Projects Recruiting Researchers

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

As an NWS RSO student you will be conducting world leading, high quality, and relevant research to underpin the NWS 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 NWS 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.

If you are interested in one of the fully funded PhD projects below, click on the title of the project to get further details. Please get in touch with the supervisor for more information on how to apply.

Advanced characterisation of hydroceramics

Title: Advanced characterisation of hydroceramics – Improving the safety case for deep geological disposal of radioactive waste


Nuclear energy provides almost a fifth of the UK’s electricity, generating waste that needs to be managed for safe, long term storage. While most radioactive waste comes from the generation of electricity, it is also a by-product of many medical and industrial processes, research and defense activities that make use of radioactive materials. In a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), higheractivity waste is stored hundreds of metres deep underground and GDF is internationally recognised as the safest long-term solution for this type of waste. There is strong interest in understanding how the cement grout used to contain waste interacts with the backfill material (called Nirex reference vault backfill) used to stabilise waste containers in the GDF. This project investigates rare, aged samples (+10 years old) to determine how microstructural and physical characteristics of the Nirex reference vault backfill (NRVB): Portland cement grout interface will alter over time-scales applicable to deep geological disposal facilities. This project will use a combination of 2D X-ray diffraction and scattering, 3D/2D imaging and supporting analytical measurements to determine how the cements microstructure and porosity/permeability have developed over 10 years of hydrothermal ageing. Beamtime at Diamond Light Source, a national synchrotron facility, will be applied for to access a new small angle X-ray scattering technique called SAXS-Tensor Tomography for high resolution information on the microstructural changes. The results from this project will inform on further (future) work on radionuclide retention and reactive transport in NRVB, which requires a thorough understanding of porosity/permeability (and mineralogy) to support  numerical/predictive models on radionuclide mobility. Funded by Nuclear Waste Services (NWS), this project will directly inform on 
improving and developing the safety case for deep geological disposal of radioactive waste.

The successful candidate will be trained in and use techniques such as micro-(X-ray diffraction), electron probe micro-analysis, X-ray computed tomography and access national facilities such as Diamond Light Source, to determine how mineralogy, micro-strain, porosity and permeability of the NRVB:cement grout interface have altered over 10 years. The student will be based in the Faculty of Engineering, one of the largest and most successful engineering faculties in the UK, and the largest in Scotland. The student will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team, including Drs Andrea Hamilton, Pieter Bots and Kate Dobson in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and Dr Paul Edwards in the Physics Department.

We are looking for a highly motivated person to undertake multi-disciplinary research. Applicants should have an excellent undergraduate degree (MSc/MEng/BSc/BEng, 1st class/2:1 class or equivalent) in Physics/Chemistry/Chemical Engineering/Materials, Science, or related subjects, and be comfortable working in physics, chemistry and engineering laboratories. Any previous experience using Matlab or similar is advantageous.

WHAT WE OFFER: This is a fully funded 4 year PhD studentship, covering tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend for 4 years at the standard UK research rate (£19, 435 in 2023). A generous allowance is available for instrument access/conference attendance. Start date is expected to be Spring-Summer 2023 but is negotiable. Application deadline 24th April 2023, but early application is strongly advised.

Available to students from the United Kingdom or who have settled status within the UK. Please contact Dr Hamilton ( to apply.

Institution: University of Strathclyde

Supervisor(s): Dr Andrea Hamilton and Dr Katherine Dobson

Sponsor(s): Nuclear Waste Services

Novel phosphate cement chemistries and materials for safe storage of uranium-based nuclear waste

Title: Novel phosphate cement chemistries and materials for safe storage of uranium-based nuclear waste


Applications are invited for a PhD scholarship funded by Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) (a subsidiary of the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority), on the project titled “Long-Term Performance of PO4-Based Backfill Cements in Repository Environments for DNLEU Disposal (PO4DNLEU)”. The PhD student will experimentally develop and apply thermodynamic data for phosphate cements, which are promising low-pH cementitious materials for immobilising radionuclides such as uranium. These materials are important for safe disposal of nuclear waste since they can maintain a long-term chemical barrier between the nuclear waste in the storage site and the surrounding natural environment.

The PhD will be based in the Materials Section of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (Skempton Building, South Kensington Campus), working closely with NWS as well as consortium partners, including the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), and Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI). This PhD project offers a wide range of excellent training and development opportunities in a highly stimulating environment, as well as access to internationally leading academics and industrial partners, research facilities, and networks.

Project details:

Through natural decay, depleted natural and low enriched uranium (DNLEU) will become the most radioactive material in the UK geological disposal facility after 1 million years, which poses a significant and challenging-to-manage long-term risk. Despite this risk, backfill materials specifically designed to immobilise UK DNLEU have not been “studied in any detail” (NWS, 2016).

This PhD project will develop the data and models needed to reliably predict the long-term performance of phosphate-based cements, which are promising backfill materials for DNLEU immobilisation. Specifically, these data/models will be validated using results from new experimental tests and applied to predict key phosphate cement material properties e.g. mineralogical composition and porosity under hydrothermal aging conditions and in the presence/absence of groundwater exposure. The PhD student will comprehensively detail the results and insights from this study in several peer-reviewed journal papers and a report to NWS that critically assesses the potential for phosphate cements to be used in DNLEU immobilisation.

By openly providing our thermodynamic data for phosphate cements, which are currently poorly reported in the scientific literature relative to other cements, this PhD project represents an initial yet essential step towards reliably predicting the fate of uranium and its decay products in the UK geological disposal facility concept. It will thus also deliver an important contribution to international cement/nuclear science.

This is a heavily experimental PhD project that will utilise the suite of state-of-the-art materials characterisation equipment available in our Advanced Infrastructure Materials, Structures, and Environmental Laboratories, which is a facility that is essentially unparalleled in terms of quality within the UK.

This PhD student will work aside another PhD student, also funded by NWS, who will characterise the long-term evolution of and interactions between composite Portland cement grouts and high-alkalinity Nirex Reference Vault Backfill (NRVB), which are also important materials for safe disposal of nuclear waste.

Academic requirements and experience:


  • A good first class degree (or international equivalent) in a STEM subject, e.g., Chemistry, Metallurgy, Physics, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Science, Geology), or a course with strong emphasis on chemistry.
  • A masters level degree qualification in any course with a strong emphasis on chemistry, as indicated above, alone or in addition to an undergraduate level degree.
  • Laboratory experience. 
  • Strong interest in materials research.
  • Excellent English communication skills.

How to apply

Applicants wishing to be considered for this opportunity should send the following application documents to Dr. Rupert J. Myers ():

  1. An up-to-date CV for the applicant including degree result and, if possible, class ranking
  2. Contact details of two academic referees

Application via the Imperial College Registry is not necessary at this stage.

The deadline for receiving applications will be Friday 15th September 12:00 UK time but early applications are strongly encouraged.

Administrative questions should be emailed to .
Project related questions should be emailed to .

Funding notes

The studentship will provide funding for 3 years including Home tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the standard UKRI London rate, ~£20,062 for the 2023/24 academic year.

Full funding is available to Home students. The funding may also be used to partly support an international student.

Further information can be found here.

Institution: Imperial College London

Supervisor(s): Dr. Rupert J. Myers Dr. Hong S. Wong

Sponsor(s): Nuclear Waste Services