Integrating Circular Economy Principles and Life Cycle Assessment in Nuclear Decommissioning

About the Project

The European Union's recognition of nuclear energy as a green energy source in July 2022 spurred increased investment in the industry, yet challenges persist in managing and disposing of nuclear waste. As more countries consider nuclear power to address the energy crisis, effective waste management is paramount for a successful transition.

The conventional linear economic model is giving way to the circular economy approach, emphasising waste reduction and resource optimisation through practices such as reducing, reusing, and recycling. Nuclear decommissioning yields materials that can be recycled and repurposed, offering potential benefits, though the literature on resource efficiency and environmental impact in the nuclear sector remains limited. This PhD project aims to fill this gap by investigating the intersection of circular economy principles and whole life cycle strategies in nuclear decommissioning aided by big data analysis. It will analyse various materials involved, including radioactive and non-radioactive materials, to understand the implications of adopting circularity and environmental impact reduction strategies. This project seeks to inform decision-making in nuclear decommissioning, focusing on security, sustainability, and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It will identify areas for intervention and examine unintended consequences of circular economy practices using material flow analysis, life cycle assessment and machine learning methodologies. For instance, the project will evaluate whether producing low-cost concrete from nuclear waste aligns with circular economy principles or if there are more environmentally friendly alternatives. It will also assess whether establishing circular routes for materials results in the lowest overall environmental impact throughout the life cycle.

Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to contact the project supervisor () to discuss their interest in and suitability for the project prior to submitting an application, also register their interest with the EPSRC CDT SATURN () for this project.

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Funding Notes

The project will be part of the EPSRC-supported Centre for Doctoral Training in SATURN (Skills And Training Underpinning a Renaissance in Nuclear). This is a fully funded PhD studentship, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Sellafield Ltd. The funding covers tuition fees and provides an annual tax-free stipend for 4 years, commencing at £19,237 at the start of the project. It is available for a student from the UK or from the EU with 3 years residency in the UK. There will be a £46,500 research support and training grant over the lifetime of the award.

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  • University of Sheffield
  • Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering
  • South Yorkshire, England
  • PhD Positions
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