13 May 2016
Michael Johnson is a 2nd year PhD researcher in Chemical Engineering at the University of Leeds. His PhD concerns the retention and release of hydrogen from nuclear legacy waste. In 2015 he was awarded a Rideal Travel Bursary to attend Waste Management 2016, which took place between 6 and 10 March 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Here, he describes how his experience at the conference gave him exposure to an international audience.
‘In late 2015 the award of an SCI/RSC Rideal Trust travel grant enabled me to present a paper and poster at Waste Management 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona, the premier international conference for the management of radioactive materials. My research on legacy waste is a subject of economic and safety interest in every country that was engaged in the early years of nuclear, notably America and the UK. Consequently, many scientists and engineers conducting related research at the national laboratories in America took interest in the work and I received very useful feedback from some of the prominent researchers in the field. Seven other presenters shared research on hydrogen hazards in different nuclear waste environments, opening a constructive dialogue in my area of research.
‘At the conference I attended varied talks on topics ranging from the chemistry that governs high level waste immobilisation in America to radioactive effluent treatment at Fukushima Daiichi, so there was much to learn beyond the talks linked to my own research topic. The conference was well attended by industrialists as well as researchers and I had extended conversations with engineers from large consultancies, such as Arup, who are consulting on similar waste remediation projects to my own.
‘The scale of the conference was far beyond any I had previously experienced, with over 3000 papers presented from 30 countries and over 100 exhibitors from industry. Attendance could not have been harmed by the glorious Phoenix weather or the conference organised trip to the Grand Canyon, which was quite stunning.
‘Attending the conference in Phoenix enabled me to bookend the event with other exciting opportunities for professional development during my stay in America. Prior to conference I visited Richland, Washington, where US Department of Energy representatives gave me a tour around the Hanford nuclear site, which houses 2/3 of America’s high level waste. This was particularly beneficial to my research as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, also based at Richland, are prolific publishers in my field and are enthusiastic to collaborate on future work. Following the conference, I was also invited to give two presentations on nuclear waste issues in the UK and America at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
‘I am very grateful to the RSC and SCI for the award of a Rideal Travel Bursary in support of my attendance at WM 2016. Following my experience in America I have ongoing correspondence with researchers and industrialists which I’m sure will greatly benefit me in the future.’
PhD Researcher, University of Leeds