Diamond universities funded for waste research

30 April 2008

A consortium of British universities has received funding for a four-year program to investigate ways to manage and dispose of the UK's radioactive waste.

The consortium, known as Diamond (from decommissioning, immobilisation and management of nuclear wastes for disposal), is headed by the University of Leeds and includes the universities of Manchester, Sheffield, Imperial College, Loughborough and University College London.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded the consortium £4.3 million ($8.4 million) in funding to conduct a four-year program of research into such issues as legacy wastes, site termination, contamination migration, and materials design and performance. The researchers said they will work closely with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and stakeholders in the nuclear industry to ensure their research addresses relevant issues.

Simon Biggs of the University of Leeds commented: "By challenging the status quo and seeking new and innovative solutions, we believe this program of research will generate real savings."

In its call for proposals, the EPSRC said: "Whilst much effort has been made to encourage the strength of the UK research base more can be done to foster new ideas and links across the various disciplines relevant to nuclear waste management and also to increase research capacity in nuclear waste management in the UK." It added, "In order to facilitate this, the Research Councils and other stakeholders would like to stimulate novel ideas/approaches in nuclear waste management that target some key issues now facing the industry and solutions that could be appropriate for the future."

The EPSRC is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests more than £500 million annually in research and postgraduate training to help the country handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and from mathematics to materials science.

The NDA was set up and funded under the 2004 Energy Act. It is charged with cleaning up the UK's legacy of nuclear wastes on 20 sites including 39 reactors, five nuclear fuel reprocessing plants as well as other fuel cycle and research facilities. The undiscounted cost is expected to total some £73 billion over many years, with more than £1 billion per year required for the first 10-15 years. The NDA has an annual budget of £2.8 billion per year, with over £1 billion of this offset by operational revenue.

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