Geo Rep Net

About

THE GEOLOGICAL REPOSITORY NETWORK

The disposal of waste, including nuclear waste (from the nuclear power industry and other nuclear applications) and carbon dioxide (to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and associated greenhouse warming) constitutes one of the major environmental technical challenges of the 21st Century. One way to address this challenge is to construct subsurface geological repositories in which this waste can be stored over long-term (>millennia) timescales. In this network (GeoRepNet), we are developing a three-year collaborative network to investigate and prioritise the major challenges involved in the design, construction and maintenance of geological repositories.

GeoRepNet is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The network is comprised by six workpackages that address the geophysical, geochemical and biological challenges of establishing and operating geological repositories and investigate methods of monitoring geological repositories. The technical focus of the network, addressed by a dedicated workpackage, examines the cross-transfer of technology from the space and astronomical communities into geological repository monitoring, for example miniaturised in-situ instruments designed for planetary exploration and spectroscopic methods of monitoring repository atmospheres to detect leakage of wastes.

Our overall aim is to advance the identification, prioritisation and provision of solutions to establishing and maintaining geological repositories.

Vulcania is a network funded by the STFC Futures Programme to investigate the major scientific and technical challenges in the establishment and monitoring of geological repositories.

The network is comprised six workpackages that address the geophysical, geochemical and biological challenges of establishing and operating geological repositories and investigate methods of monitoring geological repositories.

The technical focus of the network, addressed by a dedicated workpackage, examines the cross-transfer of technology from the space and astronomical communities into geological repository monitoring, for example miniaturised in-situ instruments designed for planetary exploration and spectroscopic methods of monitoring repository atmospheres to detect leakage of wastes.

What we do

The network implements its objectives using three major meetings (one in each of the network years) and a series of satellite workshops. Important in the network’s objectives is developing the next generation of scientists involved in the establishment of geological repositories.

The network makes use of a web site and social networking technologies to implement its objectives. The network is primarily a UK network, but it draws in international collaboration to achieve its objectives and maximise the expertise available for the achievement of its objectives.

Get in touch

Our overall aim is to advance the identification, prioritisation and provision of solutions, to establishing and maintaining geological repositories. If you'd like to contact us then you can get in touch through our contact form.

Overall Objective

The overall objective of the GeoRepNet network is to: bring together a wide diversity of scientists and instrument designers to consider and prioritise the key scientific and technical challenges in understanding the geochemical and biological processes that influence the establishment, operation and monitoring of geological repositories.

Individual Objectives

There are several sub-objectives in GeoRepNet:

  1. Establish a network of experts in the scientific areas of relevance to geological repositories (geophysics, geochemistry, geobiology, geology) and the technical areas of relevance to geological repositories (instrument development, monitoring).
  1. Identify and prioritise the key challenges facing the scientific and technical community in determining the key geochemical and biological processes that will influence the establishment, operation and monitoring of geological repositories.
  1. Create a bridge between instrument development in planetary sciences and astronomy and the development/use of this instrumentation in the construction and monitoring of geological repositories.
  1. Mobilise the UK community to act as a focal point for developing the international research agenda in subsurface processes associated with geological repositories.
  1. Engage with end-users, policy makers and other organisations involved in planning geological repositories through knowledge exchange activities.
  1. Ensure the formation of a network of scientists and instrument developers that will persist long after the completion of the nominal network period (3 years).

We will accomplish these objectives using two primary methods:

  1. a web site, which will allow us to engage with the community and develop social networking methods to allow for the dissemination of information to the community and act as a resource to centralise information on geological repositories,
  1. network meetings. We envisage one major meeting each year, gearing up to a meeting in the third year at which the results of the network are presented. Satellite workshops will allow priorities identified in the course of the network to be addressed.

The network is funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council

Management

There are 6 work packages in GeoRepNet, here you can find the work packages' leaders:

Work Package 1 (Biological Processes in Geological Repositories):

Network Leader: Charles Cockell (University of Edinburgh)

Network PDRA: Susana Direito (University of Edinburgh)

Jon Lloyd (University of Manchester)

Work Package 2 (Geochemical Processes in Geological Repositories):

Gareth Law (University of Manchester)

Katherine Morris (University of Manchester)

Vernon Phoenix (University of Glasgow)

Work Package 3 (Geophysical Processes in Geological Repositories):

Vitaly Kudryavtsev (University of Sheffield)

Work Package 4 (Long-term Environmental Changes and Effects on Geological Repositories):

Blanca Antizar-Ladislao (University of Edinburgh)

Work Package 5 (Monitoring Methods for Geological Repositories):

Nick Smith (National Nuclear Laboratory)

Work Package 6 (Planetary Science/Astronomy/Particle Physics Technology Translation):

Ian Hutchinson (University of Leicester)

Work

We carry out our work using six workpackages that are listed below:

Work Package 1 (Biological Processes in Geological Repositories): Will address and prioritise the major science questions in biological processes of relevance to the establishment and long-term integrity of geological repositories. Areas of investigation will include, but not be limited to: role of organisms in deterioration of storage materials; role of organisms in biomineralising and facilitating retardation of wastes; role of organisms in production of gas in geological repositories.

Work Package 2 (Geochemical Processes in Geological Repositories): Will address and prioritise the major geochemical questions of relevance to the establishment and long-term integrity of geological repositories. Areas of investigation will include: geochemical processes in storage materials and back-fill within geological repositories over time; geological context of geochemical processes; changes in geochemical environments over time; effects of changing geochemistry on waste storage and disposal (particularly for radioactive waste oxidation state).

Work Package 3: Geophysical Processes in Geological Repositories: Will address and prioritise the major geophysical questions of relevance to the establishment and long-term integrity of geological repositories. Topics will include transport of fluids in porous media and its effects on the repository stability, rock movement, modelling of CO2 storage and wave propagation in fluid filled porous media, transport of muons through the rock and repository for use in monitoring, radiation emission from nuclear waste and its detection.

Cross-cutting science theme work package

Work Package 4 (Long-term Environmental Changes and Effects on Geological Repositories): Will address the effects of long-term environmental change over the geological life-time of repositories on waste storage. Areas of investigation will include: effects of sea-level rise, temperature changes, earthquakes, glaciation and other perturbations on geochemical and biological processes occurring in geological repositories; means to predict effects of environmental change on geochemical and biological processes; effects of natural versus anthropogenic changes on processes occurring in geological repositories; influence of geological substrate on geochemical and biological processes occurring in geological repositories.

Cross-cutting technology theme work packages

Work Package 5 (Monitoring Methods for Geological Repositories): This work package will have a special focus on technical means of monitoring geochemical and biological processes in geological repositories. Areas of investigation will include: novel miniaturised methods for monitoring geochemical and biological activity; methods of long-term logging and monitoring of geological repositories; novel methods of measuring gases and elements (cations, anions) in situ in geological repositories; muon tomography of CO2 emplacement and migration; radiation detection; monitoring methods and new devices for short and long-term monitoring.

Work Package 6 (Planetary Science/Astronomy/Particle Physics Technology Translation): This work package will focus on how we can take advantage of instrumentation in planetary sciences, astronomy and particle physics to monitor geological repositories. Areas of investigation will include: miniaturised Raman, life detection methods, XRD, etc used for Mars exploration; use of technology in astronomy (e.g. spectroscopy) for monitoring atmospheric composition of repositories; identifying new technologies that benefit from high technology/miniaturisation in planetary science, astronomy and particle physics for monitoring geological repositories; remote sensing of repository effects (e.g. vegetation stress).

Network and Awards

All geological repositories share some common challenges in the processes that must be understood. They include:

  1. the geochemistry of the interaction of the waste with the surrounding environment,

  2. the effects of the local biota (particularly microbiota) on the waste and its solubility,

  3. the potential transport paths of the waste through the subsurface, particularly in groundwater,

  4. the potential effects of future climatic changes and environmental alterations on the fate of the waste and its interaction with the environment,

  5. the effects of future inadvertent human intrusion,

  6. the best way to monitor the repository both during its establishment, but also long after, to assess the fate of the waste within the system.

A key challenge in the development of geological repositories is to fully address the scientific and technical questions associated with geochemical, geophysical, biological and future climatic/human factors for disposal. A fuller understanding of the geochemical processes within geological repositories is required, and the potential role of microbiota requires further characterisation. However, we know, for example, that by changing the valence states of radionuclides, microbial populations can have a significant impact on the solubility, and thus transport, of nuclear wastes through groundwater. Conversely, by forming biofilms within rocks, microorganisms can potentially retard the flow of waste products from a geological repository. Thus, identifying the major geochemical questions of the fate of waste is linked to an understanding of biological processes. Similarly, physical conditions of substances in a repository (used for CO2 storage, for instance) may affect the chemical, and hence biological, processes there. The coupled nature of these processes is not fully understood and a key objective of the network is to identify, prioritise and then act as a conduit for research efforts to resolve these questions.

The implications of the network is that we will be able to provide new direction in prioritising research questions and directions for understanding processes in geological repository sites.