Environmental Radioactivity Research Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Earth Atmospheric and Env Sciences

Abstract

The UK has a substantial nuclear legacy (large quantities of nuclear contaminated land, waste, and aging nuclear facilities). In the coming decades, these wastes will be managed via geodisposal and legacy nuclear sites will be decommissioned at great cost to the taxpayer. Further, the recent Fukushima incident has highlighted a range of issues concerning nuclear incident impact in the environment. The Environmental Radioactivity Research tasks associated with facilitating and informing these issues are many and non-trivial. In particular, successful geodisposal, decommissioning, and nuclear incident response will require the production and interpretation of fundamental atomic and nano-scale information concerning radionuclide behaviour in heterogeneous environmental materials, across a range of concentrations. Further, computer modelling is needed to bridge complex spatial and temporal scales. Gaining this information and knowhow requires unprecedented interaction between the UK Environmental Radioactivity Community, STFC analytical/computing infrastructure and expertise, and the relevant governmental and industry bodies. Reflecting this, we seek to engage this need by developing a forward thinking collaborative network (Env-Rad-Net) that seeks to coordinate, inform, and promote fundamental Environmental Radioactivity Research at a range of STFC central facilities. Indeed, over three years the Env-Rad-Net will aim to bring together the relevant members of the Research Community, the STFC, and associated partners (e.g., government agencies (NNL, NNL and RWMD), nuclear industry etc.) to develop the capability, activity, and impact of UK research in this field. In particular, we anticipate the network will focus on building strategic collaborations with the Diamond Light Source, ISIS, Central Lasers Facility, and High Performance Computing facilities, as we foresee that development of methods at these centers will allow the community to address vital issues concerning sample heterogeneity, radionuclide concentration, and scale. To achieve this, the overarching network objective will be met through several activities: holistic and more specialised community meetings, international fact-finding and research trips, training and mentoring programmes, and research consortium building exercises. These activities will take place across a range of specially designed Work Packages (WP) linked through several Cross Cutting Themes (CCT). Further, key scientists (academics and STFC scientists) will manage each WP and CCT, and an expert steering panel will be used to inform the networks overall remit, direction, and implementation. We believe that these activities will provide a range of tangible benefits to the UK Environmental Radioactivity Community, the STFC, and indeed wider society. For example, the Env-Rad-Net will: increase the number of research groups using STFC facilities; train the next generation of Environmental Radioactivity Researchers in the use of a range of state-of-the-art analysis and computational techniques; provide a legacy of technical developments at the STFC facilities that will enable future research; engage the wider nuclear community (NDA, NDA-RWMD etc.) to ensure research using STFC facilities is fully engaged with the large programmes of nuclear geodisposal, decommissioning, and nuclear incident response, improving the success of these major programmes whilst also bolstering public confidence. In summation, Env-Rad-Net will instigate a step change in research capability and output in the broad field of Environmental Radioactivity and this increase in ability will deliver significant national-level economic impact.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this network?

Commercial / Private Sector

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA): UK Decommissioning and Radioactive Waste Management activities are overseen by the NDA. At this stage we have made the NDA aware of the network proposal, and we will strengthen this link upon initiation of the Env-Rad-Net to ensure knowledge transfer.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority - Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (NDA-RWMD): The NDA-RWMD is responsible for implementing the geological disposal of UK High Activity Wastes, and they are currently developing the UK geodisposal safety case. Shaw, Law, and several other key network participants have extant links with the NDA-RWMD (e.g., via the NERC BIGRAD and EPSRC AMASS). These links will be used to engage the NDA-RWMD as network participants upon initiation of the Env-Rad-Net, thus ensuring two-way knowledge transfer.

National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL): NNL (previously NIREX) is a government owned, contractor-operated company. It is responsible for supporting the UK's strategic nuclear R & D and for developing specialised, high-level skills in the nuclear environmental sciences. A key member of the NNL team (Dr. Small) will sit of the Env-Rad-Net steering committee thus ensuring knowledge transfer between the Env-Rad-Net and NNL.

Policy Makers

National level: Members of the Env-Rad-Net have policy links to geological disposal (DECC, CoRWM), new nuclear power (DECC and BIS) and on nuclear security (FERA) and nuclear incident response (GDS).

