Environmental Radioactivity Network (Env-Rad-Net) - Extension

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

Abstract

The Env-Rad-Net was set up in November 2012 to engage and enhance UK scientific research in the grand challenge areas of: (i) radioactive waste geodisposal and contaminated land management, (ii) nuclear decommissioning, and (iii) nuclear incident / accident preparedness and response. To do this, the network specifically sought to develop uptake and use of STFC central facilities (namely the Diamond Light Source (DLS); Central Laser Facility (CLF); ISIS; and the STFC Scientific Computing Department (SCD)) within the environmental radioactivity research community. The use of state-of-the-art techniques at these facilities would then provide much needed underpinning science to meet these grand challenges. Over the past 2.5 years the Env-Rad-Net has engaged the UK's research community to make a step change in the use of STFC facilities for environmental radioactivity research. This has included hosting and supporting network events; increasing the capability of STFC facilities to analyse radioactive samples; providing technique and safety training to 100+ researchers; funding projects to initiate new research at STFC and international facilities; bringing international best practice and experience to the UK; and engaging with industry/government agencies. These activities have catalysed the rapid development of environmental radioactivity research on STFC facilities. However, to maintain momentum, and further grow capability in this area, more work is needed. We seek to extend the Env-Rad-Net to ensure added value and provide a lasting legacy. We will do this by: (i) delivering a small research project scheme to further develop the community's size and expertise, and to continue building experience and capability at our associated STFC facilities, (ii) delivering / facilitating targeted networking and training activities that are designed to grow the network and enhance knowledge transfer (iii) working closely with STFC facility scientists and the National Nuclear Users Facility (NNUF) scheme, to inform and shape future large scale infrastructure developments at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) that are relevant to the network.

Planned Impact

WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE EXTENDED NETWORK

1. Industry / Implementers

Site License Company's (SLC), Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) Limited: Many SLC's are responsible for contaminated sites, UK Decommissioning and Radioactive Waste Management activities are overseen by the NDA. NDA-RWM Ltd. is responsible for implementing the geological disposal of UK Higher Activity Wastes, and they are currently developing the UK geodisposal safety case. Staff members from these bodies are part of the existing network and they are strongly supportive of the requested extension. During the Env-Rad-Net extension we will act to strengthen extant links, e.g. via RATE and through other networking activities, as this provides a ready path to impact and knowledge transfer (KT) in our 'grand challenge' research areas.

National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL): NNL 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. Several NNL staff members have participated in the Env-Rad-Net and will maintain their activity in the extended network. Further, a key member of the NNL team (Dr Joe Small) will continue to serve on the Network's steering panel.

2. Regulators

The Environment Agency is the regulator for radioactive waste discharges and disposals in England. It maintains a high level of interest in research and development related to environmental radioactivity and its impact and has links to the network. Network members also have policy links to geodisposal (DECC, CoRWM), new nuclear power (DECC and BIS), nuclear security (FERA) and nuclear incident response (GDS). Engagement will all of these bodies ensure two-way knowledge transfer and impact.

3. Wider public

Across the network, we have a strong track record in public engagement (see PTI).

HOW WILL THEY BENEFIT FROM THE EXTENDED NETWORK?

1. Industry / Implementers

SLC's, NDA, NDA-RWM Ltd. and NNL will benefit from the enhanced capability, and knowledge generated by the network. Further, 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 across the UK nuclear portfolio. In addition, the enhanced research capability within the community and at the STFC facilities developed by the network will provide a new and valuable capability for research undertaken or commissioned by these organisations.

2. Regulators

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 consolidating the network between STFC facilities and the wider nuclear environmental science community, we will assist in developing a refreshed, highly capable 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 for contaminated land and nuclear legacy management. This capability will be crucial in implementation of these significant managerial, technical and environmental challenges over the coming decades.

3. Wider Public

We will participate in outreach events to inform the public about research activities in this nationally important research area. These activities will contribute to informing the public about ongoing environmental radioactivity research in the UK, helping to enhance their knowledge base and contributing to the overall national discussion associated with the network's grand challenges.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Developed the use of Synchrotron and laser facilities in the following areas:
1. Np and Pu interaction with environmentally relevant minerals: capability building for XAS in the UK.
2. One and Two Optical Imaging of Neptunium-237 Speciation on Minerals and in Bacteria.
3. Impacts of colloidal silica based grout injection on geo-mechanical and geochemical properties of soil and radioactive wastes.
4. Reaction of corroded steel coupons with long-lived radionuclides under waste storage and disposal relevant conditions - developing µ-focus techniques for transuranic species in heterogeneous systems.
5. Irradiating Sludges at the Diamond Light Source (DLS)
6. Developing Radioactive Sample Preparation for Micro-focus and Hard X-ray Nanoprobe Analysis at Diamond Light Source and Applications to Fukushima-Derived 'Hot' Particle Characterisation.
Exploitation Route Research and techniques from this project have led to the development of a number of research projects focused on nuclear decommissioning and the geological disposal of radioactive waste. This new capability associated with STFC techniques is providing a new capability for the environmental radioactivity community
Sectors Energy,Environment

