Radioactivity and the Environment

Research consortia

Three research consortia have been funded under the RATE programme.

Hydromechanical and biogeochemical processes in fractured rock masses in the vicinity of a geological disposal facility for radioactive waste (Hydroframe)

HydroFrame logo

A consortium of three UK universities (Imperial College, University of Birmingham, University of Leeds) as well as collaborators from several institutions in the US and Europe will build up expertise and capability in modelling hydro-mechanical and biogeochemical processes that occur in fractured rock masses in the vicinity of a geological disposal facility for radioactive waste. The project aims to link complementary work packages addressing the areas technological innovation for rock mass characterisation at a range of spatial scales and biogeochemical coupling, including deep multiphase transport processes prioritised in the RATE call.

The envisaged outcomes include new and/or improved methodologies for analysing various processes that occur during the lifetime of a repository that are flexible and generic, in order to be suitable for any geological formation that might be investigated as a potential location of a geological repository in the UK.

Principal Investigator and project manager: Professor Robert Zimmerman, Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College.

Email Professor Robert Zimmerman.

Project manager: Janice Kenney, Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Imperial College

Email: Janice Kenney

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

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

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 environmentally mobile and readily taken up by living organisms. LO-RISE seeks to understand the environmental and biological processes that affect this movement, using results from field and laboratory studies to develop and test mathematical models of radionuclide transfer processes. The resulting models can be used to inform the clean-up of contaminated land and to assess the long term impact of radioactive waste disposals.

Principal investigator: Professor Francis Livens, Earth Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester.

Email Professor Francis Livens.

Project manager: Gareth Law, Department of Chemistry, University of Manchester.

Email Gareth Law.

TRansfer – Exposure – Effects (TREE): integrating the science needed to underpin radioactivity assessments for humans and wildlife

TREE logo

TREE is an integrated, multi-disciplinary programme with inter-related components addressing the key goal of RATE, ensuring that the UK rebuilds and maintains expertise in environmental radioactivity in the future, whilst making a major contribution to enhancing environmental protection and safeguarding human health. The project looks to bridge the gap between existing knowledge and regulatory requirements across the following key areas:

  • how biological availability of radionuclides varies in soils over time
  • characterisation of radionuclide uptake by plants and other organisms
  • improvement of the quantification of radiation exposure and mechanistic understanding of resultant biological effects

Principal investigator: Dr Brenda Howard, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Email Dr Brenda Howard.

Project manager: Dr Nick Beresford, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Email Dr Nick Beresford.