Dr Clare Thorpe

MEarthSci Geology (1st Class Honours)

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

David Clarke/EPSRC Fellow


Full contact details

Dr Clare Thorpe
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Sir Robert Hadfield Building
Mappin Street
S1 3JD

Dr Clare Louise Thorpe is a David Clarke/EPSRC Research Fellow studying ‘vitrified nuclear waste durability in complex natural environments’. She joined the NucleUS Immobilisation Science Laboratory in 2016 to work on the US Department of Energy sponsored project: GLAD (Glass Leaching Assessment for Disposability) that assessed the durability of glasses for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste at Hanford, US.

Previously, she worked as a PDRA at the University of Manchester on two Sellafield Ltd sponsored projects investigating bioremediation for radioactively contaminated land.

Alongside her scientific career, Clare is an experienced Ocean Yachtmaster and high latitude sailor. At sea, she has contributed to science through glacial water sampling in the arctic and voluntary weather observations in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans. Clare obtained a MEarthSci in Geochemistry and a PhD in “Biogeochemistry of Radioactively Contaminated Land” from the University of Manchester.

Research interests

Clare’s long-term research aim is to understand materials behaviour in complex natural systems: the interplay between aqueous geochemistry, metal redox cycling, geomicrobiology, mineral/biomineral formation and dissolution. Her research has always had a strong focus on industrial relevance, and this continues into her fellowship through project partners US Department of Energy and UK Radioactive Waste Management.

Clare’s multidisciplinary research interests are currently centred on the following themes:

1. Vitrified radioactive waste durability:
Validating laboratory scale tests used to predict the durability of vitrified waste forms that extrapolate short-term observations over thousands of years. Through her EPSRC Fellowship and participation in the US DOE funded GLAD project, this work compares corrosion in low- and high-temperature laboratory tests with natural analogue sites where glasses have been exposed over long time periods.

2. Natural analogue studies for deep and shallow geological disposal:
Research in this area includes participation in a number of long-term field experiments to assess the effects of high pH environments on glass durability. The Ballidon long duration experiment aims to understand glass behaviour in a moderately alkaline shallow subsurface environment, the Peak Dale Cave Experiment emplaces glass in Hyper-alkaline waters representative of a cementitious geological disposal facility, and the study of vitrified Hill Forts aims to assess the durability of 2000-year-old glasses exposed to water. Factors affecting dissolution in complex natural environments include changing geochemistry, saturation and temperature as well as the potential for biological influence.

3. Impact of microbiology on glass dissolution:
This aspect of Clare’s research aims to understand if and how microbes can affect the dissolution of glasses both directly, through colonisation and element sequestration, and indirectly, through changes to the surrounding environment resulting from microbial metabolism.

4. Nuclear imaging for use in environmental and materials sciences:
Nuclear imaging (Positron Emissions Tomography - PET and Single Photon Emission – Computed Tomography - SPECT) are common tools in medical science but infrequently used outside of this field despite their potential as useful imaging equipment for natural systems. Past work has included utilizing 99mTc as an analogue for the long-lived radionuclide 99Tc to track Tc behaviour in soil columns during bioremediation scenarios. Recent work has focused on the potential for 18F-labelled glucose and PET scanning to track microbial growth in opaque systems.

  • David Clarke/EPSRC Fellowship
  • Project GLAD (III) - Glass Leaching Assessment for Durability (US Department of Energy, Office of River Protection)
  • Growing skills for Reliable Economic Energy from Nuclear (GREEN) CDT

Journal articles

Conference proceedings papers

Teaching interests

Clare regularly takes part in teaching and outreach events to raise awareness regarding the challenges of nuclear energy and nuclear waste disposal.

  • Member of Royal Society of Chemistry 
  • Member of the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland
  • Fellow of Higher Education