Dr Claire Corkhill
MEarthSci Geology (Honours)
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
EPSRC Early Career Research Fellow and Reader
+44 114 222 3632
Full contact details
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Sir Robert Hadfield Building
Claire is a Reader in nuclear material corrosion, working in the Immobilisation Science Laboratory at the University of Sheffield. With a PhD in Geology and research experience in mineral and material dissolution, her research focuses on understanding the long-term evolution of radioactive waste material in disposal environments.
As a member of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, she provides independent advice to, and scrutiny of, the UK government's radioactive waste management and disposal policies and practices.
- Research interests
The UK has a significant inventory of nuclear waste (650,000 cubic metres - enough to fill Wembley Stadium), that will be radioactive for over 100,000 years. For this reason, it is necessary to dispose of the waste safely in a final disposal facility, several hundreds of meters below the ground, which is carefully designed to reduce the likelihood of radioactive substances escaping to the environment. It uses a multi-barrier concept, where several layers of containment made from a number of different materials prevent groundwater reaching the waste, preventing the leaching of radioactive substances into the host rock. This concept is called the Engineered Barrier.
Claire’s research focuses on understanding and improving the safety functions of this Engineered Barrier. She is interested in understanding how quickly the waste is likely to dissolve if it comes into contact with groundwater, and also how the backfill material helps to prevent the release and transport of radioactive substances to the host rock. Understanding these processes is critical to developing a safe disposal facility, and will also help the design of new, improved materials for the Engineered Barrier.
Claire is currently working in three major areas, which are as follows:
Effect of defect chemistry and microstructure on the corrosion of UO2 fuel and Pu-containing materials. Claire’s research team are exploring the role of ceramic and glass/ceramic microstructures on the dissolution kinetics and mechanisms of UO2 and Pu-containing materials, through the study of surface chemistry and the application of in-situ dissolution imaging techniques. One recent focus has been to understand the secondary phase formation on fuel debris from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in support of fuel retrieval operations.
State-of-the-art determination of nuclear waste glass durability in sub-surface environments. The role of different geochemical conditions on the dissolution kinetics of a range of simulant nuclear waste glasses are investigated, in particular, hyper-alkaline conditions.
Cement radionuclide interactions:
High-resolution spectroscopic determination of radionuclide – cement interactions. Through the application of sophisticated spatially-resolved synchrotron X-ray techniques, solid-state NMR and thermodynamic modelling, Claire’s team is developing kinetic models of radionuclide-cement interactions in geological disposal environments. Claire is leading the world’s first long-duration x-ray synchrotron experiment in collaboration with Diamond Light Source, to understand the long-term behaviour of cement over thousands of years.
- Critical Analysis of Spent Fuel Structure in Radionuclide Release (EPSRC ECR Fellowship)
- Transcend: Transformative Science and Engineering for Decommissioning Research (EPSRC/ Radioactive Waste Management Limited)
- ATLANTIC: Accident ToLerANT fuels In reCylcing (EPSRC)
- Simulated Used Nuclear Fuel Dissolution as a Function of Fuel Chemistry and Near Field Conditions (EPSRC / US Department of Energy)
- DisCo: Modern Spent Fuel Dissolution and Chemistry in Failed Container Conditions (H2020)
- JUNO: A Network for Japan – UK Nuclear Opportunities (EPSRC)
- Project GLAD: Glass Leaching Assessment for Durability (US Department of Energy, Office of River Protection)
- CEBAMA: Cement BAsed MAterials for final disposal of nuclear waste (H2020)
- Next Generation Nuclear and GREEN Centres for Doctoral Training (EPSRC)
- Early age hydration and application of blended magnesium potassium phosphate cements for reduced corrosion of reactive metals. Cement and Concrete Research, 143, 106375-106375.
- Temperature transformation of blended magnesium potassium phosphate cement binders. Cement and Concrete Research, 141, 106332-106332.
- Investigating the microstructure and mechanical behaviour of simulant “lava-like” fuel containing materials from the Chernobyl reactor unit 4 meltdown. Materials & Design, 201.
- Thermal treatment of Cs-exchanged chabazite by hot isostatic pressing to support decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Journal of Hazardous Materials. View this article in WRRO
- Characterisation and disposability assessment of multi-waste stream in-container vitrified products for higher activity radioactive waste. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 401. View this article in WRRO
- Synthesis, structure and characterisation of the thorium zirconolite CaZr1‐xThxTi2O7 system. Journal of the American Ceramic Society. View this article in WRRO
- Characterization of Cebama –Low-pH Reference Concrete and assessment of its alteration with representative waters in Radioactive Waste Repositories. Applied Geochemistry, 104703-104703.
