Radioactivity and the Environment

Long-lived radionuclides in the surface environment (LO-RISE): mechanistic studies of speciation, environmental transport and transfer

Long-lived radionuclides in the surface environment (LO-RISE) logo

The impact of radioactivity on humans and the wider environment is influenced by the behaviour of the radionuclides in ground and surface waters, soils and sediments, and the quantities and chemical forms of radionuclides. This project will study some of the radionuclides that are particularly important because they are potentially present in relatively large quantities, are environmentally mobile and are readily taken up by living organisms.

The main radionuclides in the study are:

  • carbon-14, which occurs in nature but was produced back in the 1950s and 60s through nuclear weapons testing, and is also present in radioactive wastes
  • uranium, together with its decay product radium, which is present in nature, and also in some radioactive wastes
Singing Cove to Needle's Eye, BGS © NERC.

The project will characterise biogeochemical, biological and radiological conditions at four 'natural laboratories' that contain elevated levels of these radionuclides from man-made and natural sources, spanning both onshore and offshore locations in the UK.

As well as studying how radioactivity occurs in and moves through the soils, waters, plants and (in the offshore sediments) animals, we are seeking to understand the environmental and biological processes that control this movement. To do this, we will carry out a series of laboratory experiments, looking at the way soil/sediment conditions influence the radionuclide concentrations in solution, the form of the radionuclides in the solution, the way radionuclides are taken up into plants and animals and the way they are distributed in plant tissues.

The results from field and laboratory studies will be used to develop and test mathematical models of radionuclide transport and transfer processes, allowing for radionuclide behaviour prediction. The resulting models can be used in assessing environmental impacts, cleaning up contaminated land and predicting the long term impact of radioactive waste disposals.

Research consortia and collaborators

PhD research

Post-doctoral research


University of Manchester logo
Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre logo
Cranfield University logo
Loughborough University logo

University of Edinburgh logo
Scottish Association for Marine Science logo
Newcastle University logo
University of Southampton logo

Diamond Light Source logo