Excavation Disturbance Zone (EDZ) evolution in UK Jurassic and Triassic mudrocks: implications on fluid flow in a nuclear waste repository

Fracturing and spalling of the Opalinus Clay in the Mont Terri Underground Research Laboratory, Switzerland


To apply, please complete our online application form for PhD Geological Sciences (entry point of October 2023). Please clearly state the name of the Director of Studies and the project title you are applying for at the top of your personal statement.
Online application
Before applying, please ensure you have read the Doctoral College’s general information on applying for a research degree.
For more information on the admissions process please contact research.degree.admissions@plymouth.ac.uk
Director of Studies: Dr Matt Bailey Ross
2nd Supervisor: Professor Mark Anderson
3rd Supervisor: Dr Munira Raji
Applications are invited for a four-year PhD studentship. The studentship will start on 01 October 2023.
This project is funded and supported by the Research Support Office of Nuclear Waste Services, the organisation delivering geological disposal in the UK.
Project description
Deep, geological disposal of radioactive waste will contain and isolate these hazardous materials, protecting people and the environment for generations to come. To fulfil this objective, geological disposal is reliant upon a combination of engineered and natural (rock) barriers to prevent the movement of radioactive substances. Disturbance of a rock-mass during construction of tunnels and underground vaults can alter the properties of this natural barrier, for example by the formation of fractures within the rock through which water and gas can flow.
This project will explore how excavation disturbance might impact the properties of potential host rocks for the UK’s facility, to better understand how these fractures will develop and change over time and, how this will impact the flow of water and gas. We will use similar ‘analogue’ scenarios, such as road cuttings and railway tunnel walls to investigate the effect of disturbance on the rock, as well as developing new laboratory capability and undertaking novel flow-through experiments on rock samples to explore this at a smaller scale. We will develop a conceptual model to explain the mechanisms of excavation disturbance to allow it to be accounted for in safety assessments.
Applicants must have a first or upper second-class honours degree in an appropriate subject (such as geoscience or engineering) and preferably a relevant masters qualification or appropriate research experience. Your application should provide a compelling cover letter which links your interests and education to the project description.
The studentship is supported for 4 years and includes full tuition fees (home or overseas) plus a stipend of £18,022 per annum (2023-24 rate to be confirmed).
If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Matt Bailey Ross.
Please clearly state the name of the DoS and the title of the studentship that you are applying for on the top of your personal statement.
Please see our how to apply for a research degree page for a list of supporting documents to upload with your application.
For more information on the admissions process generally, please contact research.degree.admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.
The closing date for applications is 12 noon on 24 March 2023. 
Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview on either 17 or 18 April 2023. Whilst we aim to respond to all applicants, those who have not received a response within six weeks of the closing date should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.