Biogeochemical Applications in Nuclear Decommissioning and Waste Disposal

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Abstract

The proposal is aimed at exploring the use of microbial technologies to reduce risk of contamination from decommissioning of nuclear sites and construction of repositories for nuclear waste. The objective is to reduce the potential for migration of radionuclides (radioactive contaminants) in soils and rocks using special properties of the bacteria that are present in them. The project will investigate two different bacterial properties: (1) How micro-organisms can be used to trap radionuclides within the soil/rock and consequently prevent their transport to the human environment. (2) How some bacteria can be encouraged to produce minerals (e.g. calcite) in soils and rocks that will block any pathways for fluid flow. We will study soils and rocks expected in decommissioning sites and repositories to gain a better understanding of these microbiological properties. The project includes extensive laboratory research (under controlled conditions) and investigations in the field. The processes of mineral deposition and radionuclide capture will be imaged over time and space in three dimensions using complex technologies such as Magnetic Resonance techniques. Computer models will be developed to simulate the basic biological and chemical processes take place. The main findings of the project will directly benefit the nuclear industry and the public; reducing risks from radionuclide migration, and contributing to economical clean-up strategies.

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Brookshaw D (2014) Bioreduction of biotite and chlorite by a Shewanella species in American Mineralogist

publication icon
Brookshaw DR (2014) Redox interactions between Cr(VI) and Fe(II) in bioreduced biotite and chlorite. in Environmental science & technology

publication icon
Handley-Sidhu S (2013) Kinetics of urease mediated calcite precipitation and permeability reduction of porous media evidenced by magnetic resonance imaging in International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology

 
Description We are looking to replace traditional cements for sealing cracks in rocks to create barriers to water flow. Cements have a high carbon footprint.
We have shown that we can use bacteria to precipitate minerals (calcium carbonate) to seal rock fractures instead. Calcium carbonate is natural mineral that is common the ground and is more environmentally friendly than cement.
Exploitation Route We are exploring a range of applications with industry. For example, sealing boreholes, shafts and tunnels in a nuclear waste repository.
Sectors Construction,Energy,Environment

 
Description The findings from this work have been used to propose a solution for restoration of the twelfth century Eglise Monolith, St. Emilion, France. This is a commercially in confidence project with the French ground engineering company Soletanche Bachy. The church is currently closed to the public due to concerns over structural safety; the building stone in the columns is sufficiently degraded as to be structurally unsound. We are proposing to inject bacteria and precipitate calcite to strength the existing building stone. A decision has not yet been made as to whether the proposal will be accepted. The findings from this research are also the subject of an ongoing partnership with BAM Nuttall. We are working to take the microbially induced calcite technology to market as a alternative to traditional ground improvement techniques and to rock fracture cement grouting. Additional funding has been secured from the Royal Academy of Engineering/BAM Nuttall (£475k to support a Professorial Fellowship) and the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (£187k). The new technology could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry.
Sector Construction
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description Big Pitch: Ground Engineering
Amount £200,000 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M016854/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2014 
End 12/2016
 
Description Delivering Enhanced Through-Life Nuclear Asset Management
Amount £2,160,698 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R004889/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 10/2022
 
Description Innovation award
Amount £187,000 (GBP)
Organisation Construction Scotland Innovation Centre 
Start 04/2018 
End 03/2020
 
Description Royal Academy of Engineering Professorial Fellowship
Amount £475,000 (GBP)
Organisation Royal Academy of Engineering 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 10/2022
 
Description Appointed as the sole expert hydrogeologist to the UK Committee for Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). 
Organisation Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Advisor : Membership of public/government advisory/policy group or panel : Appointed as the sole expert hydrogeologist to the UK Committee for Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). CoRWM?s role is to provide independent expert scrutiny of Government implementation of the White Paper ?Managing Radioactive Waste Safely', including providing key recommendations to Government Ministers
Start Year 2008
 
Description Collaboration with University of Stanford 
Organisation Stanford University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are moving forward with several follow-on joint projects with Stanford. We will have research student exchange and will have access to their X-Ray CT scanner for a period of 1 year.
Collaborator Contribution Access to X-Ray CT scanner and multiphase flow apparatus.
Impact Journal paper currently in review. 4 joint PhD studentships 2 funded by strathclyde, 2 by Stanford
Start Year 2014
 
Description Joint research with NERC 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution University of Strathclyde researchers worked on this project with researchers from NERC
Start Year 2009
 
Description Joint research with UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW 
Organisation University of Glasgow
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Strathclyde researchers worked on this project with researchers from UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW
Start Year 2009
 
Description Joint research with University of Birmingham 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Strathclyde researchers worked on this project with researchers from University of Birmingham
Start Year 2009
 
Description Joint research with University of Cambridge 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Strathclyde researchers worked on this project with researchers from University of Cambridge
Start Year 2009
 
Description Joint research with University of Manchester 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution University of Strathclyde researchers worked on this project with researchers from University of Manchester
Start Year 2009
 
Description Appointed as expert hydrogeologist to the UK Committee for Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact My advice has contributed to a number of key decisions. Most recently, had a significant impact on the contents of the 2014 White Paper on Siting a Geological Disposal Facility in the UK

Changes to the recent White Paper
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/committee-on-radioactive-waste-management
 
Description Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Energy Inquiry "Scotland's Energy Future" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This is a major public inquiry seeking evidence on the way forward over the next 30 years in Scottish Energy Policy. We are considering all aspects of energy policy: new technologies, supply, demand, energy security, ethics, environmental and climate impacts etc. We have collected written evidence, we have a serious of planned bilateral meetings, we have met UK and Scottish Government and we have regional public meetings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.rse.org.uk/energyinquiry/