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Pioneering Research

Since 1996, the Centre’s pioneering research has helped regenerate the environment and meet the energy challenges of the future. Its work has been applied globally and to tackle some of the world’s most controversial and hazardous challenges.

The Centre has been committed to translating its research for the benefit of industry. It has served companies in Wales, the UK and internationally, and covered areas such as sustainable land management, clean-up technologies and reprocessing and re-use of alternative materials. The Centre’s work has created and saved jobs and helped companies adapt and compete in new markets.

Closing the nuclear fuel cycle

A new model developed by the Centre to describe the behaviour of engineered clay barriers led to new understanding and better predictions of the future behaviour of nuclear waste repositories. It directly enabled the design of some of the world’s first deep geological long-term repositories in Scandinavia. 

Ground Energy Sources

As we look to the future, the Centre is tackling challenges related to the growing demand for energy and climate change. One of its major projects, the Seren project, is focusing on underground low carbon energy solutions, specifically the development of technology to harness ground source heat applications, carbon sequestration and underground coal gasification. New models of soil behaviour are being developed by the Centre to help understand the thermo/physico/chemical processes that are important in these applications. As part of the Seren project, the Centre is helping businesses to develop new products, services and technologies for the emerging geo-energy sector, creating new jobs and businesses in the process and contributing to Wales’ drive for improved energy security.

World’s worst case of mass poisoning

It was described by the World Health Organization as the biggest outbreak of mass poisoning in world history. In the early 1990’s in the Bay of Bengal, some 80 million people were said to be at risk after it was discovered that the groundwater – their drinking water – was contaminated with arsenic.  Staff from the Centre undertook extensive research in the Bay, and identified how arsenic was being released into the groundwater. Drawing on this work, the Governments of West Bengal and Bangladesh were able to implement solutions to problem. The Centre is now applying its experience gained in Bengal to problems around vulnerable groundwater in the rest of India and West Africa as part of its UNESCO Chair in the Development of a Sustainable Geoenvironment.

The problem of POPs

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are highly toxic chemicals that don’t degrade. They’re found in pesticides, industrial process and the manufacture of products like solvents. Expose to POPs can cause serious health problems. In Africa, staff from the Centre have assisted in the identification and management of sites contaminated with POPs. Working as the official partner of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, the Centre focused its efforts on Nigeria and Ghana. The work led to the development of policy and legal frameworks for the management of contaminated land in these areas, the development of capacity in geoenvironmental engineering facilities, a public awareness programme and stakeholder engagement framework, and a monitoring and evaluation plan.

Committed to helping industry

Alongside these major achievements, the Centre has, throughout its lifetime been committed to translating its research for the benefit of industry.

Here in Wales, its work has helped develop a new and innovative fibre grass seed mulching product; shown how construction and blast furnace slag waste could be reused in earthworks construction; and developed a new technique to convert industrial wastes into cement substitutes, among other successes.

In Europe the Centre has pioneered a ‘best practice manual’ for the sustainable development of land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes. The manual and methodology has been used to redevelop the former Sosnowiec coal mine in Poland – an Industrial and Technological Park has been launched on this site; and in Stuttgart to identify and discuss sustainable objectives in redeveloping the site around the Bad Cannstatt goods station.

Recognition for the Centre’s research

In recognition of its major research advances, the Centre’s work has been endorsed globally. It was named a Centre of Excellence/Expertise by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - the only Centre in the UK to have this status; awarded a Chair in the Development of a Sustainable Geoenvironment by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); and recognised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) as an official research partner, in relation to its work on persistent organic pollutants.