Experimental nuclear physics PhD in enhanced nuclear fuel monitoring with a novel beta-gamma coincidence detector system

A fully-funded, PhD project in experimental nuclear structure physics in collaboration with the UK National Physical Laboratory to develop a novel radiation detector system for monitoring of radioactive gases produced during nuclear fission.

Start date

1 October 2022


42 months

Application deadline

Funding source

Nuclear Decommissioning Agency Bursary Scheme

Funding information

3.5 years fully-funded PhD project including tax-free stipend of £16,500 per year, full tuition fees and bench fee costs for experimental field work and conference / training travel at a level of £4,000 per year.


This project spans between fundamental nuclear structure physics research and precision measurement of industrially relevant radionuclides. The main objective is to develop a novel radiation detector system for gaseous nuclear fission residues via rapid, in-situ monitoring of the condition of nuclear fuel. The proposed system will utilise a high resolution, high sensitivity beta-gamma coincidence detector to measure the radioactive gases produced during nuclear fission (i.e. radiokrypton and radioxenon). By measuring the concentration and ratio of these gases, subtle changes in the condition of nuclear materials can be ascertained.

The primary deliverable of the PhD project, in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory, is a prototype, digital coincidence radiation detector system to measure the activity concentration of fission product gases-in-air, thereby allowing real-time monitoring the state of stored nuclear fuel and materials. The proposed system comprises HPGe gamma-ray spectrometers, beta particle detectors, fast-timing digital read-out electronics, a bespoke radioactive gas sample cell and associated gas handling system. The detector system will work by measuring the gamma and beta radiation emitted from radioactive noble gases that have escaped the nuclear fuel or material. The radioactive gases are sampled from the air (or ventilation line) and pumped through a gas sample cell that sits between the pairs of gamma and beta detectors.

The project is also of interest to the UK and international security communities regarding the monitoring of fission material releases following nuclear weapons tests. The project will also involve collaborative work linked to fundamental nuclear structure research including determination and evaluation of primary nuclear decay data from very short-lived nuclear fission fragment with short half-lives performed at leading international nuclear physics laboratories in Japan (RIKEN) and Germany (GSI-FAIR- Phase 0).

A later start date of October 2023 is possible.

Related links

Experimental Nuclear Physics group 'Production and measurement of fission product noble gases' journal article

Additional notes

The project is in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory and the successful applicant will be expected to be incorporated within the Nuclear Metrology Group at NPL for at least 50% of the duration of the studentship. The project will also realise opportunities for the successful application to participate in international nuclear structure physics experiments at leading overseas facilities such as RIKEN (Japan) and GSI-FAIR (Germany) in collaboration with the University of Surrey nuclear physics research group.

Eligibility criteria

Candidates must hold an upper second class BSc (Hons) or MPhys/MSci/MEng degree in Physics, Chemistry or nuclear engineering, or an MSc in a related subject, such as radiation physics, nuclear engineering, medical physics.

This studentship is available to UK and international students.

IELTS requirements: A score of  6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Physics PhD programme page on the "Apply" tab. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Patrick Regan
05 BC 04
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686783
E-mail: p.regan@surrey.ac.uk

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