Local level: Decommissioning and geodisposal facilities will be hosted at a local council level, and the Env-Rad-Net will seek to link with, for example, imminent developments in the UK Geodisposal forward programme.

Wider public

Across the network, we have a track record in public engagement.

How will they benefit from this network?

Commercial-Private Sector

NDA, NDA-RWMD and NNL will benefit directly from the enhanced community in environmental radioactivity that will result from the network. At a higher level the network will directly address issues affecting environment and energy, and more specifically will produce new research that can be used in underpinning management and implementation issues in the nuclear sciences.

Policy makers

The release of radionuclides from nuclear sites, nuclear security, and safe management of nuclear wastes and the subsequent mobility of radionuclides in the environment are subjects of intense public concern. At the same time, radioactivity spans the remit of many research councils and government departments. By creating a new network interface between STFC facilities and the wider nuclear environmental science community we will assist in developing a refreshed research base in this area. It is clear that a healthy research base will provide capability in providing independent scrutiny in forward plans for geodisposal, low-level waste disposal and indeed for contaminated land and nuclear legacy management: Capability that will be crucial in implementation of these significant managerial, technical and environmental challenges over the next two decades.

Wider Public

We will actively engage with initiatives hosted within the STFC (e.g. DIAMOND Communications Office, Open Days etc.) to communicate the activities of the Env-Rad-Net to a wider audience. This will ensure a high level of public understanding.

Skills

The Env-Rad-Net is focussed on skills development and exploitation of STFC facilities. We anticipate developing skills of the wider environmental science community in working with environmental radioactivity challenges, of the radiochemistry and modelling community to develop their links into STFC facilities, and of cross STFC exploitation within the network.

Publications

10 25 50

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Burke IT (2015) Impact of the Diamond Light Source on research in Earth and environmental sciences: current work and future perspectives. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Fuller A (2015) Caesium incorporation and retention in illite interlayers in Applied Clay Science

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Fuller AJ (2016) EXAFS Study of Sr sorption to Illite, Goethite, Chlorite, and Mixed Sediment under Hyperalkaline Conditions. in Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

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Marshall TA (2014) Incorporation and retention of 99-Tc(IV) in magnetite under high pH conditions. in Environmental science & technology

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Marshall TA (2014) Incorporation of Uranium into Hematite during crystallization from ferrihydrite. in Environmental science & technology

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Masters-Waage NK (2017) Impacts of Repeated Redox Cycling on Technetium Mobility in the Environment. in Environmental science & technology

 
Title Living Iron book 
Description Living Iron Book by Pauline van lynden Provided electron microscope images for this publication 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Publication of book 
URL http://www.paulinevanlynden.com/books/living-iron
 