 
Description - The technology enabled by research project (i.e. the analysis of highly radioactive of samples using the Diamond Light Source) has led to new studies of real nuclear fuel pond samples from the Sellafield site, UK. These analyses are providing information on the chemical form of radionuclides in spent fuel storage ponds on the site, which is informing the strategies for decommissioning of these facilities.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Description 2 x Sallefield Ltd funded PhD studentships
Amount £200,000 (GBP)
Organisation Sellafield Ltd 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 03/2022
 
Description EPSRC - Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £168,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 05/2019
 
Description EPSRC - Standard Research
Amount £196,048 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R001499/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 12/2018
 
Description Feasibility Studies in Energy Research 2017
Amount £242,437 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 10/2018
 
Description Industrial Funding
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation Sellafield Ltd 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 05/2018
 
Description NERC - Standard Grant FEC
Amount £620,496 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R011230/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 09/2020
 
Title One and Two Optical Imaging of Neptunium containing using the Central Lasers Facility 
Description A microscope cell has been designed that provides three independent layers of containment and can be integrated with the optical microscopy configuration used in the experiments to study samples containing the highly radioactive neptunium. An initial prototype of a triple containment microscopy cell was developed and tested in October 2017. This cell has been developed as part of a STFC Environmental Radioactivity Network funded project, Dr. Louise Natrajan is expanding on her previous studies using direct one and two photon fluorescence microscopic and lifetime image mapping techniques to study uranium interacting with bacteria and mineral surfaces. The project has been awarded two weeks of time in the OCTOPUS (Optics Clustered to OutPut Unique Solutions) laboratory at the Lasers for Science Facility (LSF) to be able to conduct experiments involving neptunium. However, neptunium is an extremely hazardous radiotoxic element with a radioactivity approximately 1000 times higher than that of uranium. To safely analyse samples containing neptunium outside of a radiochemistry laboratory, rigorous methods of containment are essential. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This new cell allows samples containing neptunium to be analysed using the STFC Central Laser Facility opening up a new field of research for this central facility. 
URL http://www.envradnet.co.uk/optical-imaging-of-environmental-np-speciation-ln
 
Title Triple containment cell of X-ray Adsorption Spectroscopy analysis of transuranic (e.g. Np and Pu) containing samples at the Diamond Light Source 
Description Triple containment cell of X-ray Adsorption Spectroscopy analysis of transuranic (e.g. Np) containing samples. Utilised for studies of Np containing samples on I20 and B18 at the Diamond Light Source. In 2017 the triple containment cell design and construction has been completed. Extensive beam damage and mechanical testing was also successfully completed. In December 2017 the cell was used to collect the first plutonium X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy data ever collected in the UK. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact New capability for analysing samples on the Diamond Light Source. The project has focused on characterising the interaction of plutonium with iron oxyhydroxides nanoparticles related to the Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant (EARP) at the Sellafield site. This outputs from this research are having a direct impact on the operation of this facility. 
URL http://www.envradnet.co.uk/np-pu-interaction-with-minerals-ss
 
