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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R012423/1
Title: Reducing risk through uncertainty quantification for past, present and future generations of nuclear power plants
Principal Investigator: Bourne, Professor N K
Other Investigators:
Mummery, Professor P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Materials
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 March 2018 Ends: 31 May 2021 Value (£): 361,241
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
EP/R012474/1 EP/R013047/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
04 Oct 2017 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 4 October 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
To ensure national resilience and productivity in an uncertain world, the UK needs a safe, reliable energy supply. Electricity generated by domestic nuclear fission plant creates an important contribution to this, currently generating around one sixth of the UK's requirements. Future fusion-powered plant provide a vision of lower waste, higher safety energy generation from essentially limitless fuel.

However, poor public perception of nuclear safety is limiting uptake, whilst poor understanding of the behaviour of critical nuclear materials exposed to thermal, mechanical and radiation loading increases engineering uncertainty, hence escalating design risk and operational cost.

This programme of research uses a multi-scale, multi-technique approach, combining high performance computer models with imaging analysis, to build a deeper understanding of the mechanical behaviour of several vital engineering materials subject to such stresses:

* silicon ceramics used for the containment of historic nuclear waste,

* graphite used for moderating reactions in the current generation of nuclear plant,

* beryllium and tungsten used to line containment vessels for future fusion generation.

Developing better, experimentally-validated models of the structural integrity of such vital components will enable increased accuracy in design, hence reducing the cost of build and operation of power generation and waste storage facilities and giving greater public confidence in the industry.

The research combines the strengths of two computational approaches:

* Fully physically-based materials models, which are well-developed, but are not yet applicable to large and complex engineering systems;

* Empirical engineering models, which are useful in the domain for which they have been calibrated, but currently have limited transferability;

along with rigorous error analysis, to create an approach that is transferable across length scales, enabling the tracking of fundamental physical mechanisms through to engineering application.

The experimental elements of the programme, using X-ray tomography to create 3D images of strain and damage inside samples and Digital Image Correlation to track real-time crack propagation, will provide new insight into the behaviour of these critical materials under stress and observational parameters to inform the modelling.

The project will draw from the strengths of the interdisciplinary team to develop experts of the future. It will involve and inform industrial partners and other key stakeholders, from regulators to plant workers, to ensure results are relevant to and taken up by UK energy generation and other strategically important industries.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk