Research Associate in Radionuclide Geochemistry

Job reference: SAE-025134
Salary: £36,024 to £44,263 per annum, depending on relevant experience
Location: Manchester
Employment type: Fixed Term
Hours Per Week: Full time
Contract Duration: From 1st June 2024 to 30th November 2026 (start date is negotiable)

The UK has been generating electricity from nuclear power for over sixty years. Consequently, the issue of safely disposing of the UK's approximately 750,000 m3 Intermediate and High-Level Nuclear Waste (ILW/HLW), and future waste is a clear priority. The UK government policy is to dispose of the higher activity nuclear wastes in an underground geological disposal facility (GDF) at an estimated cost of £20-53 billion, and lifetime of 100+ years. One of the rock types identified as potentially suitable to host a GDF are lower strength sedimentary rocks (LSSRs).

The purpose of a GDF is the safe disposal of radioactive waste for periods of tens of thousands of years, in a manner that ensures that any transport of radioactive materials into the surrounding biosphere is kept below specified limits. Siting and construction of a GDF in LSSR would therefore require a quantitative understanding of both the physical and (biogeo)chemical properties of the host rocks surrounding a GDF. However, many fundamental gaps still exist in our knowledge of the issues related to performance of these host rocks as a geological barrier to radionuclide transport. Addressing these gaps requires fundamental new understanding and the development and application of next generation experimental, analytical, and modelling approaches to meet the challenges of characterising key processes in these complex systems.

This position will form part of the NERC and Nuclear Waste Services (NSW) funded 'Towards Safe Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste in LSSRs (GeoSafe)' project. This consortium project is a £5 M collaboration between Imperial College London, University of Manchester, the British Geological Survey, University of Liverpool, Heriot Watt University, Leeds University, and the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL). The successful applicant will be based in Department of Earth and Environment at The University of Manchester and will also undertake research visits to other universities and institutes (e.g., Diamond Light Source). The PDRA will work closely with other members of the GeoSafe team to exchange and integrate their results and achieve the projects broad objective of understanding the key aspect of radioactive waste disposal in lower strength sedimentary rock.

The purpose of this Research Associate position is to undertake experiments to determine the suitability of LSSR as a GDF host rock and develop accurate models to predict the transport and fate of key radionuclides under relevant (biogeo)chemical conditions. The Research Associate will be involved in several key aspects of the research, including radionuclide uptake and transport studies using experiments at a range of conditions relevant to LSSR systems (e.g., diffusion and advective flow studies). These studies will be supported by multi-scale analysis using state-of- the-art synchrotron-based X-ray (e.g., Hard X-ray nanoprobe), electron beam imaging (atomic/nano resolution analytical TEM), and spectroscopic analysis approaches, to build a combined understanding the speciation, distribution, and fate of radionuclides as they move through heterogeneous LSSRs. In conjunction, geochemical models will be developed to predict radionuclide speciation and processes controlling transport in LSSRs.

What you will get in return:

  • Fantastic market leading Pension scheme.
  • Excellent employee health and wellbeing services including an Employee Assistance Programme.
  • Exceptional starting annual leave entitlement, plus bank holidays.
  • Additional paid closure over the Christmas period.
  • Local and national discounts at a range of major retailers.

As an equal opportunities employer we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of age, sex, gender (or gender identity), ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

Our University is positive about flexible working - you can find out more here

Hybrid working arrangements may be considered.

Please note that we are unable to respond to enquiries, accept CVs or applications from Recruitment Agencies.

Any recruitment enquiries from recruitment agencies should be directed to

Any CV's submitted by a recruitment agency will be considered a gift.

Enquiries about the vacancy, shortlisting and interviews:

Name: Sam Shaw

General enquiries:


Technical support:

This vacancy will close for applications at midnight on the 17 April 2024.

Please see the link for the Further Particulars document which contains the person specification criteria.

posted: 21 March 2024     Please mention EARTHWORKS when responding to this advertisement.