Radioactive waste disposal: Innovative research into alternative methods

Radioactive waste disposal site - there is a metal tower structure in the centre

Alumnus John Beswick was awarded the George Stephenson Medal by the Institution of Civil Engineers in 2014 alongside his co-authors for their research into the Deep Borehole Disposal of Nuclear Waste.

John Beswick believes that “disposal of radioactive waste is one of mankind's biggest problems”. This is because it can remain harmful to our environment for many years and is notoriously difficult to dispose of.

John graduated in 1963 with a degree in Civil Engineering and has worked in the field of radioactive waste disposal for over 45 years.

The paper suggests that deep borehole disposal could potentially accommodate most of the world's spent fuel inventory.

They explain that it offers a potentially safer, more secure, cost-effective, and environmentally sound solution for the long-term management of high-level radioactive waste than mined repositories.

The authors go on to describe the challenges that remain with this new approach to waste disposal but express its contemporary viability due to improvements in modern drilling capabilities.

John has been working on developing the concept of deep borehole disposal for these highly dangerous products alongside British, American and Swedish agencies for most of his career. He also spent a decade as a Project Manager for a 10-year-long programme to investigate potential sites for a mined waste disposal repository in the 1990s.

While having retired from full-time work in 2007 and approaching his 80th birthday this year, John is still very active in the industry. He is hoping to publish another and, in his words, “more important paper this year”. The new paper is targeted at a solution for the high-level waste stored at Sellafield in which John will discuss current government policy and the possibility of geological disposal facilities in mined caverns.

Since his retirement he has also been supporting a family company in Derbyshire, Marriot Drilling, to help them grow their business. Since then, the company has become a world player in the deep drilling industry, covering a multitude of different sectors.

John also spends his time advising on different geological projects, such as a 9 km deep exploration well in the Bahamas, and a mine shaft in North Yorkshire.