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Uranium and U-series radionuclide behaviour in phosphate-based cement systems

   Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

  , Dr Thomas Neill,  Wednesday, December 01, 2021  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Manchester United Kingdom Analytical Chemistry Environmental Chemistry

About the Project

Geological disposal of nuclear waste in a repository 200-1000 m below ground is internationally considered to be the preferred long-term solution for radioactive waste disposal. A key feature of a geological disposal facility (GDF) is the backfill material which acts as both a physical and chemical barrier to the migration of radionuclides such as uranium. Research into backfill materials is essential for safe and efficient disposal of wastes. In this context, phosphate based cements (PBCs) are a novel and promising candidate for depleted, natural and low-enriched uranium waste disposal due to the likely formation of highly insoluble U(IV) and U(VI) phosphates.

This experimental project will investigate the effectiveness of these PBC backfill materials for immobilising uranium by probing the reactions of key uranium species and uranium radioactive decay products with phosphate based cement leachates (PBCL). The research project will be carried out in the University of Manchester’s state of the art RADER lab facility (, and will include characterisation and development of PBCL, exploring the short and long term effects of PBCL on uranium speciation / solubility and reactivity using different disposal relevant uranium materials. The research will also apply thermodynamic modelling to compliment experimental findings. The successful applicant will join a vibrant group of 20+ researchers examining environmental radioactivity research topics and receive training in a wide range of experimental techniques and methodologies including the handling of radioactive materials and X-ray absorption spectroscopy. They will also present their research results to their nuclear industry supervisor, and at national and international research conferences. The PhD project will form part of a wider research portfolio on phosphate based cements.

Research projects - Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences - The University of Manchester

Academic background of candidates

Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Geosciences or a closely related discipline. A Masters degree in a relevant subject is highly desirable and experience in handling and analysis of environmental samples containing radionuclides is also desirable.

Application Enquiries

Professor Katherine Morris:


Funding Notes

This is a 4 year PhD studentship funded by Radioactive Waste Management
Applications are restricted to UK and Eligible EU applicants only (EU applicants will need settled/pre-settled status and 3 Years UK residency).
We have start dates available in January 2022 or September 2022


Bower et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 2019. 53, 16, p. 9915–9925
Kuippers et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021, 55, 8, 4597–4606
Neill et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 2018, 52, 16, 9118–9127

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