National Nuclear Laboratory

NDA PhD Bursary – Additional Considerations

The following additional topics may be considered alongside bursary proposals for any of the theme areas (A-G). N.B. Inclusion of these elements is not mandatory for bursary proposals, and applications without these elements will not be “marked down”.

Artificial intelligence and other projects requiring access to NDA owned or managed data:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a growing topic in the nuclear sector and research into its application within NDA’s decommissioning mission requires special consideration when applying to the NDA bursary call.

  • Access to NDA owned data must be identified as a risk within proposals. Applicants are expected to engage with potential sponsors to ensure that either data can be provided or that secondments into NDA group can be established to facilitate access.
  • Where a secondment is required, please ensure this is correctly costed for within the proposal including travel and subsistence, security clearances and hosting/ sponsorship. Please also consider what facilities/ equipment/ software may be required as these may not be available within the NDA SLC or host organisation.  
  • There is currently no agreed approach to regulate AI within the nuclear sector, although ONR have done some exploratory work. Applicants may wish to consider how their solution could contribute to regulator acceptance. This could include engaging publicly with organisations and regulators in nuclear. 
  • Applicants should consider where the PhD can go beyond the state of the art. There have been several examples where AI has either been implemented or demonstrated by consultants or the supply chain within SLC’s. It is important that any application focused on AI is aware of this research and engagement with NDA during the call process is essential to understand this landscape.

If there are further questions on this section applicants are advised to contact the call administrator who will then facilitate discussions with the appropriate sponsor within NDA group.

Collaboration with US research organisations:

Applicants will have the opportunity to include an element of collaboration with research institutions in the United States in their research proposals on topics of mutual interest to NDA and US DoE. The Project Lead for the proposal should be a UK academic and will need to have an established relationship with the US academic/research institution with whom the collaboration is proposed. The proposal should include separate costs for any secondments and/or work in the US, and any associated supervision costs. It should also indicate how overseas working would be managed. It should indicate whether the collaboration is essential or desirable to the proposal and the associated benefit of the collaboration. If work in the proposal is deemed relevant to US nuclear decommissioning challenges, the US DoE may fund part of the proposal.

Access to UK R&D facilities for handling radioactive material:

The NDA would welcome proposals where a PhD project would benefit from gaining access to UK research facilities for handling radioactive material. Applicants are encouraged to include estimated costs of undertaking R&D using radioactive materials in the proposal where a realistic estimate can be made (e.g. based on previous experience, or through discussion with the facility operator), or alternatively to state the nature and likely duration of the work they would like to undertake highlighting whether the active work would be essential to the success of the project or would just add value. If the proposed work involving radioactive materials is judged to bring significant benefits to the project, then the NDA will consider funding this work in addition to the PhD project scope. Details of the proposed active work and information about costings and/or duration can be submitted as part of the “Supplementary information” section in the application form.

For specific guidance, please contact the call administrator at the address provided at the end of this document.

Cross industry collaborations:

Recognising the cross-industry similarities between the decommissioning missions of the NDA and the oil and gas community, NDA would be interested to receive research proposals that build on these synergies and address common challenges. More information on the challenges surrounding decommissioning in oil and gas can be found here:

Research – The National Decommissioning Centre (

Whilst this element of call has not been formulated in conjunction with the Oil and Gas Technology Centre or the National Decommissioning Centre, any relevant proposals will be shared and assessed together with these organisations.

To apply for the scheme, please click here.