Professor Neil C HyattProfessor Neil Hyatt

PhD, BSc
Royal Academy of Engineering and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Research Chair in Radioactive Waste Management
Director, Immobilisation Science Laboratory and MIDAS Facility
Co-Director, EPSRC Next Generation Nuclear Doctoral Training Centre


Address: Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Sir Robert Hadfield Building, Mappin Street, Sheffield, S1 3JD

Neil Hyatt was appointed to academic staff in 2003 as Lecturer in Materials Chemistry. He obtained his BSc and PhD in Chemistry at The University of Birmingham and held research appointments in industry and academia, before joining the Department in 2001 as Senior Research Fellow in the BNFL Immobilisation Science Laboratory. Neil is a recognised authority on radioactive waste management and was appointed to a Royal Academy of Engineering research chair in 2011, supported by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

He served as Head of the Department of Materials Science & Engineering from 2015-18, leading the Department to outstanding success, achieving 100% student satisfaction, 100% student employability and a record high annual research income of £23M in 2017.

Research interests

Radioactive waste management and disposal

Our focus is on developing strategy, materials, processes and policy to support the safe, timely and efficient clean up of the UK radioactive waste legacy. A key aspect of our research is the design, manufacture and performance assessment of glass and ceramic materials for the immobilisation of plutonium residues, legacy intermediate level wastes, and high level wastes from reprocessing operations. We work closely with industrial organisations, including Sellafield Ltd., the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and National Nuclear Laboratory to address real world challenges of radioactive waste management. Our work has supported development of thermal treatment strategy by Sellafield Ltd. and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the acceptance of vitrified intermediate level wastes wastes in conceptual designs for the UK Geological Disposal Facility.

Advanced nuclear materials

Research is focused on the development of new materials and processes for application in future nuclear fission and fusion fuel cycles. We are currently developing novel processing methods for advanced cermet fuels with application in naval reactor concepts, ceramic clad materials for accident tolerant nuclear fuels, and the application of molten salts technology to reprocessing of nuclear fuels. We are also working on new waste management strategies for future fuel cycles, to reduce the ultimate geological disposal footprint.

Structure-property relations in mixed metal oxides

Research is focused on the study of structure-property relationships in perovskite related oxides showing a range of useful physical properties such as high temperature superconductivity, colossal magnetoresistance and anisotropic magnetic exchange. Recent work has investigated structure-property relationships in layered perovskite ferroelectrric oxides and oxide-fluorides.

Research impact

  • Collaborative research with Sellafield Ltd., supported by EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account, demonstrated proof of concept for thermal treatment of plutonium contaminated materials (PCMs). This research supported a change in site baseline strategy, to adopt thermal treatment of PCMs, with a priority shift of expenditure to construct a £239M waste processing plant. This research was highlighted as an exemplar of knowledge transfer by EPSRC.
  • Working with Magnox (South Sites) Ltd., we developed bespoke glass compositions for wet intermediate level wastes stored on the Hinkley Point A site. We supported acceleration of the technology readiness of this approach, collaborating with the sponsor and supply chain to translate bench scale proof of concept work to full scale demonstration within three years. This research underpinned application to NDA-RWMD for a Conceptual Letter of Compliance (CLoC) for thermal treatment of Hinkley Point A wet ILW.
  • Provision of expert advice and consultancy has supported the development of strategy, planning and regulations by private and public sector organisations. Exemplars include: development of a business case to support a step change in waste management strategy, for NDA; an engineering and process design concept for a waste treatment plant, for Sellafield Ltd.; analysis of waste management in future fuel cycles, for DECC; and provision of certificate of lawful use or development by a local authority.

Research group

Research associates

  • Dr Martin Stennett (Ceramic wasteforms)
  • Dr Claire Corkhill (Nuclear geochemistry)
  • Dr Amy Gandy (Radiation effects in nuclear materials)

Visiting research fellow

  • Dr Ewan Maddrell (National Nuclear Laboratory

Project students

  • Valentin Lejeune (High temperature behaviour of novel cements)
  • Philip O’Connor (Spark plasma sintering of advanced ceramics)
  • Andrew Price (Processing of magnesium aluminosilicate glasses)
  • Yeudong Yu (Thermal treatment of radioactive sludge)

Research students

  • Daniel Crean (Geochemistry and remediation of DU contamination at MOD Eskmeals)
  • Nate Cassingham (Dissolution mechanisms of UK HLW glass)
  • Jonathan Squire (Ceramic processing for immobilisation of plutonium residues)
  • Robert Shaw (Dust scrubber chemistry at the Sellafield Waste Vitrification Plant)
  • Kris James (Reactor concepts for civil nuclear marine applications)
  • Paul Heath (Hot isostatic pressing of radioactive wastes)
  • Laura Gardner (Radiation stability of novel cementing systems)
  • Laura Casey (Ion beam irradiation studies of ceramics for actinide disposition)
  • Daniel Bailey (Ceramic wasteforms for future fuel cycles)
  • Stephanie Thornber (Processing of glass-ceramics for plutonium residues)
  • Luke Boast (Thermal treatment of plutonium contaminated materials)
  • Marika Hietala (Socio-economics, policy and strategy in nuclear decommissioning)

