Energy Minister welcomes opening of national £3m nuclear research facility at University of Sheffield and funding success for its academic nuclear experts

Official launch of advanced nuclear materials lab; and new partnership with Radioactive Waste Management Ltd

The University of Sheffield celebrated the official opening of its new £3m advanced nuclear materials research facility, Materials for Innovative Disposition from Advanced Separations (MIDAS) on 9th Sep 2015.

Established as part of a national network of facilities to deliver the UK spent nuclear fuel research programme, MIDAS is jointly funded by the University and The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Following the Government’s planned expansion of nuclear power in the UK, academics in this national centre for research excellence will be developing new technologies and robust, efficient and environmentally sound strategies for the safe treatment and disposal of radioactive wastes.

More than 120 research experts were given a tour of the new facility and a demonstration of the state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. Visitors included representatives from the Nuclear Decommissioning Forum – Japan, Idaho National Laboratory – USA, and Areva – France, as well as the UK DECC and Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Professor Neil Hyatt, Facility Director, said: “Our mission with this facility is to provide a high quality environment for research on radioactive waste and disposal, supported by the world-class expertise we have here in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Sheffield. We are already working in collaboration with leading academics in the field and industrial users on a range of national and international research projects.”

Over £2.6 M of new funding has been secured for project research at the facility, including collaborations with Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea.

Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom said:

“Britain is a world leader in nuclear power – from construction to generation to waste management – and it is key to our plans to deliver secure, low-carbon electricity and create jobs providing financial security for more hardworking people and their families. This Government backs the industries of the future and is committed to maintaining our position as global leaders in nuclear research. These new national facilities at the University of Sheffield will both enhance our thriving scientific and innovative skills base and play an important part in building the Northern Powerhouse.“

The University also hosted the Nuclear Academics Discussion Meeting (NADM) 2015 on 8th-9th September. Organised by the EPSRC Nuclear Champion project, the meeting is a forum for the discussion of strategic nuclear challenges in the UK with a focus on how academics and universities can help. The theme for this year was ‘new reactor technologies’, with talks also being given on the situation in the UK and opportunities available with international partners, including Japan and India.

In addition, experts at the University have won funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for a series of 7 seminars over the next 24 months, looking at the societal issues of storing and disposing of radioactive waste. In partnership with Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) Ltd, part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA), the seminars will bring together different parts of the research and technical communities.

Dr Susan Molyneux-Hodgson, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, said: “We felt it was timely to provide our academic and technical experts with a new lens through which to consider societal issues around the long term storage of nuclear waste – to inform the current policy considerations both within the UK and abroad”.

The nuclear research carried out at the University of Sheffield is part of its Energy2050 initiative, bringing together academics and students actively working on a wide range of energy research.