A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our work on a proof-of-concept for a digital twin of a fission nuclear reactor and its extension to fusion energy [‘Digitally-enabled regulatory environment for fusion power plants‘ on March 20th, 2019]. In parallel with this work and together with a colleague in the Dalton Nuclear Institute, I am supervising a PhD student who is studying the potential role of virtual reality and social network analysis in delivering nuclear infrastructure projects. In a new PhD project, we are aiming to extend this research to consider the potential provided by an integrated nuclear digital environment  in planning the disposal of nuclear waste. We plan to look at how provision of clear, evidence-based information and in the broader adoption of digital twins to enhance public confidence through better engagement and understanding. This is timely because the UK’s Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) have launched their new consent-based process for siting a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). The adoption of a digital environment to facilitate a consent-based process represents a new and unprecedented approach to the GDF or any other nuclear project in the UK. So this will be an challenging and exciting research project requiring an innovative and multi-disciplinary approach involving both engineering and social sciences.
The PhD project is fully-funded for UK and EU citizens as part of a Centre for Doctoral Training and will involve a year of specialist training followed by three years of research. For more information following this link.
 Patterson EA, Taylor RJ & Bankhead M, A framework for an integrated nuclear digital environment, Progress in Nuclear Energy, 87:97-103, 2016.
Image: Artist’s impression of geological disposal facility from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/geological-disposal-understanding-our-work