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Nuclear energy

Research Nuclear Energy with The Open University

Nuclear power provides approximately 18 per cent of British electricity. As a low-carbon option, nuclear energy is supported for expansion by British government policy despite the fact that it remains a contentious choice. There are numerous technical and policy issues facing nuclear energy, including the building of new power stations, extending the life of the current fleet and addressing issues relating to wastes and safety. OU research is involved in all such questions as well as considering advanced future concepts – such as nuclear fusion, so called ‘generation IV’ reactors or accelerator-driven systems.

The OU has a strong track record in issues relating to nuclear energy technology and policy, and is pleased to be part of a three-university UK research council and industry-funded Centre for Doctoral Training. The ICO-CDT brings together Imperial College London, Cambridge University and The Open University to provide high-quality research and training opportunities. OU research activity in nuclear energy is led from the School of Engineering and Innovation in the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Qualifications available:

PhD. Please note that the ICO-CDT pathway is an inter-university collaboration and students are required to spend their first year at Imperial College registered for an MRes research masters degree in nuclear engineering (including taught elements) before transferring to The Open University. For this pathway, including funding, please apply via the ICO-CDT website. Applications already holding a masters qualification in nuclear-engineering are advised to make contact for further advice.

Separate opportunities also exist for direct PhD application to the OU.


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum UK 2:1 first degree in a relevant technical discipline (or equivalent).

Potential research projects

The OU has a range of PhD projects in the following ICO-CDT thematic areas:
  • Ageing (including reactor life-extension)
  • Metallurgy (with particular emphasis on steels in nuclear steam supply systems)
  • Nuclear Policy, Safety, Security and Regulation
For a list of specific projects please consult the ICO-CDT main website. Please note that if no listed project matches your interests then you may wish to contact us in case we have a suitable project in development.

Current/recent research projects

The OU has a strong track record in attracting external funding for Nuclear Energy related research. Recent examples include:

  • JOINT: an Indo-UK collaboration in joining technologies (EPSRC Ref: EP/I01215X/1)
  • Performance and reliability of metallic materials for nuclear fission power generation (EPSRC Ref: EP/I003282/1)
  • Complex contour method (EPSRC Ref: EP/M018849/1)
  • Management of nuclear risk issues: environmental, financial and safety (NREFS) (EPSRC Ref: EP/K007580/1)
  • Sustainability and proliferation resistance assessment of open cycle thorium-fueled nuclear energy (EPSRC Ref: EP/I018425/1)

In addition to the engineering opportunities listed above, opportunities exist for technology policy research.

Potential supervisors

From the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics:

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Professor William Nuttall
+44 (0)1908 655113

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.