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PhD Automated Quantitative Inspection of Nuclear Canisters and Assets

An exciting 42-month fully-funded PhD, supported by a leading Nuclear Reprocessing Site, focusing on the automated inspection of nuclear canisters in challenging and hostile environments, using novel sensor and inspection strategies, directly aligned to current and future Nuclear requirements.

Number of places



Home fee, Travel costs, Stipend, Equipment costs


1 March 2018


31 March 2018


3.5 years


To be considered for the project, candidates must:

  • Possess an Upper second (2.1) UK BEng Honours or MEng degree in a relevant engineering (Electrical, Mechanical etc.) or physics related subject
  • Be a UK or eligible EU national and adhere to Research Council (RCUK) eligibility criteria
Candidates with a preference for practical industry focussed experimental research would be desirable.

Eligibility for RCUK studentships

  • Research Council (RC) fees and stipend can only be awarded to UK and EU students and not to EEA or International students.
  • EU students are only eligible for RC stipend if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years, including for study purposes, immediately prior to starting their PhD.
  • If an EU student cannot fulfil this condition then they are eligible for a fees only studentship.
  • International students cannot be funded from RC funds unless they are ‘settled’ in the UK. ‘Settled’ means being ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of stay in the UK. To be ‘settled’ a student must either have the Right to Abode or Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC law. If the student’s passport describes them as a British citizen they have the Right of Abode.
  • Students with full Refugee status are eligible for fees and stipend.

Project Details

Traditionally the inspection of nuclear containers and their welds, is highly challenging, time-consuming and expensive due to the complexities and logistics of the environment and process. This proposal seeks to investigate the potential for in-situ automated techniques for quantitative inspection of such containers to allow meaningful decisions to be taken on their future. The opportunity exists, through novel inspection sensors, automation and signal processing to research and develop future techniques for nuclear asset monitoring and inspection at the point of manufacture and through-life.

To achieve this overarching aim requires a fundamental step-change in Non Destructive Evaluation (NDE) sensor and probe design, deployment and data processing. Multiple modality inspection sensors will be considered including ultrasonic, magnetic and visual to achieve desired coverage, defect resolution and internal imaging. Data-fusion of such sensor approaches will be investigated to enhance the Probability of Detection (POD) of potential defects and degradation over time. Position and pose localisation strategies will be critical to ensure the potential for accurate defect location estimation and repeatability of measurement. The techniques developed must have potential for automated deployment across a variety of assets and hence must be accommodating of changes in operating environment and probe deployment position. Digital recording, recognition and processing strategies will be considered to ensure degradation over time can be accurately measured, detected and reported.

The proposal is directly relevant to current and future Nuclear sector requirements and presents a great opportunity to become involved early in what is a very important and strategic area of focus, not only in the UK but worldwide. The PhD will consider the requirements of inspection of such canisters through-life and also at the point of manufacture.

The project will make extensive use of the Facility for Innovation and Research in Structural Testing and the student will have access to industry leading hardware and software along with the opportunity to work with the industrial partner and their collaborators through mock-up deployment rigs and trials.

The student will work within an internationally renowned and growing team of diverse and multi-disciplinary researchers and engineers, physicists and mathematicians and will have the opportunity to work in collaboration and spend time on-site working with the industry partner to gain a greater appreciation of the specific industrial challenges and opportunity for automated inspection in their sector. Additionally, the student will have the opportunity to attend and undertake a number of industry-leading inspection and software training courses.

Funding Details

Funding is provided for full tuition fees (Home/EU applicants only), along with a competitive stipend and equipment and travel funds for the duration of the project.


The primary supervisor will be Dr. Charles MacLeod, Lecturer in Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE), within the Institute for Sensors, Signals and Communications.

Dr. MacLeod’s research interests include automated robotic inspection of high-value components and assets. He leads the automated in-process welding inspection team consisting of multiple post-graduate researchers and students.

The secondary supervisor will be Prof. Gareth Pierce within the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE)

Contact us

How to apply

Candidates requiring more information or interested in applying should email Dr. Charles MacLeod.  Thereafter, they should submit their CV, academic transcript, and a covering letter outlining their suitability for the position, to him.

Following review of the application submissions, selected candidates will be invited for interview.

Application submission deadline is 31 March 2018.

The project will start on 1 October 2018.