Understanding tritium retention localisation in nuclear fusion fuel systems – materials strand project

Supervisors: Philip Edmondson (lead – University of Manchester), Lee Margetts (University of Manchester) & Steven van Boxel (UKAEA).

Nuclear fusion power offers the potential to provide a clean and abundant supply of electricity, ensuring energy security as part of a balanced energy generation mix. Nuclear fusion results from the fusing together of two isotopes of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium – resulting in a large quantitify of energy. Whilst deuterium is in plentiful supply (commonly found in seawater), tritium is considerly more scarce and is also radioactive with a half life of ~12.3 years. For nuclear fusion power to be viable and sustainable, tritium must be bred (through interactions of Li-6 with energetic neutrons), cleaned and purified prior to re-injection back as fuel into the fusion reactor. As part of this fueling system it is necessary to keep track of and predict where the tritium is at all times across the different components to ensure the overall inventory of tritium across the plant does not go above regulatory levels, and that the tritium is available for use as a fuel.

A key scientific challenge associated with the tritium fuel cycle is the tritium migration and retention behaviour in a wide range of components and materials across the entire fuel cycle system. In particular, it is critical to understand what causes significant tritium rentention in different components and have the ability to predict the levels to which this occurs to monitor the overall tritium inventory for regulatory purposes. One part of the solution for this is tritium inventory modelling in which the transport of tritium across the plant is conducted using a variety of modelling tools and techniques that allow for researchers and engineers to predict where the tritium will reside at any given point in time. In order to build and utilise effective inventory modelling, a range of different models must be derived and brought together using novel modelling techniques, and be validated against robust experimental data. This proposed research project will seek to develop and use novel methods for modelling tritium movement through materials and components for tritium accountancy and inventory purposes, building upon models already available in the literature.

Throughout the project timeframe, there will be many opportunities to interact with colleagues at the UKAEA, and potential to spend periods of time working at the Culham site with tritium inventory modelling experts.

This project will mainly be based at Manchester, but will involve frequent visits and potentially extended visits to Culham. There will also be opportunities to travel for conferences and other collaborative visits to other research groups.

This project is offered by University of Manchester. For further information please contact: philip.edmondson@manchester.ac.uk