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Trust Funds Nuclear Decommissioning Scholarships

Story supplied by LU Press Office

A team of Lancaster University Engineers are exploring the use of robots in Cumbria's nuclear decommissioning process thanks to funding from a charitable trust.

The Sir John Fisher Foundation has provided £97,000 to support four postgraduate engineering students on the joint research project.

Established in 1980 by Sir John and Lady Maria Fisher, The Sir John Fisher Foundation is a charitable trust, which supports causes throughout the UK but with special regard to Barrow-in-Furness.

Based in the Engineering Department at Lancaster University, the team-based postgraduate engineering research programme is believed to be the first of its kind - bringing together students from different academic backgrounds to tackle a real-world problem.

The students are working on improving the use of 'remote handling' or robotic devices in the nuclear decommissioning process. These instruments have a crucial role to play as they can enter places which are unsafe for humans - for example working in contaminated environments, in restricted spaces or at height.

Decommissioning is a complex process in which the needs of safety, efficiency and environmental impact have to be borne in mind on a continuous basis. The Sir John Fisher Foundation Research Scholarships will enable graduates to learn and develop their ideas within this context.

The students will also act as ambassadors in schools and colleges in Cumbria - engaging with young people and encouraging them to consider Engineering as a career.

The Engineering Research Scholarships build on Lancaster University's track record in this area which includes:

  • Extensive research experience across control and instrumentation, computational modelling, autonomous robotics and characterisation
  • MSc provision in Safety Engineering and Nuclear Decommissioning
  • The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Nuclear Graduates Scheme - for which Lancaster is the registered appointing body

Professor Malcolm Joyce of Lancaster University's Engineering Department said: "These awards have been designed to attract the very best graduates, attracting them to and keeping their talent and skills in the region. We are very grateful to the Sir John Fisher Foundation for making this possible

"By working on real problems the students will contribute relevant research to the UK decommissioning process while gaining valuable experience, enabling them to join the world of industry when they graduate. The Sir John Fisher Foundation Research Scholarships are the first team-based activity of which we are aware by which Engineering students can qualify for a Masters-by-Research degree with reference to the decommissioning needs of the UK."

Perry Chuinkam, one of the Sir John Fisher Foundation Scholars, said he had been intrigued by the novel structure of the course.

He said: "The opportunity to do a research degree in collaboration with industry, as well as being involved in academic outreach is a rarity. I hope this programme will give me the opportunity to develop industry-specific skills and knowledge, especially where it would be difficult to obtain this knowledge through a conventional taught course. I also hope to gain transferable skills through working directly with and for companies."

A spokesperson for the Sir John Fisher Foundation said: "The Trustees of the Sir John Fisher Foundation are pleased to fund this innovative project designed by the Department of Engineering at Lancaster University, which is an exciting extension to the 25 years of support the Foundation has given the Department.

"The studentships provide an excellent opportunity for the graduates in the team not only to contribute in relation to nuclear decommissioning, an area which will be of increasing importance, both nationally and in Cumbria, but also to bridge the link between academia and industry, and through their ambassadorial role, to encourage and inform pupils at schools in and around the Barrow-in-Furness area about career possibilities and paths in engineering.

"The Trustees have a programme of support for educational causes in and around the Barrow in Furness area and consider this project is an important link from school to university and on to industry."

Tue 10 February 2009

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