Emeritus Professor Fergus G F Gibb

Emeritus Professor Fergus Gibb

Professor of Petrology & Geochemistry
Member of the Immobilisation Science Laboratory

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Sir Robert Hadfield Building
Mappin Street, Sheffield, S1 3JD

Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 3630
Fax: +44 (0) 114 222 5943

Email: f.gibb@sheffield.ac.uk

Fergus Gibb graduated from the University of St Andrews with a BSc Hons, (1963) and PhD (1966) in geology. Following appointments at the University of Toronto (Lecturer in the Department of Geology, 1966-69) and the University of Manchester (Senior Research Assistant in the Department of Geology, 1969-73), he came to Sheffield in 1973 as a lecturer in the Department of Geology (latterly, Earth Sciences). Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1979 and Reader in 1985, he transferred to Materials Science and Engineering in October 2001 where his research into the geological disposal of nuclear waste became an integral part of the activities of the Immobilisation Science Laboratory. He was awarded a personal chair in 2005. In recognition of the potential strategic importance of his research for the future management of the UK´s high-level nuclear wastes the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority part-funded his chair in 2006.
A former council member and vice-president of The Mineralogical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, he was elected to a fellowship of the Mineralogical Society of America in 1998 "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the fields of mineralogy, crystallography, geochemistry and petrology". In 2007 he was appointed to the government´s advisory Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM).

Research interests

  • Geological disposal of nuclear wastes, especially higher activity wastes and alternative disposal concepts to the ‘mined repository’ for spent fuel and other high-level wastes.
  • High pressure/temperature experimental mineralogy & geochemistry, especially nucleation and crystal growth from natural magmas, including their applications to nuclear waste disposal.
  • Mineralogy, petrology & chemistry of basic/ultrabasic igneous intrusions.
  • Petrology, geochemistry and origins of the North Atlantic Igneous Province.
  • Electron probe microanalysis and its applications to the study of minerals and other solid-state materials.

Currently the dominant and most active aspect of the above is research into the disposal of high-level radioactive wastes in very deep boreholes (3 – 6 km) as an alternative to so-called `deep´ (but at 300 – 800 m, geologically shallow) mined & engineered repositories. This work, first begun in 1993 and funded by BNFL, EPSRC, Nexia Solutions & the NDA seeks to elucidate the underpinning science and develop the related technology for deep borehole disposal. It has led to innovative concepts for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and other forms of HLW that have featured in publications, media coverage and parliamentary debate. These have been expanded into other aspects of research into very deep disposal and are the focus of a small research group, which is part of the ISL research portfolio.

Key projects

  • Mathematical modelling of the physical environments in and around both low & high-temperature deep borehole disposals for various forms of nuclear waste, including spent fuel, reprocessing wastes and fissile materials like plutonium.
  • Experimental investigation of materials and designs for possible containers for the safe, high-temperature deep disposal of spent fuel.
  • Development of a low-temperature very deep disposal concept for vitrified reprocessing waste.
  • Deep borehole disposal of surplus plutonium through encapsulation of crystalline waste forms in recrystallized granite.
  • Design and large-scale testing of special high-density support matrices for the deep borehole disposal of spent light-water reactor fuel.
  • Evaluation of hydrogeological conditions at depths of several kilometers in areas of the continental crust potentially suitable for deep borehole disposal of nuclear wastes.

Professional activities and recognition

Professor Gibb´s early work led to his recognition as an expert on fluid mechanical and other petrogenetic processes in minor igneous intrusions, particularly dykes. His subsequent application of mineralogical and geochemical analyses to the emplacement and differentiation of magmatic bodies has led to international acknowledgement as an authority on basic sill complexes and related intrusions. As his recent appointment to CoRWM attests, he is now recognised as an expert on the geological disposal of radioactive wastes. Among his professional activities he is

  • a member of the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain & Ireland since 1965; (Council member, 1976-80, 1989-91, vice-president, 1990).
  • a fellow of The Geological Society (of London) since 1973; (Volcanic Studies Group Committee, 1976-80).
  • a member of the Mineralogical Society of America since 1966; (Elected Fellow 1998).
  • a member of the Edinburgh Geological Society since 1965.

Key publications

  • Gibb, F.G.F., Travis, K.P., McTaggart, N.A., Burley, D. & Hesketh, K.W. 2008. Modeling temperature distribution around very deep borehole disposals of HLW. Nuclear Technology, 163, 62-73.
  • Gibb, F.G.F., Travis, K.P., McTaggart, N.A. & Burley, D. 2008. A model for heat flow in deep borehole disposals of high-level nuclear waste. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, B05201, doi:10.1029/2007JB005081.
  • F.G.F. Gibb, K.J. Taylor & B.E. Burakov. 2007. “The ‘granite encapsulation’ route to the safe disposal of Pu and other actinides.” J. Nuclear Materials, doi:10.1016/j.jnucmat.2007.08.018.
  • F.G.F. Gibb, N.A. McTaggart, K.P. Travis, D. Burley & K.W. Hesketh. 2007. “High-density support matrices: key to the deep borehole disposal of spent nuclear fuel.” J. Nuclear Materials, doi:10.1016/j.jnucmat.2007.08.017.
  • F.G.F. Gibb & C.M.B. Henderson. 2006. “Chemistry of the Shiant Isles main sill, N.W. Scotland and wider implications for the petrogenesis of mafic sills” Journal of Petrology, 47, 191-230.
  • N. Chapman and F. Gibb. 2003. "A truly final waste management solution - Is very deep borehole disposal a realistic option for high-level waste or fissile materials?", Radwaste Solutions, 10, 26-37.
  • P. G. Attrill and F. G. F. Gibb. 2003. "Partial melting and recrystallization of granite and their application to deep disposal of radioactive waste. Part 1 - Rationale and partial melting; Part 2 - Recrystallization", Lithos, 67, 103-133.

Research group

Deep Borehole Disposal Research Group

Prof Fergus G. F. Gibb
Prof Neil A. Chapman
Dr Karl P. Travis
Dr David Burley

PhD Students:
Ms Lyubka Spasova

Research centres

Immobilisation Science Laboratory