Nuclear liquids analysis

Detailed radiological characterisation of complex nuclear liquids

Degree type

PhD

Closing date

10 October 2022

Campus

Hobart

Citizenship requirement

Domestic

About the research project

This project will aim to develop an analytical approach toward the comprehensive characterisation of nuclear-based liquids and other composite radioactive materials. It will combine the methods of analytical chemistry with chemical and radiological detection techniques to achieve an accurate and sensitive quantification of multiple radionuclides in complex matrices over a wide range of concentration. The project will be a collaboration between the leading Australian analytical science research centre (ACROSS UTAS) and Australia’s nuclear science and technology organisation (ANSTO).

The Research Project(s)

The analysis of nuclear-based liquids can be a significant challenge due to the related radiological hazards, often complex chemistry, and limited suitable facilities. Typically, only the bulk chemical composition of such materials can be established with confidence, while radiological characterisation is limited to identification of the dominant radionuclides and a total activity determination. Those radionuclides present at relatively lower concentration are usually impossible to measure due to interferences or masking effects, however their presence in the liquid may be significant for future management of the material. The focus of this project is to develop a suite of guiding principles and analytical techniques, that can be employed for the detailed characterisation of a range of internationally relevant radioactive liquids with varying chemistry and radioactivity. The project will consider matrix elimination and pre-concentration of the analytes of interest into several streams that are systematically designed to contain known and targeted radionuclides. Subsequently, the radionuclides in each stream can be measured with much reduced interference using detection methods such as gamma spectroscopy, alpha spectroscopy and liquid scintillation counting.

A significant proportion of this project will use non-radioactive “surrogate” liquids to simulate the complex liquids, with possible translation to radioactive material where appropriate. The first stage of this project will develop a conceptual analytical program. This will initially consider a generic liquid nuclear composition, with non-radioactive simulated radionuclides that commonly originate from nuclear operations, such as fission and activation products. This first stage will identify the most challenging aspects of the program, and focus on the most problematic isotopes such as common pure beta emitters of similar chemistry. In the second stage, the concept will be extended to a diverse series of more realistic liquid sources with compositions relevant to the nuclear community, again using non-radioactive synthetic liquids incorporating non-radioactive surrogates. Once the programs for these specific materials are developed and validated, they may be applied and tested for their suitability with actual radioactive liquids where available, and this will constitute the final stage of the project.

This project will be of great benefit to Australia since it will directly contribute to the detailed understanding of liquid sources and provide essential information to support their future treatment. It will also be beneficial to the wider international nuclear community, since the obtained knowledge will be sufficiently broad to be applied to numerous liquid radioactive materials stored around the globe.

The ideal candidate for this project should have a background in analytical chemistry with a focus on chromatographic techniques. Basic understanding of the radiation detection methods will also be a bonus. Upon the completion of this project the candidate will become an expert in radioactive material characterisation and will gain work experience in highly regulated radiologically classified areas.

Project Partners

The project is a collaboration between researchers within the Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS, UTAS), and Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)

Primary Supervisor

Meet Prof Brett Paull

Funding

Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Eligibility

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Must be an Australian Citizen or a Permanent Resident
  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Instrumental analytical chemistry/Separation science experience

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Proven communication skills - high level

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Prof Brett Paull to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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