Sector colleagues come together to collaborate on future geological disposal research at annual NWS event

Nearly 200 nuclear waste experts, students and academics attended the Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) Research Support Office (RSO) annual conference in Sheffield last week (11th – 12th January).

The two-day conference, saw talks, industry speakers and panels discuss cutting edge research on geological disposal, showcasing early-stage research into the topic, funded and supported by NWS.

Nuclear bodies in attendance included the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Office for Nuclear Regulation, British Geological Survey, National Nuclear Laboratory and the Environment Agency.

The event’s keynote speaker, Neil Hyatt Chief Scientific Advisor at NWS, said:

“This was a fantastic opportunity for true knowledge exchange between academia and industry, demonstrating the vibrant and diverse community we have built, and showcasing the hard work of the next generation of geological disposal researchers – it makes me feel proud and excited for the future. We are the peak of innovation right now in our field, it’s such an exciting time to be working in nuclear.  It was excellent to celebrate the work of our students, who will be our future workforce driving forward key research for fundamental programme, such as the GDF programme.”

Peter Keech, Nuclear Waste Management Organization, Canada, added:

“The Research Support Office is an exemplar industry and academia interaction, and I’ve enjoyed the conference. It’s fantastic to see the UK and Canadian GDF programmes complementing each other, particularly as NWMO is looking for more international partners for academic research. The learning I’m taking back to NWMO for academic engagement is to really encourage and enable interdisciplinary thinking across our academic community.”

The research programme at NWS is integral activity which guides our evidence-based approach to delivering a GDF. The work will inform the selection of a site for development and the facility’s safety case and design.

The Nuclear Waste Services Research Support Office (RSO) is a collaboration between The University of Manchester and The University of Bristol to harness UK university capabilities to help support radioactive waste management solutions.

In its first two years it has built participation across 17 UK universities and ten discipline areas, ranging from material science to social science, and geology to applied mathematics. The RSO is now supporting 33 PhD students, four post-doctoral research associates and has 52 active PhD research projects.

It is dedicated to engaging with academia and support the delivery of independent evidence-based research to underpin implementation of a UK Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). The RSO recently contributed towards the University of Manchester winning the prestigious Bhattacharyya award for best collaboration between academia and industry.

The aim is to harness the UK’s vast array of academic research capabilities in geological disposal science and technology and to identify and develop research to support the safe geological disposal of the UK’s higher activity radioactive wastes.

NWS is responsible for the delivery of a GDF and is already engaging with three communities about whether hosting a facility is right for them. A GDF will only be built where there is a suitable site and willing community.

A GDF will make a major contribution to the environment by safely and finally disposing of waste which otherwise would have to be stored and maintained for thousands of years above ground.

Notes to editors:

About Nuclear Waste Services
Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) was created with the vision and purpose to make nuclear waste permanently safe, sooner. NWS brings together the UK’s leading nuclear waste management capabilities and is part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority group, which has a collective long-term mission to clean up nuclear sites safely, securely, and cost-effectively.

About GDF (geological disposal facility)
A GDF is an underground facility designed to safely and securely dispose of radioactive waste deep underground.  It is made up of surface facilities, access ways, highly engineered vaults and tunnels, housed in suitable geology, to protect people and the environment.

While radioactive waste can be safely stored above ground, as it is today, this is not a permanent solution. These facilities require ongoing maintenance and protection from harm at the surface and will need to be rebuilt and the waste within them repackaged, given the very long timescales.

By working with the natural, long term protection of a stable geological environment, a GDF ensures we remove the burden from future generations of having to keep the waste safe and secure in above ground storage facilities for many thousands of years

Geological disposal is the only viable, internationally accepted solution to managing the most radioactive waste in the long-term. Countries such as Finland, Sweden, France, Switzerland, and Canada are already making great progress in delivering their own facilities.

A key aspect of the siting process now underway in England and Wales is that a GDF will only be built where we have the support of a willing community with a suitable site. NWS is now engaged with three communities across England, two in Cumbria, Mid-Copeland and South-Copeland and one in Lincolnshire around Theddlethorpe, about what hosting a GDF could mean for them.

The formation of these Community Partnerships has unlocked up to £1million of Community Investment Funding each year, which will increase up to £2.5million a year if more detailed site investigations are conducted.

The Community Partnerships are keen to hear from groups with projects that could be eligible for Community Investment Funding – for further information please visit the Community Partnership websites.

Construction will only start on a GDF when a suitable site is identified, a Potential Host Community has confirmed its willingness to host the facility through a Test of Public Support, and all the necessary consents and permits have been obtained. These steps could take around 15 years.

Info about geological disposal:
GDF (Geological Disposal Facility) – GOV.UK (

Communities engaged in the GDF Programme:
Mid-Copeland GDF Community Partnership, Cumbria

South-Copeland GDF Community Partnership, Cumbria

Theddlethorpe GDF Community Partnership 

Media enquiries
Kristina Drake, Media Managers, Mobile: 07928513755, Email: [email protected]
Natasha Kaur, Senior External Communications Manager, Mobile: 07873615184, Email: [email protected]