Description Objective 1: Initiate an Environmental Radioactivity Research Network to develop and promote the use of STFC facilities in Environmental Radioactivity research within the UK. We have established a highly active network with members representing > 25 Universities, STFC facilities, and key members of industry (e.g. NNL), site licensed companies (e.g. Sellafield Ltd.), nuclear regulators (e.g. EA), implementers (e.g. NDA and RWM Ltd.), and Government (e.g. CoRWM). These network members have participated in a wide range of activities, including: 15+ network organised/supported meetings (presenting to ~ 1000 people) that have focused on techniques and the use of STFC facilities. Further, network members have made presentations, organised dedicated sessions, run information stands at a selection of national and international conferences (all UK based), and organised dedicated STFC facility sessions at meetings associated with the NERC RATE programme. Communication across the network has been maintained through a dedicated website (www.envradnet.co.uk; >3700 unique hits recorded to date) and a social media feed (Twitter: @Env_Rad_Net).
To directly enhance STFC facility use we established a project funding scheme to support new / inexperienced users. Here, a total of five projects have been funded and these have enabled new groups to access the DLS (Graham: University of Edinburgh; Read: Loughborough University; Milodowski: BGS; Thompson, NNL) and the CLF (Natrajan: The University of Manchester). In each case the resulting analysis of samples has supported RCUK / NDA / NDA-RWM Ltd. / Sellafield Ltd. funded research. Further projects accessing DLS/ISIS in support of RCUK sponsored work, are expected from Birmingham (Herbert), and the NERC Lo-RISE consortium before 2016.
We have also supported UK researcher access to international facilities to develop new research capabilities and experience, with this knowledge then being transferred back to the UK. In total, 7 projects have been supported through this scheme, permitting work at facilities in Germany, the US, and Japan, and with further work taking place in France later this year.
Objective 2: Assess the national needs of the community using synchrotron radiation- and neutron- based techniques, as well as high performance laser and computing facilities, for current and future Environmental Radioactivity research. At the inception of the network, the use of STFC facilities was limited to a small subsection of the potential user community (˜3 University groups). To enhance community use we held an initial network meeting in January 2013. The 70 attendees provided extensive feedback, which informed our 'Initial Strategy Report'. This outlined the challenges facing our community (e.g. a lack of technique training; issues concerning experimental planning and risk assessment) and a need to enhance research capability at our associated STFC facilities. The report can be downloaded from www.envradnet.co.uk and its outcomes informed the network's activities.
Objective 3: Develop expertise and capability in the techniques associated with central STFC facilities, including awareness of the challenges associated with analysis of radionuclides and radioactive samples. We have run and supported a number of training courses, including dedicated 3-day courses on synchrotron techniques (theory, practical, and safety) and molecular modeling (~ 60 participants). We have also sponsored access to and helped run a range of technique specific courses associated with the analysis of synchrotron data (tomography and X-ray spectroscopy) and computing techniques (e.g. STFC Hartree Centre Summer School), and helped organise and run the January 2015 NERC RATE winter School (with support provided to > 60 participants across these events).
Objective 4: Develop methods for the application of STFC facilities to analysis of samples containing realistic, low level mass concentrations of radionuclides. Following fact finding trips to international synchrotron and laser facilities in France, the US, Switzerland, and Germany, we used this information to develop strategies for analysing samples at Diamond and the CLF, using a variety of techniques including X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS), X-ray Diffraction (XRD), µ-focus X-ray spectroscopy, Small Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS), and luminescence spectroscopy. This has led to numerous studies across the network, with members analysing samples containing uranium and technetium, and the first UK-based analysis of samples containing transuranic elements (performed in conjunction with NERC BIGRAD project). Highlights from this programme include XAS analysis of uranium containing samples at Diamond under liquid nitrogen temperatures, XAS studies of samples containing highly radiotoxic neptunium, and in situ time resolved SAXS and XAS studies using uranium containing solutions. The outputs of this work, that will underpin radioactive waste disposal and contaminated land management, are now beginning to appear in the open literature (e.g. [1-6]).
Objective 5: Build active interactions between STFC facilities, Environmental Radioactivity Researchers, and UK nuclear agencies / bodies, to enhance knowledge transfer across these communities. We have interacted with large numbers of personnel across the nuclear sector. This has included nuclear industry, implementer, and regulator participation in network meetings and training courses (e.g. synchrotron training course). We have also funded a project based at Loughborough University through the project development scheme in support of NDA commissioned research. In addition, we have obtained funding for: a PhD project working between Manchester, Diamond, and NNL, and helped attain funding for 5 PhD projects through the Sellafield Decontamination and Effluent Treatment Centre and 1 PhD project through AWE. All have made/will make extensive use of Diamond and/or the CLF.
Objective 6: Build research consortia to apply for RCUK and EU funding, engage with the NDA and NDA-RWMD R&D framework contractors, with STFC facilities at the heart of these projects. We have supported the NERC BIGRAD consortium, and all 3 NERC Radioactivity and the Environment (RATE) consortia from inception to present day. These projects are co-funded by NDA-RWM Ltd. and the Environment Agency, with allocated funding amounting to ~ £8m. We have also supported 2 standard grant applications to NERC, one of which has been funded (Understanding Radioactive 'Hot' Particle Evolution in the Environment ~ £ 600 K) with the other currently under review (BIOgeochemical COupling in the Geosphere during Radioactive Waste Disposal ~ £ 800 k). We have also provided support and training to the EPSRC Nuclear First and Next Gen Nuclear (NGN) Centres for Doctoral Training, and at minimum, 10 PhD students from these schemes will make extensive use of STFC facilities.
In summary, we have achieved all key goals of the original Network. However, it is vital that we maintain momentum in the area by extending the network. This will allow us to further build our community, extend capability, and ultimately maximise the use of STFC facilities. In turn, this will provide a wealth of underpinning science, whilst ensuring a sustained, long-term legacy for the UK.
Exploitation Route Training of young career researchers will help develop the ability of the research community in the future.

