storage and disposal of radioactive waste

Created in 2009, then renewed in 2015 and 2019, the Chair for the Storage and Disposal of Radioactive Waste is a research and teaching chair in partnership with ANDRA, EDF, Orano and IMT Atlantique. By pooling their expertise, the members of the chair aim to carry out a scientific programme focusing on a concerted vision of research and teaching on the major scientific and societal issues at stake, and to arrive at a sustainable radioactive waste storage and disposal system.



context and research areas

Radioactive waste is generated not only by electricity production, but also by hospitals, universities and certain non-nuclear industries. Radioactive waste emits radiation and therefore presents a specific risk to human health and environments for hundreds of thousands of years. It is therefore necessary to manage it with special precautions, from its production to its final destination. The implementation of appropriate disposal channels is a major challenge for all stakeholders: industrials, regulatory authorities, publics authorities, but also local communities and the public.

The Chair for the Storage and Disposal of Radioactive Waste has made it possible to defin a roadmap for fundamental and applied research on major scientific issues such as:

  • Molecular modelling to improve our fundamental understanding at the atomistic level of the interaction of radionuclides with the surfaces of clay and cementitious materials at waste disposal sites.
  • Credibly assess for hundred of thousands of year the performance of clay and cementitious materials as natural and engineered barriers for the containment of radioactive waste.
  • Study the beahviour of gases and radionuclides in gaseous form in the cells of geological disposal site.
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The Chair's work is based on 2 research projects since 2019:

  • Molecular modelling

  • Characterisation and modelling of complex systems - use of isotopic tracers & ultra-traces; radiation effects (including effects on corrosion)


The Chair team is built around Bernd Grambow and Andrey Kalinichev, an internationally renowned professor in the field of molecular modelling, editor-in-chief of the "Clays and Engineered Mineral Materials" section of the scientific journal “Minerals” and the President of The Clay Minerals Society (2019-2020). The team, which also includes a research engineer, has recruited 9 post-doctoral fellows since 2009 and 4 doctoral theses have been defended or are being finalised.

Since the creation of the Chair in 2009, 38 peer-reviewed papers have been published in scientific journals of high international visibility such as J. Phys. Chem. C, Applied Clay Science, Cement and Concrete Research, Clays and Clay Minerals, etc., given more than 40 invited and plenary lectures and more than 20 scientific conferences or sessions in these conferences have been organised


The complementarity of the Chair with the Subatech laboratory

The Chair is part of the general research of the Subatech laboratory (Joint Research Unit operated by IMT Atlantique, CNRS and Nantes University). The study of radionuclide transfer in the context of radioactive waste storage is a subject shared by Subatech and the members of the Chair. In this respect, the focus is on retention mechanisms (absorption, incorporation, etc.) in clay and cement materials and the role of speciation of species in solution in this transport.

This study benefits from a multi-scale work at different levels:

  • Experimental: from the laboratory to field studies of the study subjects,
  • Study subjects: from model systems to real samples,
  • Modelling: from the molecular scale to geochemical codes.

The research work carried out in the chair has enabled the Subatech laboratory to occupy a leading position, both nationally and internationally. The understanding of the molecular mechanisms of interaction of certain radionuclides with the surface of storage site rocks dating back 150 million years and the study of the behaviour of natural trace elements trapped in these rocks on this time scale have increased confidence in the ability to predict the safety of storage in this unprecedented time frame.