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

Research project: Waste reduction and recycling in nuclear decommissioning

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The big science question: Tritium and C-14 are both widespread radioactive contaminants on nuclear sites that need to be accurately determined before any waste associated with nuclear decommissioning can be properly and safely disposed. Notably both of these radionuclides have provided specific analytical challenges compared with the determination of other radioactive elements. There was therefore a pressing requirement to improve the quality and speed of analysing these two radionuclides in the context of increasing regulatory and Industry pressures to safely accelerate UK nuclear decommissioning.

Research details

The GAU-Radioanalytical group at the University of Southampton had already established itself in research programmes involving environmental tritium. It decided to optimise tritium and C-14 analysis for decommissioning materials. Its R&D led to a transformation in the accuracy and throughput of tritium and C-14 analysis by refining and streamlining the pyrolytic method. The improvements also allowed for the speciation of the different chemical forms of tritium in nuclear waste materials to be determined. Overall, the GAU developments have became widely adopted and have led to tangible benefits for the environmental and nuclear decommissioning sectors worldwide. They have led to significantly increased waste characterisation, waste reduction strategies, shortening of site clearance timescales and cost reduction.

Key facts:

  • The GAU research and expertise has made an international contribution to tritium and C-14 waste characterisation in the nuclear and related sectors, leading to cost savings.
  • GAU has developed and tested an optimised tritium and C-14 analytical method applied to the characterisation of complex hazardous wastes. Organisations benefitting include Magnox, UKAEA, MoD establishments such as AWE plc, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and GE-Healthcare Cardiff Laboratories.
  • GAU provided expert advice and services to the nuclear industry on sampling and radioanalytical strategies, both directly and through input into the Nuclear Industry Code of Practice.

PhDs and Other Opportunities

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