Multi-million pound grant brings golden opportunity for UK nuclear materials research

  • Prof Michael Pruess leads team of investigators in £7.5 million grant for research into nuclear fuel cladding materials
  • Project will study properties of materials for nuclear reactors to make cleaner, cheaper and safer nuclear power

The Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded a £7.5 million grant to a team of researchers from Royce partners at the University of Manchester, the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.

The MIDAS project (Mechanistic Understanding of Irradiation Damage in Fuel Assemblies) will work to support the UK, and other countries, meet carbon reduction targets and achieve an energy mix that produces less CO2.  The MIDAS team will work closely with a range of UK and international industrial partners in addressing this challenge and translate fundamental research into real-world impact.

The project will study assembly materials used as protective cladding for the highly radioactive fuel used in nuclear reactors.  To operate reactors as safely as possible, fuel is often removed well before it is spent due to lack of knowledge about the reactor’s materials properties. This reduces the cost-efficiency of nuclear power as an energy option, as well as the fuel assembly prematurely becoming additional waste, which must be safely handled and stored over the long term.

Increasing our understanding of the performance and behavioral properties of these materials in the extreme environments of a reactor core will enable better, more efficient use of nuclear fuel, providing routes to cleaner, cheaper and safer nuclear power.

The programme is led by Royce Champion for Materials Systems for Demanding Environments Prof Michael Pruess and by will benefit from the Royce’s ongoing investment in National Nuclear User Facility sites at the National Nuclear Laboratory, Materials Research Facility, and the University of Manchester’s Dalton Cumbrian Facility; as well as the equipment and expertise across the partnership and the forthcoming Hub building in Manchester. Michael said:

Fuel cladding research in the UK has been growing significantly for over a decade.  During this time we have built a strong, cross-institutional team that brings together a wide range of experimental and modelling expertise, a team that we hope to grow even further.  MIDAS will allow us to truly position the UK as a global leader in the field, and make it the place to go for sophisticated post-irradiation examination studies.

A theme of MIDAS will be to explore the use of zirconium alloys in critical components for future fusion reactors. The UK has a leading position in defining the materials that will be chosen for the ITER and DEMO international fusion projects, and this theme will contribute to maintaining the UK’s reputation as a centre of excellence in fusion research.

The MIDAS project will formally launch in May. For queries and further information, please contact Freyja Peters (Project Manager)  –