PhD Studentship in Multi-objective Optimization Capability for Heterogeneous LWR Fuel Assemblies and Cores

University of Cambridge - Department of Engineering

The University of Cambridge Department of Engineering seeks applicants for a PhD research project on the design optimization of fuel assemblies and cores for light water reactors (LWRs).

Applicants must be UK nationals. Full funding is available. The position will commence as soon as practicable.


For some nuclear fuel cycles, particularly those involving high enrichment, or for mixed-oxide fuel (MOX), there are benefits in varying the properties of the fuel radially, on a section-by-section basis or a pin-by-pin basis, and axially along the assembly. There are also benefits in including multiple fuel assembly designs within the core, exploiting radial-zoning and/or "checker-boarding" effects on overall core performance.

Heterogeneity in fuel assembly and core design inevitably increases fuel fabrication costs and the size of the design space to be searched, so a capability to explore rigorously and systematically the trade-off between in-core fuel performance and fabrication cost of heterogeneous assembly and core designs would be a helpful aid to decision-making. Advances in multi-objective optimization methods make the development of such a capability a realistic proposition.

This project is part of the Sustaining Independent Nuclear Expertise (SINE) programme managed by Frazer-Nash Consultancy on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence.

Project objectives

In this project, a prototype computational design system for heterogeneous LWR fuel assemblies and cores, involving the integration of optimization and reactor physics and thermal-hydraulic analysis codes, will be developed with the aims of:

  1. Demonstrating the effectiveness and the utility of multi-objective optimization methods for reactor fuel and core design.
  2. Developing UK national capability and methods in the design of nuclear reactor fuel and cores.

Desired skills and characteristics

Applicants should have at least a good 2.1 degree (and preferably a Masters degree) in a relevant subject such as Mechanical Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, Mathematics or Physics. The project will involve extensive computational work. Software development may well need to be undertaken. Experience with reactor physics analysis methods, thermal-hydraulic analysis methods and/or computational optimization methods would be an advantage.

Applications should be made on-line via the Cambridge Graduate Admissions Office before the deadline: with Dr Geoff Parks identified as the potential supervisor

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

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