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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Nuclear Forensics: Determining the origin of uranium ores from geochemical signatures

Currently Active: 

Nuclear forensics is dedicated to the characterisation of radiological and nuclear materials out of regulatory control. This includes theft and illegal transfer. Its purpose is to determine the history of such nuclear material, for example its provenance and geolocation which determines the source and route of the material. The PhD project is sponsored by AWE Plc as an Outreach Award.

Source: C Willis
Source: C Willis

Uranium Ore & Concentrates

This project aims to determine the origin of uranium ore and its concentrates (UOC). An ore becomes a UOC when some degree of processing has been conducted to enrich the uranium content. UOC can vary from low uranium concentrations through to "yellowcake" which contains 70-90 % uranium. Ultimately the concentrate is fabricated into a fuel for nuclear reactors.

Source: D Reading & D Pirrie
Source: D Reading & D Pirrie

Mineralogical Analysis

A QEMSCAN (Quantitative Evaluation of Minerals via SCANning electron microscopy) will be used to develop rapid determination of the mineralogy of uranium ores and compounds.

Research Aims

  1. Acquire geochemical, isotopic, elemental, and mineralogical data from uranium ores to evaluate potential benefits in ore origin determination.
  2. Establish which geochemical signatures (if any) are retained in the processing of UOC.
  3. To establish sound understanding of uranium characterisation using new methods and technology.

Related Project Pages

This project is funded through an AWE Outreach award to GAU-Radioanalytical (IWC)

AWE National Nuclear Security

Key Contacts

Dr David Reading (Enterprise Fellow)

Prof Ian Croudace (Principal supervisor)

Prof Phil Warwick (supervisor)

Dr Rex Taylor (supervisor)

PhDs and Other Opportunities



Associated research themes

Environmental Geochemistry and Radioactivity

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