University of Leeds facility to accelerate new-era nuclear research in the UK

Article by Aniqah Majid

Gamuchirai Sibanda, University of Leeds
MULTIForm will test the performance of multiphase fluid flow representative of realistic scale

NUCLEAR researchers and scientists in the UK will have access to a new “cutting-edge” facility at the University of Leeds, which is looking to address some of the biggest challenges in commercialising nuclear power.

MULTIForm (Multiphase Fluid Flow in Nuclear systems) includes equipment built to test the performance of multiphase fluid flow representative of realistic scale.

Mulitphase flow in nuclear power involves the interactive flow of two or more distinct phases in a channel. The phases represent a fraction of either solid, liquid or gas, the most common being steam and water.

Research into flow chemistry is important for accident management of pressurised water reactors in nuclear engineering.

Bruce Hanson, the university’s leadership chair in nuclear process engineering, said: “Many of the technical issues that lie at the heart of nuclear technology involve the flow or movement of more than one phase.

“Whether it be gas/liquid in a BWR or liquid/solid at a pond at Sellafield. As chemical engineers, we know that predicting behaviour of multiphase systems is difficult and so it’s important to have research that gives us more accurate and robust ways to predict behaviour.”

State of the art equipment

Dr Alastair Baker, University of Leeds
The facility has two test beds to test water and molten chloride flow systems

MULTIForm, which cost £3m (US$3.75m) to develop, can measure the performance of nuclear reactors, transportation, and separation units.

Pressurised water reactors (PWRs) make up the majority of the world’s nuclear reactors. However, while most reactors work in single phases, MULTIForm has the capacity to work with three phases.

The facility has two pilot-scale test beds, one to test water flow systems, and the other to test molten chloride flow systems.

With the potential to be more efficient and widely applied than water PWRs, molten-salt reactors (MSRs) have been in development since the 1950s, but the technology has yet to reach commercial deployment.

Hanson added that the university is working with Sellafield to find solutions in decommissioning legacy ponds and silos. Sellafield holds around 85% of the UK’s nuclear waste and the university is looking to support decommissioning work using high fidelity computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

Hanson has said that the university hopes that MULTIForm will become self-sustaining in the next five years, operating beyond the university and with a larger user base.  

Article by Aniqah Majid

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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