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Alumni Events

Our alumni events offer the opportunity to learn more about what is currently happening in the Department of Earth Sciences, in addition to the opportunity to meet with old friends and network with other Earth Science professionals.

Forthcoming Alumni Events

Alumni Panel Discussion at the Geological Society, London, Monday 20 November 2017

Nuclear energy visit
Imperial, Cambridge and OU doctoral trainees' Nuclear Energy visit to Hades rock lab, 250m below Mol, Belgium
Earth Sciences alumni are warmly invited to join us for our annual panel discussion at The Geological Society in London. Our expert panellists will give short talks and will then answer questions from the floor. Afterwards there will be drinks and canapés in the Lower Library, and a chance to meet fellow alumni and the panel informally.  This year's topic is:

Deep Geological Disposal

The safe disposal of higher activity radioactive waste has, for some time, been regarded as the Achilles’ heel of the nuclear energy cycle. Whether the UK sees an expansion of nuclear energy (as a low-carbon “base load” provision) or reduces reliance on nuclear in the future, there is already a heavy legacy of past activity. Much of the legacy is characterised by a wide mix of fuel, processing, and decommissioning waste types, with early weapons manufacturing adding to the complexity of the waste inventory. The UK, for example, has the largest stockpile of civilian separated plutonium of any nation on Earth.

The safe disposal of higher-activity waste has been extensively researched, from the nature of the waste material itself to its potential disposition in the environment. The consensus is that geological disposal represents the safest route for the long term. A few countries - Finland, Sweden, France, Belgium, Switzerland and the US - have built underground laboratories as a precursor to full-scale construction of a deep repository.  Finally, at the end of 2016 the world’s first deep disposal facility was licensed in Finland after a forty-year process.

Politically fraught, early attempts in the UK at establishing a permanent disposal programme by building an underground laboratory in west Cumbria stalled in the face of conflicting demands. The UK governments’ (this is a devolved issue, and the apostrophe is in the correct place!) response is, currently, complicated. The Scottish Government Policy is that the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste should be in near-surface facilities, located as near to the site where the waste is produced as possible, where it can be monitored and potentially retrieved. Northern Ireland, Wales and England are all committed to disposal in a deep geological waste repository. A wholly owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority - RWM (Radioactive Waste Management Ltd) - is charged with delivering this repository, and currently RWM is working with the British Geological Survey and others to characterise the geological landscape of England, Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of potential host rock types. The route to developing a repository will depend on a “volunteer community” to step forward and act as host.

The Earth Sciences Department at Cambridge has been working on aspects of the disposal of higher activity waste for many years now, and includes world-leading experts on the materials, mineralogical and geological nature of the problem. Alumni have gone on to work within the industry, both directly and in an independent advisory role, and have brought their understanding, based around a geological appreciation of the risks and time scales of relevant processes, to bear on the technical challenges of radioactive waste disposal.

Among the topics that will be considered during this panel discussion will be:

  • How can observations of natural phenomena inform our developing engineering and technical solutions to waste disposal?
  • How relevant is geology to the acceptance and siting of a geological waste disposal facility?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of a deep geological disposal route, measured against near surface disposal?
  • How can the complexities of UK geology be presented effectively to potential volunteer communities?
  • How can Earth Sciences increase public understanding of risk perception and the timescales of a GDF in relation to future generations?

The panel will be chaired by Simon Redfern, Professor of Mineral Physics and Head of Department. Simon is a member of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management providing independent advice to the UK Government on long-term management of radioactive waste, including storage and disposal.

Our panellists:

Dr Ian Farnan, Reader in Earth and Nuclear Materials.  Currently, Ian is Chair of the Cambridge Nuclear Energy Centre. His research focuses on a deterministic approach to radioactive waste evolution and behaviour over long time scales and small distances. He collaborates with major nuclear labs in Europe and the US to develop ‘nuclearised’ analytical techniques to derive atomic scale understanding of alteration and radiation damage mechanisms in a range of nuclear fuels, claddings, waste forms and natural analogues. From 2007-2015 he was on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the DoE’s Environmental and Molecular Sciences Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which has a dual role in site clean-up and advanced science approaches to radioactive waste at the Manhattan project, Hanford site. He led the UK NDA/RCUK GeoWaste project on the disposability of AGR nuclear fuel and was part of the recent NDA/RWM research strategy review committee on Engineered Barriers for a geological repository.

