The UK Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) on 4 August launched the Research Support Office (RWM RSO) to harness the UK’s vast array of research capabilities in geo-disposal science and technology. The RSO will provide RWM with world-class, independent, and robust evidence to guide its work around safety and design in support of the delivery of a UK Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). A GDF is a highly engineered network of vaults and tunnels built into the rock many hundreds of metres underground designed to safely and permanently dispose of higher activity radioactive waste.

Lucy Bailey, RWM’s Head of Research Support Office said: “Through the RSO we will harness the best research expertise across the UK to build the knowledge and understanding required to underpin the safety case to deliver a GDF that deals permanently with the UK’s higher-activity waste.”

Geological disposal is internationally recognised as the best long-term solution for dealing with higher activity radioactive waste. It is the chosen approach in countries including Sweden, Finland, Canada, and France, with some of these countries well on the way to constructing their own GDFs. To help meet this challenge in the UK, the RSO will focus its research on nine themes covering: advanced manufacturing; applied mathematics; applied social science; environmental science; geoscience; materials science; public communication of science; radiochemistry; and training. Teams within partner universities will be supported by around GBP20m funding over a period of up to 10 years, to undertake needs driven research in these areas.

The new partnership will also support the development of the next generation of researchers and build an enduring community of subject matter experts for geological disposal. “Having this knowledge and expertise coordinated across the UK’s academic institutions will allow RWM and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority group, regulators, and supply chain to tap into the latest academic expertise, research, and thinking,” said Bailey.