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Illustration of a GDF located below the seabed

Fully Funded Scholarships in Marine Ecosystem Modelling and Sub-surface Characterisation at SUERC, University of Glasgow

The UK is working towards the development of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) to safely dispose of radioactive waste. The GDF may be located below the seabed and will have a 150-year construction and operational lifespan before being sealed off to isolate the waste from the surface environment.

We have two PhD projects available that will develop techniques for characterising the marine environment and the sub-surface environment around offshore GDF candidate sites. The students will be based at SUERC, The Centre for the Isotope Sciences (University of Glasgow). The PhDs are fully funded by Nuclear Waste Services for 4 years including tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the standard UKRI rate, £19,162 for the 2024/25 academic year. The projects are available to start from October 2024 and are open to UK and international candidates.

Locations below the UK seabed are currently being considered for the GDF site. Over the next 150 years, climate change will affect marine ecosystems, potentially reshaping ecosystem structure and the species that must be considered for protection.

This project will investigate climate change effects to species that inhabit the North Sea and Irish Sea. It will incorporate this data into dynamic models of the North Sea and Irish Sea ecosystems to make predictions on how these ecosystems will alter as a result of climate change. Assessments will be made to identify species that are most sensitive to climate change and projections made on how species distributions will change. Using these models, the project will also investigate how the ecosystem uptake of GDF relevant radionuclides that are already present in the marine environment, will be affected by climate change.

Output from the Ecopath with Ecosim Sellafield Model showing 14C concentrations in zooplankton (Tierney et al. 2018)

The student will be supervised by Dr Kieran Tierney and Dr David Bailey and work with consortium partners at the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and Natural England, in addition to NWS. They will be enrolled in the University of Glasgow College of Science and Engineering Graduate School and also the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) Graduate School providing specialist development training.

Output from the Ecopath with Ecosim Sellafield Model showing 14C concentrations in zooplankton (Tierney et al. 2018)

Further information on the project and how to apply can be found here: https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/suerc/study/clime/

Please email Dr Kieran Tierney kieran.tierney@glasgow.ac.uk if you have any questions.

Isotope Toolkit for Saline Groundwaters (IT4SG)

Sites under consideration for the GDF contain saline aquifers. Determining the age, origin, mixing and interaction histories of the various groundwater components is crucial to establishing a hydrogeological model of the GDF, and critical for evaluating how well a GDF will retain radionuclides and other contaminants on long timescales.

The student will develop a range of new geochemical and isotopic techniques for the characterisation of the source and age of saline groundwaters using the SUERC labs to build a toolkit for future investigations of GDF. Existing O, H and S isotope capabilities will be integrated with a suite of new techniques such as stable chlorine isotopes (37Cl/35Cl), the short-lived radionuclide 36Cl, U series isotopes and the radiogenic noble gases (4He and 40Ar). The toolkit will be tested and proven on saline groundwaters from two onshore sites and the student will use the data to develop and test models of the large-scale hydrodynamics of deep groundwater systems. The development and integration of the new methods will feed into the creation of a groundwater isotope laboratory at SUERC.

The student will be supervised by Professor Fin Stuart and an experienced laboratory team at SUERC along with specialist groundwater project partners at the University of Glasgow and Nuclear Waste Services. They will be enrolled in University of Glasgow College of Science and Engineering Graduate School benefitting from the wide-ranging development programme and have the opportunity to engage with industry partners via training and placements.

Further information on the project and how to apply can be found here:

https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/suerc/study/it4sg/

Please email Prof. Fin Stuart fin.stuart@glasgow.ac.uk if you have any questions.