Dr Liz Harvey (Jesus 2003), Senior Consultant at Galson Sciences Ltd. Liz’s PhD research focused on the synthesis, characterisation and durability of rare-earth ceramics as analogues to study the immobilisation of plutonium within crystalline wasteforms.  After graduating from Cambridge Earth Sciences, Liz joined Galson Sciences Ltd, a consultancy based in Rutland, working in the fields of nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management.  Liz has supported UK and overseas waste management organisations, on topics ranging from long-term data management to depleted uranium disposal.  She has also held several interim posts with Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), helping to develop the UK’s plans for implementing geological disposal, most recently as RWM’s Senior Scientific Adviser.

Dr Nigel Woodcock, Emeritus Reader. Nigel is a recently retired Reader in Structural Geology. His research career has spanned many areas of sedimentation and upper crustal tectonics, predominantly in the UK. With Rob Strachan he edited two editions of the text book Geological History of Britain and Ireland. His particular focus has been on the Palaeozoic geology of Wales, NW England and the Isle of Man, which led to his involvement in the debate on proposals for a nuclear waste repository at Sellafield in the 1990s. Relevant to waste storage, he has more recently devised the field classification of fault breccias, allowing their permeability to fluid flow to be better assessed. 

Venue: The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG

Date: 6:30pm, Monday 20 November 2017

Price: £23

Booking online

Email Alison Holroyd, Alumni Co-ordinator, Department of Earth Sciences for further information.

Additional Info:  Our expert panellists will give short talks and will then answer questions from the floor. Afterwards there will be drinks and canapés in the Lower Library, and a chance to meet fellow alumni and the panel informally.

Notifications for this event are sent by email only. If you do not currently receive our e-invitations and would like to be added to the mailing list let Alison know, at


Save the date

 Alumni Day and Dinner, Saturday 12 May 2018

Our next Alumni Day and Dinner will be held on Saturday, 12 May 2018. There will be a particular focus on those that graduated in 1958, 68, 78, 88, and 2008, but as always, all alumni are welcome.

Do save the date and spread the word amongst your year group and contemporaries.


Research Talks and Seminars

Alumni are welcome to attend the Department of Earth Sciences talks and seminars. The programme of talks is available here. Do please contact Alison at if you plan to attend so that we know to expect you.

Recent Events

2017 Alumni Day and Dinner - Saturday 13 May 2017

We were delighted to welcome 150 alumni and their guests, from across seven decades,  for our 12th Alumni Day & Dinner in May. The day’s activities included talks, tours of the Godwin Lab and Microanalysis Suite and displays in the Library and Museum.  Our popular undergraduate mapping talks were followed by Emeritus Professor Dan McKenzie marking Plate Tectonics at 50. Some of the many photos taken on the day are available on Flickr and YouTube.  Thank you to all who were able to join us.

Do save the date for next year’s Alumni Day on Saturday 12 May 2018, there will be a particular focus on those who graduated in years ending with an 8, but once again, all of you are welcome.

Thank you to Charlie Eardley and Greg Palmer for recording the event.

Cambridge Earth Sciences Alumni Panel Discussion – Tuesday 22 November 2016

Climate Change: A view from the past

Alumni and guests joined us at The Geological Society, London for our second Earth Sciences Alumni Panel Discussion. Short introductions from the panel members were followed by questions from the floor, expertly directed by Lord Oxburgh KBE, Crossbench (Independent) member of the House of Lords and former Head of Department 1980-88. Afterwards alumni had the opportunity to meet the panel and one another informally in the Lower Library where drinks and canapés were served. Photos of the evening are available on Flickr.

In addition to thanking alumni who attended and contributed to the debate, we would like to thank Lord Oxburgh, who did an excellent job as Chair, and our panellists Professor David Hodell, Professor Eric Wolff, Dr Alexandra Turchyn and Alex Maskell.


Upcoming events

Hippos in the Cam, mammoths at Barnwell – Ice Age Cambridge?

Sep 22, 2017

Tilley Lecture Theatre, Department of Earth Sciences

Deep Geological Disposal

Nov 20, 2017

The Geological Society, London

Upcoming events

Charlotte Jackson details the adventures of the Part III students on their final field trip to Almeria, Spain, Easter 2017

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Victoria Honour accompanies Part 1A students in a journey across the equator, Arran 2017

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