Permitting knowledge transfer to government, regulators, and site operators. This has help to transfer key research results and capabilities to end users.

Th development of facilities and capabilities at the STFC facilities will provide a lasting legacy for the network , and increase the capability of the community for many years to come.
Sectors Chemicals,Education,Energy,Environment

URL http://www.envradnet.co.uk
 
Description -We have trained a large number of young career researchers (+30) in the use of STFC central facility hosted techniques (e.g. XAS, SAXS, X-ray tomography, Laser spectroscopy). - We have helped UK research groups gain access and use STFC central facilities (e.g. CLF, Diamond, MXIF) and a range of international facilities (e.g. ALS; ANKA, Brookhaven) - We have development health and safety and experiment knowledge for radioactive sample analysis at STFC facilities (e.g. Diamond, CLF) which has led to the first analysis of samples containing Np and Pu at the Diamond Light source - We have learned from best practice at a range of international facilities.
Sector Chemicals,Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description BP industrial funding
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation BP (British Petroleum) 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2015 
End 11/2019
 
Description EPSRC - Standard Research
Amount £196,048 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R001499/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 12/2018
 
Description Futures
Amount £498,994 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/N002474/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2016 
End 03/2018
 
Description STFC Futures Studentship Scheme
Amount £67,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/L502534/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2013 
End 09/2017
 
Description Collaboration with Clemson University 
Organisation Clemson University
Department College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are conducting field experiments with Clemson University using the Savannah River Test bed facility to replicate our laboratory experiments at UoM that address environmental aging of uranic materials.
Collaborator Contribution Full access to field kit, personnel, and analysis
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2017
 
Description Scientific Computing STFC 
Organisation Daresbury Laboratory
Department Scientific Computing Department
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Researchers from the University of Leeds worked with staff from the Daresbury Laboratory scientific computing department to develop code for seismic analysis as part of Hydroframe NERC RATE project
Collaborator Contribution The partners helped to train the post doc from Leeds.
Impact Non yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description Univeristy of Birmingham / Diamond Light Source tomography project 
Organisation Diamond Light Source
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration developed between University of Birmingham and Diamond light source in order to develop tomography analysis of rock samples from the Swiss underground rock laboratory as Grimsel.
Collaborator Contribution Diamond Light Source researchers worked with academics from Birmingham to develop a synchrotron beam time application for tomography analysis. The application was unsuccessful, but there are plans to resubmit.
Impact non yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description Univeristy of Birmingham / Diamond Light Source tomography project 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Department School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration developed between University of Birmingham and Diamond light source in order to develop tomography analysis of rock samples from the Swiss underground rock laboratory as Grimsel.
Collaborator Contribution Diamond Light Source researchers worked with academics from Birmingham to develop a synchrotron beam time application for tomography analysis. The application was unsuccessful, but there are plans to resubmit.
Impact non yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description University of Edinburgh Diamond Experiments 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Advice Financial Training
Collaborator Contribution Experimental
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2014
 
Description University of Loughborough Diamond Lightsource Experiments 
Organisation Loughborough University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Safety Advice Experimental Advice
Collaborator Contribution Experimental
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2013
 
Description University of Manchester Experiments at ALS 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Financial
Collaborator Contribution Experimental
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2013
 
Description University of Manchester Experiments at STFC CLF 
Organisation University of Manchester
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Experimental Safety Advice
Collaborator Contribution Experimental technique development
Impact Technique development
Start Year 2013
 
Description University of Sheffield Experiments at Brookhaven Lighsource 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Financial
Collaborator Contribution Experimental
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2014
 
Description Frontiers in Environmental Radioactivity Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research conference for approximately 70 scientists aimed at highlighting the use of STFC facilities for Environmental Radioactivity research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.envradnet.co.uk/#/frontiers-2016/4575354320
 
Description Synchrotron training school 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact We ran a dedicated 3-day training course on synchrotron techniques (theory, practical, and safety). This was based at the Diamond Light source and involved a day of technique theory, a day of hands-on training on the beamlines and finally a day of subject specific research talks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013