Professional activities and recognition

  • Royal Academy of Engineering & NDA Research Chair in Radioactive Waste Management.
  • Member of Steering Group for EPSRC DISTINCTIVE Consortium.
  • Chair of MRS Symposium on Scientific Basis for Nuclear Waste Management XXXVI, 2012.
  • Pfeil Award of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, 2012.
  • Chair of International Scientific Advisory Committee, for the MRS Symposium on Scientific Basis for Nuclear Waste Management.
  • >30 invited presentations since 2011, including ACS Spring Meeting, San Diego, 2012; British Embassy, Tokyo, 2012; Materials Chemistry 11, Warwick, 2013.

Media and public engagement

Neil has is active in public and media engagement, providing expert commentary on nuclear energy issues and supporting the public understanding of science. He worked with designer Zoe Papadopoulou, to co-create the interactive Nuclear Dialogues installation with the Nuclear First DTC. The exhibit was shown at the EPSRC Impact! Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art, displayed in the Wellcome Trust window, and as far afield as the Bejing International Design Festival. More recently, Neil contributed to a BBC Radio 3 documentary, Staying Bright – A Century of Stainless Steel, describing the important role of this material in the nuclear industry. Following the partial melt down of the Fukushima reactors in 2011, Neil has provided expert comment in more than 20 radio and television interviews and over 30 news articles published in print and on line. Highlights include:

Selected recent publications

  • Micro-analytical X-ray imaging of depleted uranium speciation in environmentally aged impact munitions residues, D.E. Crean, Francis R. Livens, M.C. Stennett, D. Grolimund, C.N. Borca, and N.C. Hyatt, Environmental Science and Technology, in press (2014).
  • Real-Time Gamma Imaging of Technetium Transport through Natural and Engineered Porous Materials for Radioactive Waste Disposal, C.L. Corkhill, J.W. Bridge, X.C. Chen, P. Hillel, S.F. Thornton, M.E. Romero-Gonzalez, S.A. Banwart, and N.C. Hyatt, Environmental Science and Technology, 47, 13857–13864 (2013).
  • Remediation of soils contaminated with particulate depleted uranium by multi stage chemical extraction, D.E. Crean, F.R. Livens, M. Sajih, M.C. Stennett, D. Grolimund, C.N. Borca, and N.C. Hyatt, Journal of Hazardous Materials, 263, 382-390 (2013).
  • Structural Transformations and Disordering in Zirconolite (CaZrTi2O7) at High Pressure, A. Salamat, P.F. McMillan, S. Firth ; K. Woodhead, A.L. Hector, G. Garbarino, M.C Stennett, and N.C. Hyatt, Inorganic Chemistry, 52, 1550-1558 (2013).
  • Dissolution of UK High-Level Waste Glass Under Simulated Hyperalkaline Conditions of a Colocated Geological Disposal Facility, C.L. Corkhill, N.J. Cassingham, P.G. Heath and N.C. Hyatt, International Journal of Applied Glass Science, 4, 341–356 (2013).
  • Thermal treatment of simulant plutonium contaminated materials from the Sellafield site by vitrification in a blast-furnace slag, N.C. Hyatt, R.R. Schwarz, P.A. Bingham, M.C. Stennett, C.L. Corkhill, P.G. Heath, R.J. Hand, M. James, A. Pearson, S. Morgan, Journal of Nuclear Materials, 244, 186-199 (2013).
  • The fluorite related modulated structures of the Gd2(Zr2−xCex)O7 solid solution: an analogue for Pu disposition, D.P. Reid, M.C. Stennett, and N.C. Hyatt, Journal of Solid State Chemistry, 191, 2-9 (2012).
  • Synthesis, structure and characterisation of Bi5Ti3CrO15: a new n = 4 Aurivillius phase, A.T. Giddings, M.C. Stennett, D.P. Reid, E.E. McCabe, C. Greaves, and N.C. Hyatt, Journal of Solid State Chemistry, 184, 252–263 (2011).
  • Composition – Structure Relationships in simplified Nuclear Waste Glasses. Part 2: the effect of ZrO2 additions, A.J. Connelly, K.P. Travis, R.J. Hand, E.R. Maddrell and N. C. Hyatt, Journal of the American Ceramic Society, 94, 78–85 (2011).
  • High Pressure Ion-Exchange of Aluminosilicate and Gallosilicate Natrolite, J. Hriljac, G. Little, E. Bailey, P. McMillan, N.C. Hyatt, and E. Maddrell, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 133, 13883-13885, (2011).