Funded PhD research projects

Applications are invited from candidates interested in an RWM sponsored PhD project.

As an RWM RSO student you will be conducting world leading, high quality, and relevant research to underpin the RWM geological disposal programme.  Your PhD research will address gaps and uncertainties relevant to the design and development of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), potentially the most significant environmental infrastructure project in the UK. Throughout your research project you will be supported by the RWM RSO with professional networking opportunities, support to publish your work and opportunities to present at relevant conferences. If you want to undertake impactful research, consider one of the fully funded PhD projects below. More research projects will be added to this page regularly as funding becomes available. Sign up to our newsletter to be kept up to date.

PhD projects starting in 2021 mark the first cohort of RWM RSO research students. The RWM RSO will offer additional training and support, as well as access to a network of researchers working on all aspects of geological disposal.

If you are interested in one of the fully funded PhD projects below, please get in touch with the supervisor for more information on how to apply.

Mechanisms of radionuclide retention in aged cements

Title: Mechanisms of radionuclide retention in aged cements

Description: Radionuclide sorption on potential backfill materials is a topic of continued research and development in geological disposal of intermediate level waste. Prior work has employed hydrothermal ageing to accelerate the chemical evolution of Nirex Reference Vault Backfill (NRVB) and understand the consequent changes in cement mineralogy. To date, limited research into radionuclide interactions with aged cements has been undertaken. This project will focus on a mechanistic study on aged cement phases and radionuclides of importance to the safety case for a Geological Disposal Facility. The successful applicant will focus on understanding the composition of cementitious materials and their aged forms to validate them as representative of aged NRVB. Secondly, the researcher will examine bulk and molecular scale interactions of select radionuclides on their reaction with these phases. Finally, the impact of further ageing on radionuclide speciation and fate will be considered.

Our experimental research programme will exploit the new NNUF Facilities due to open in 2021 including the NNUF RADER Labs hosted within the Research Centre for Radwaste Disposal at the University of Manchester as well as the new Diamond Light Source Active Materials Laboratory and will utilise state-of-the-art STFC facilities which allow for a mechanistic understanding at multiple scales.

Institution: The University of Manchester

This project is in collaboration with the GREEN Centre for Doctoral Training. The successful applicant will be part of this exciting CDT, in addition to the Research Support Office community. 

Supervisor(s): Prof Sam Shaw

Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Radioactive Waste Management Ltd

Performance of aged cement grouts for encapsulating radioactive wastes

Title: Performance of aged cement grouts for encapsulating radioactive wastes

Description: The UK Geological Disposal Facility concept for low and intermediate level radioactive wastes is based on encapsulating the wastes in a cementitious matrix, typically a BFS/OPC or PFA/OPC grout, and surrounding the wasteform packages with a specialist high-alkalinity backfill grout known as the Nirex Reference Vault Backfill (NRVB). The overarching aim of this PhD project is to develop a deep understanding of the chemical, microstructural and physical changes that occur due to long-term interactions between NRVB and wasteform grouts under repository relevant conditions. We will achieve this via a novel approach that combines thermodynamic modelling with quantitative microstructural analysis and mass transport characterisation. Ultimately, the new knowledge generated will inform and strengthen the post-closure safety case of the UK Geological Disposal Facility.

Institution: Imperial College London

This project is in collaboration with the Nuclear Energy Futures Centre for Doctoral Training. The successful applicant will be part of this exciting CDT, in addition to the Research Support Office community. 

Supervisor(s): Dr Hong Wong (IC) and Dr Rupert Myers (IC)
Sponsor(s): EPSRC and Radioactive Waste Management Ltd

Understanding the consequences of steam formation for the sealing performance of barrier bentonites

Title: Understanding the consequences of steam formation for the sealing performance of barrier bentonites

Description: This project will investigate the effects of steam formation within partially saturated bentonite and its subsequent performance on the engineered barrier system. Maintaining and demonstrating an adequate Engineered Barrier System sealing performance will be of fundamental importance to safety assessments for the disposal of HHGWs. This PhD will specifically address two key questions: (i) whether the interaction between partially saturated bentonite and steam results in a marked reduction in the bentonite swelling capacity, and (ii) whether the bentonite permeability is increased as a consequence.

The PhD will answer these questions by conducting a series of experiments in bespoke testing apparatus at the British Geological Survey (BGS) to establish the swelling capacity and permeability of steam treated bentonites under a range of repository conditions. Laboratory experimentation will be conducted both within the Transport Properties Research Laboratories at the BGS and using the state-of-the-art facilities at the University of Bristol Interface Analysis Centre, at which the student will have membership.

Institution: British Geological Survey and University of Bristol

Supervisor(s): Dr Katherine Daniels and Prof Tom Scott
Sponsor(s): Radioactive Waste Management Ltd