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Postgraduate research project

Fingerprinting environmental releases from nuclear facilities

Fully funded (UK and international)
Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree View full entry requirements
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Closing date

About the project

Identifying the source of nuclear materials in the environment rapidly and with minimal sample processing is a key objective in the field of nuclear forensics. Characterisation of these materials is essential in the responsive management and risk assessment of both authorised and accidental discharges of radioactive materials to the environment.

Rapid techniques for the identification and characterisation of hot particles in environmental matrices is of fundamental importance to this objective. Laser ablation techniques offer significant potential for the analysis of elemental distribution at the micron scale. However, they are limited to being semi-quantitative due to matrix-related variability in ablation efficiencies.

This project focuses on developing laser ablation mass spectrometry techniques (LA-ICPMS, TOF-ICPMS) for the rapid characterization of particles released from nuclear facilities, and from uranium mining and processing facilities. The project focuses on developing effective approaches to correct for variable ablation efficiency across diverse matrices.

Working closely with UK and European partners, and with access to comprehensive archive of materials, the project will develop new methods for the rapid elemental and isotopic analysis of fuel and fuel cladding debris (and other “hot” particles), high temperature glasses and composites, and U-rich particulates and demonstrate their application in a nuclear forensics context.

For full project details visit the Inspire project page.


  • Professor Phil Warwick (University of Southampton)
  • Professor Andrew Cundy (University of Southampton)
  • Professor J. Andy Milton (University of Southampton)