Description Cataract formation following chronic radiation exposure 
Organisation University of Portsmouth
Department School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project was supported by the Env-Rad-Net small project fund. The project was allocated £24700 (funded at 80% FEC) funding.
Collaborator Contribution The project team will be delivering the following project: The formation of cataract in humans due to occupational or accidental exposure to acute ionising radiation is well documented. However, little is known about the effect of long-term chronic exposure through the life span of organisms exposed in the natural environment. A recent study of voles at Chernobyl (Lehmann et al. Scientific Reports 6; 2016), apparently found significant increases in cataract incidence at cumulative doses as low as 10 mSv. This generated significant media coverage and, if true, would represent a major challenge to current radiation protection regulation. Key flaws in this study, however, were the method of field sample preservation/preparation, and the subjective nature of the lens opacity measurement. The purpose of the proposed study is to further develop methods for stabilisation and preparation of fish lens samples to measure any ultrastructural changes to the constituent crystallin proteins within the lens fibre cells caused by environmental radiation damage. We will also collect fish lenses from lakes contaminated by the Fukushima accident to complement samples we have from Chernobyl. To analyse these unique samples, we plan to use the low angle X-ray diffraction beamline (I22) at the Diamond Synchrotron. This will provide highly sensitive data giving objective and quantitative results.
Impact The project was awarded 9 days of beamtime on station I22 of the Diamond Light Source. Project started Sept 2016. Project is multidisciplinary involving environmental scientists and physicists. The team have carried out successful sampled fish lens from lakes contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear accident. These lens were analysed for evidence of radiation damage using SAXS on DIAMOND beamline I-22.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Colloidal silica grout injection and radioactive wastes 
Organisation Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Department Civil and Environmental Engineering
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project was supported by the Env-Rad-Net small project fund. The project was allocated £23500 (funded at 80% FEC) funding
Collaborator Contribution The team aim to deliver the following project: Legacy disposal sites contaminated with radionuclides, such the Little Forest Legacy Site (LFLS) in New South Wales, Australia require long term management strategies. Due to costs and potential spread of contamination, in-situ containment/stabilization of radioactive wastes is often preferred to excavation and reconditioning. Using novel colloidal silica based grouts to immobilize radioactive wastes is a promising option due to its low cost, low injection viscosity and chemical inertness. However, little is known about the impact of the grouting process with these grouts on the geo-mechanical properties of the soil and wastes, and the environmental behaviour of radionuclides. In this project we will use X-ray Computed Tomography to investigate the geo mechanical properties of model soil and wastes and the behaviour of radionuclides of interest (e.g. Sr, Cs, U) before, during and after grout injection and setting. Finally, these experiments and analyses will be complemented by experiments performed with materials/solutions from the LFLS in order to inform on the best strategy for radioactive waste immobilization.
Impact The project has been awarded beamtime on beamline I13 (X-ray tomography) at the Diamond light Source. Project started Sept 2016. Project is multidisciplinary involving environmental scientists and engineers. After obtaining the baseline interaction of strontium and caesium with soil and waste materials, both important radioactive fission products that form during the nuclear fuel cycle, the project is now focusing on how colloidal silica based grouts affect the geochemistry and the mobility of these element in environmental scenarios. To do this a a new column flow through experimental set-up has been developed to perform experiments and analyses at Diamond Light Source (www.diamond.ac.uk). In September 2017 5 days of beam time at the Diamond Light Source were performed using the new column flow-through experimental set-up. This allowed the injection behaviour of colloidal silica based grouts to be observed and determine the effects of these grouts on the (potential) mobility of the Sr and Cs in 3D.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Irradiating sludges at the Diamond Light Source 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast
Department Astrophysics Research Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project was supported by the Env-Rad-Net small project fund. The project was allocated £22115 (funded at 80% FEC) funding
Collaborator Contribution The team aim to deliver the following project: Irriadiating brucite sludges on beamlines B16 and I15, the applicant plans to leverage significant understanding and modelling capabilities into the field of environmental radiation research. These measurements will be comparable to previous radiation nanomedicine related measurements made by the applicant team at Diamond but in a different particle concentration regime. Scaling of effect with particle size and concentration will be investigated to underpin development of broadly applicable descriptions of nanoparticle interfacial radiolytic problems within the field of Environmental Radioactivity Research
Impact The project has been awarded beamtime on beamline B16 at the Diamond light Source. Project started Sept 2016. Project is multidisciplinary involving physicists and chemists. During the project radiochemical yields of hydrogen in brucite sludges using a ribbon-shaped beam at Diamond-B16 have been measured.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Np/Pu interaction with minerals 
Organisation University of Manchester
Department School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project was supported by the Env-Rad-Net small project fund. The project was allocated £26100 (funded at 80% FEC) funding
Collaborator Contribution The team aim to deliver the following project: The UK has high and intermediate level radioactive wastes containing large quantities of neptunium and plutonium. Currently, it is UK Government policy that these wastes should be contained within a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). Within a GDF, sorption to minerals will be one of the key factors limiting the release of radionuclides to the biosphere. If the environmental behavior of transuranic elements, such as plutonium, are to be predicted a molecular scale understanding of their speciation is essential. High intensity X-rays generated by synchrotron facilities can be used to probe radionuclide speciation via X-ray Adsorption Spectroscopy (XAS). Currently, it is possible to perform XAS on low-level Np samples at the Diamond Light Source (DLS). However, the high radiotoxicity of Pu isotopes makes analysis at synchrotron facilities challenging as comprehensive safe systems of work and dedicated sample cells are required. Hence, there is currently no UK capability to analyse higher activity samples and those containing Pu isotopes. Therefore, the key aim of this project is to develop the procedures and sample cells that are required facilitate analysis at the DLS. Further, this new capability will be used to probe the behaviour of neptunium and plutonium in systems containing relevant minerals.