- Synthesis and characterization of iodovanadinite using PdI2, an iodine source for the immobilisation of radioiodine. RSC Advances, 10(42), 25116-25124. View this article in WRRO
- Short communication : the dissolution of UK simulant vitrified high-level-waste in groundwater solutions. Journal of Nuclear Materials. View this article in WRRO
- Synthesis and characterisation of Ca1-xCexZrTi2-2xCr2xO7: Analogue zirconolite wasteform for the immobilisation of stockpiled UK plutonium. Journal of the European Ceramic Society. View this article in WRRO
- Ce and U speciation in wasteforms for thermal treatment of plutonium bearing wastes, probed by L3 edge XANES. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 818. View this article in WRRO
- 18-month hydration of a low-pH cement for geological disposal of radioactive waste: The Cebama reference cement. Applied Geochemistry. View this article in WRRO
- Effects of plutonium dioxide encapsulation on the physico-chemical development of Portland cement blended grouts. Journal of Nuclear Materials, 530. View this article in WRRO
- Synthesis, characterisation and corrosion behaviour of simulant Chernobyl nuclear meltdown materials. npj Materials Degradation, 4(1). View this article in WRRO
- Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP): A novel method to prepare Cr-doped UO2 nuclear fuel. MRS Advances. View this article in WRRO
- The dissolution of simulant UK Ca/Zn-modified nuclear waste glass : insight into Stage III behavior. MRS Advances, 5(3-4), 103-109. View this article in WRRO
- A feasibility investigation of laboratory based X-ray absorption spectroscopy in support of nuclear waste management. MRS Advances, 5(1-2), 27-35. View this article in WRRO
- Synthesis, characterisation and preliminary corrosion behaviour assessment of simulant Fukushima nuclear accident fuel debris. MRS Advances, 5(1-2), 65-72. View this article in WRRO
- The dissolution of simulant vitrified intermediate level nuclear waste in young cement water. MRS Advances. View this article in WRRO
- A new approach to the immobilisation of technetium and transuranics: Co-disposal in a zirconolite ceramic matrix. Journal of Nuclear Materials. View this article in WRRO
- Gaseous carbonation of cementitious backfill for geological disposal of radioactive waste : Nirex Reference Vault Backfill. Applied Geochemistry, 106, 120-133. View this article in WRRO
- Investigation of the role of Mg and Ca in the structure and durability of aluminoborosilicate glass. Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids, 512(1), 41-52. View this article in WRRO
- Physical and optical properties of the International Simple Glass. npj Materials Degradation, 3(1). View this article in WRRO
Conference proceedings papers
- Advanced gas-cooled reactor SIMFuel fabricated by Hot Isostatic Pressing: a feasibility investigation. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, Vol. 818. Manchester, UK, 4 February 2020 - 5 February 2020. View this article in WRRO
- The HADES facility for high activity decommissioning engineering & science: part of the UK national nuclear user facility. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, Vol. 818. Manchester, UK, 4 February 2020 - 5 February 2020. View this article in WRRO
- Hot Isostatically Pressed Zirconolite Wasteforms for Actinide Immobilisation. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, Vol. 818. Manchester, UK, 4 February 2020 - 5 February 2020. View this article in WRRO
- Understanding the Dissolution of Advanced Doped Nuclear Fuels for Geological Disposal. Goldschmidt Abstracts
- Synthesis, Characterisation and Dissolution of Simulant Chernobyl and Fukushima Fuel Debris. Goldschmidt Abstracts
- Research group
- Dr. Sam Walling: Project GLAD
- Dr. Theo Cordara: DisCo and ECR Fellowship
- Dr. Clemence Gausse: Disposability of glass-ceramic wasteforms for Pu disposal
- Dr. Ritesh Mohun: Defect chemistry of UO2 fuels
- Dr Seb Lawson: Atomic structure of UO2 fuels
- Adam Fisher: Dissolution of UK HLW glass using advanced kinetic techniques (PhD candidate)
- Antonia Yorkshire: Cement-radionuclide interactions (PhD candidate)
- Rita Vasconcelos: Cement-groundwater interactions (PhD candidate)
- Joe Pawley: Effect of container surface finish on decontamination (PhD candidate)
- Hannah Smith: Effect of UO2 microstructure on dissolution kinetics (PhD candidate)
- Max Cole: Atomic Structure of UO2 grain boundries (PhD candidate)
- Professional activities
- Member, HM Government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)
- Recipient of the Royal Society of Chemistry Bill Newton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Radiochemistry, 2018.
- Recipient of the Geological Society William Smith Fund for Excellence in Applied Geoscience, 2014.
- Member of the EPSRC Peer Review Associate College
- Member of the Swiss Light Source Panel Review Committee
- Associate Editor for the Nature Research journal npj Materials Degradation
- Associate Editor for the Mineralogical Magazine Journal
- Membership of: Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, American Ceramic Society, Society of Glass Technology
Selected media appearances:
- Online documentary: We should be talking about nuclear waste https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ftzUf3bGms
- ITV This Morning: The truth behind the hit TV series Chernobyl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x2PcB-XaVA
- BBC World Service Science in Action: New evidence of nuclear reactor explosion https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csym26
- The Conversation: Nuclear waste is piling up - government's need to stop dithering and take action https://theconversation.com/nuclear-waste-is-piling-up-governments-need-to-stop-dithering-and-take-action-123977?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1569423236
- Interviewed by BBC News (Long term cement study seeks nuclear waste solution).
- Women in Engineering
We interviewed Claire when she was a Vice Chancellor's Research Fellow for the Wall of Women. Here's Claire's video:
The Wall of Women profiles were taken over a 4/5 year time period and are a snapshot of what our engineers were doing at that time.