Manchester and Sheffield launch £2.5m research project into safe geological disposal of nuclear waste

A new £2.5m collaborative venture has been launched with The University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield to support the delivery of research into safe geological disposal of nuclear waste. 

The University of Manchester, in partnership with the University of Sheffield, will support the delivery of independent evidence-based research to underpin the development of a UK Geological Disposal Facility – following a £2.5 million grant secured from Radioactive Waste Management (RWM).

Launching the new pioneering Radioactive Waste Management Research Support Office (RWM RSO), based at The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute and headed by Professor Katherine Morris, the partner universities will build an academic community across the UK and, with national and international collaborators, focus on developing underpinning research to support safe geological disposal of the UK’s higher activity radioactive wastes.

The RWM RSO will centre its research on nine themes covering advanced manufacturing, applied mathematics, applied social science, environmental science, geoscience, materials science, public communication of science, radiochemistry, and training. This includes experimental and modelling research in the STEM subjects, as well as the coordination of applied social science research to explore the societal and socio-economic aspects of geological disposal, including how public trust and confidence can be developed and sustained with potential host communities.

Central to the RSO’s role will be the coordination of needs-driven research. University researchers from across the UK will be able to bid to undertake research within the nine defined themes. Funding supported by RWM is expected to be around £20m over a period of up to 10 years and, where appropriate, leveraging support for geological disposal related research from research councils is also part of the RWM RSO funding vision.

Research will be led by academics with the collective range of skills in geological disposal science and technology to deliver strategic research in radioactive waste management. The RWM RSO will develop this community of academics via networking opportunities and funding calls, and the RSO team who will support the academic community includes:

  • Professor Katherine Morris, RWM RSO Director, BNFL Research Chair in Environmental Radioactivity, The University of Manchester
  • Professor Sam Shaw, RWM RSO Academic Lead, The University of Manchester, Professor of Environmental Mineralogy.
  • Professor Neil Hyatt, RWM RSO Academic Lead, University of Sheffield, Royal Academy of Engineering and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Research Chair in Radioactive Waste Management.
  • Dr Claire Corkhill, Materials Science Lead, Reader in Nuclear Materials Corrosion, University of Sheffield
  • Professor Sarah Heath, Training lead, Professor of Nuclear Chemistry, The University of Manchester
  • Professor Steve Jones, Advanced Manufacturing Lead, Professor of Welding Technology, Chief Technology Officer at the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC).
  • Professor Francis Livens, Radiochemistry Lead, Professor of Radiochemistry, Director of Dalton Nuclear Institute, The University of Manchester
  • Professor Kevin Taylor, Geosciences Lead, Professor of Sedimentology and Tectonics, The University of Manchester
  • Professor Richard Taylor, Social Sciences Lead, BNFL Chair in Nuclear Energy Systems, The University of Manchester
We are delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Sheffield and RWM on this exciting new venture to build a community of researchers who will deliver the highest quality, relevant research to underpin the UK’s radioactive waste disposal programme.
Professor Katherine Morris

The RWM RSO will look to further extend the expertise of this team by appointing discipline leads in applied mathematics, environmental science, public communication of science and additional key representatives from other UK universities through dedicated calls over the coming months.

The RSO will also support the development of the next generation of researchers for geological disposal. Nurturing this expertise across the UK’s academic institutions will allow regulators and supply chain companies to tap into the latest thinking to inform their strategies, while enabling the UK to remain at the forefront of geodisposal research, over the decades to come.

Lucy Bailey, RWM’s Head of Research Support Office said, “I am thrilled to be leading this exciting new initiative for RWM. Through the RSO we will harness the best research expertise across the UK to build the knowledge and understanding required to underpin the safety case to deliver a GDF that deals permanently with the UK’s higher-activity waste.”

Professor Katherine Morris, RWM RSO Director, BNFL Chair of Environmental Radioactivity, The University of Manchester added, “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the University of Sheffield and RWM on this exciting new venture to build a community of researchers who will deliver the highest quality, relevant research to underpin the UK’s radioactive waste disposal programme.”

Professor Neil Hyatt, RWM RSO Academic Lead at the University of Sheffield, continued: “The RWM RSO provides a vital and timely focus to network and integrate research across the academic landscape to deliver a safe and affordable engineered facility of disposal of the UK’s radioactive waste legacy. We're looking forward to working with The University of Manchester and RWM on this."

The RSO will begin fulfilling its objectives with a series of online events taking place between 16-18 September 2020. Open to all UK-based researchers and stakeholders, the events will be a combination of knowledge sharing and collaborative research sandpits to define immediate research priorities. To reserve your place, sign up to the RSO mailing list

Energy is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons - examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet. #ResearchBeacons

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