Impact The project has been awarded beamtime on beamlines I20 and B18 (X-ray Adsorption Spectroscopy) at the Diamond light Source. Project started Sept 2016. Project is multidisciplinary involving environmental scientists and engineers. Project has developed a triple containment cell for analysing samples containing Np and Pu. In 2017 the triple containment cell design and construction has been completed. Extensive beam damage and mechanical testing was also successfully completed. In December 2017 the cell was used to collect the first plutonium X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy data ever collected in the UK. The project has focused on characterising the interaction of plutonium with iron oxyhydroxides nanoparticles related to the Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant (EARP) at the Sellafield site. This outputs from this research are having a direct impact on the operation of this facility.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Optical imaging of environmental Np speciation 
Organisation University of Manchester
Department School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project was supported by the Env-Rad-Net small project fund. The project was allocated £27975 (funded at 80% FEC) funding.
Collaborator Contribution The project team will be delivering the following project: Ascertaining and predicting the migratory behaviour of actinide fission products in natural and engineered environments is imperative for the long-term safety assessment of radionuclide contaminated sites and nuclear waste repositories, meaning understanding the long-term storage behaviour and mobility of radioactive elements is crucial to the UK's nuclear problem. The problems associated with environmental release of actinide ions have stimulated numerous studies into the bioavailability, biotransformation and mobility of actinide species. However, almost all studies rely on X-ray absorption techniques, which are limited in concentration, spatial and temporal resolution. By contrast, one and two photon (confocal) fluorescence microscopy has the unique ability to attain much greater spatial and temporal resolution, including 3D image mapping. We have previously shown that uranyl(VI) biosorption, internalisation and reduction with metal reducing bacteria (Geobacter sulfurreducens) can be visualised in real time in the absence of probe dyes with the one and two photon luminescence imaging facility at LSF. We now wish to extend these studies to the more radioactive ion neptunium. However in order to achieve this, specialized triple containment housing for the microscope needs to be constructed.
Impact Th project has been awarded an EPSRC grant (see further funding). Project started Sept 2016. Project is multidisciplinary involving environmental scientists, chemists and physicists.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Radioactive sample preparation for x-ray microfocus / nanoprobe analysis 
Organisation University of Manchester
Department School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project was supported by the Env-Rad-Net small project fund. The project was allocated £29940 (funded at 80% FEC) funding
Collaborator Contribution The team aim to deliver the following project: Through collaboration with researchers from Kyushu University, Japan, we seek to build on work at the University of Manchester (UoM) concerning 'hot' particle characterisation and weathering in environmental systems (NERC NE/M014088/1, 2015-2018; AWE/EPSRC studentship, 2016-2019). Specifically, we will develop sample preparation facilities at the UoM for synchrotron based micro-focus and nano-probe characterisation of heterogeneous, radioactive samples. Such facilities do not currently exist in the UK other than for work with low-level U samples. To commission this new facility, we will prepare a range of novel Fukushima-Daiichi and Chernobyl hot particle bearing samples for characterisation at the Diamond Light Source (DLS). The sample preparation capability will then be made available to the wider nuclear research community, providing a long-term Env-Rad-Net legacy.
Impact The project has been awarded beamtime on beamlines I18 and I14 (microfocus X-ray analysis) at the Diamond light Source. Project started Sept 2016. Project is multidisciplinary involving environmental scientists and chemists.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Reaction of corroded steel coupons with radionuclides 
Organisation University of Manchester
Department School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This project was supported by the Env-Rad-Net small project fund. The project was allocated £28283 (funded at 80% FEC) funding.
Collaborator Contribution The project team will be delivering the following project: Iron metal is an inherent component within the nuclear fuel cycle and over extended timescales, it will corrode to produce both reducing conditions and a range of iron (II/III) bearing oxides. In radioactive waste storage and disposal steel containers will be used to store a range of wastes which will contain heterogeneous materials and may be grouted. In addition, iron metal or "zero valent iron (ZVI)" is proposed as a treatment for radioactively contaminated land. Here, nanoparticulate ZVI is introduced to the contaminated subsurface and allowed to corrode and react with mobile radionuclides such as U(VI) and Tc(VII). Here, we will explore reaction of U(VI) and Np(V) with corroded steel coupons under a range of solution chemistries to explore: (i) the nature of the corrosion products; (ii) the distribution of radionuclides on the corroded steel surface; and (iii) the relationship between radionuclide distribution and speciation and the different iron corrosion products.
Impact The project has been awarded beamtime on beamline I14 (hard X-ray nanoprobe) at the Diamond light Source. Project started Sept 2016. Project is multidisciplinary involving environmental scientists, metallurgists and physicists. The project has enabled a detailed understanding of the interaction of uranium and neptunium with corroding steel.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Actinides XAS 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 8th Workshop on Speciation, Techniques, and Facilities for Radioactive Materials at Synchrotron Light Sources. "Actinide XAS" is a series of unique international workshops, which focus on the basic- and applied research of radioactive materials using synchrotron-based techniques.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.envradnet.co.uk/anxas-conference/