Participants in the project include The National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Sellafield and the Universities of Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Imperial, Lancaster, Loughborough, Manchester, Sheffield, Strathclyde and UCL.
As part of the national programme, the consortium will work to address the broad area of nuclear waste and decommissioning, covering both fundamental and applied topics associated with the industry. Currently, the Sellafield site in Cumbria hosts much of the UK's legacy waste.
The project will include 30 separate research activities that will be organised under four themes: AGR, Magnox and exotic spent fuels, plutonium oxide and fuel residues; legacy ponds and silos wastes; and infrastructure characterisation, restoration and preservation.
Each activity in the latest research programme will have an industrial supervisor from either NNL or Sellafield.
Sellafield research alliance manager Neil Smart said: "Today, Sellafield faces a challenge where there is no blueprint; 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."
The project will receive a £4.9m grant from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council EPSRC), while the universities and the industry partners will contribute the additional funding.
The consortium builds upon the successful work of a previous EPSRC funded programme in the same field called as DIAMOND (Decommissioning, Immobilisation and Management of Nuclear wastes for Disposal) in 2007.
Image: Research facilities at the NNL. Photo: courtesy of National Nuclear Laboratory.