The Microbiology In Nuclear waste Disposal (MIND) programme is a unique multidisciplinary project which brings together a broad range of leading research institutions and stakeholders in the field of radioactive waste disposal to address the Euratom 2014-2015 Work Programme topic NFRP 6 – 2014: Supporting the implementation of the first-of-the-kind geological repositories.

The objectives of the project target key technical issues, involving microbial processes, which must be addressed to facilitate safe implementation of planned geological disposal projects in the EU. The knowledge of system-dependent microbial processes that affect repository safety and performance is incomplete because current safety assessment concepts either ignore microbial processes, or adopt a simplified approach to assess the performance and processes occurring in the waste form, backfill, buffer and host rock systemsThe objectives of this project will increase the understanding of how life processes will influence the safety and performance of future repositories, by focusing on key topics as defined in the most recent version of the IGD-TP strategic research agenda (SRA) (version July 14, 2011).

The following main objectives are planned:

  • Improving the geological safety case knowledge of the behaviour of organic containing long-lived intermediate level wastes (ILW) by research on the following objectives:

    • – To reduce uncertainty of safety-relevant microbial processes controlling radionuclide, chemical and gas release from
      long-lived intermediate level wastes (ILW) containing organics (SRA Key topic 2 sub topic 2)
      – To quantify the combined rates of biodegradation, radiolysis and hydrolysis of anthropogenic organic polymers and
      cellulose present in ILW under disposal conditions.
      – To identify key chemical species resulting from organic ILW biodegradation, radiolysis and hydrolysis and their effects
      on radionuclide speciation and mobility.
      – To establish the in situ chemical and physical conditions that may limit microbial activity in EU repository concepts
      for ILW utilising cementitious materials within a neutral pH host rock.
      – To examine the microbial generation and consumption of CH4 and H2 under ILW repository conditions.
      – To understand the effect of ILW heterogeneity on bioprocess pathways, pH and redox conditions, barrier degradation
      and radionuclide release.
  • Improving the safety case knowledge base about the influence of microbial processes on high level waste and spent fuel geological disposal:

    • – Quantify the contribution of microbially produced sulphide in the geosphere and in buffers and backfill to the overall
      rate of canister corrosion (SRA Key topic 3).
      – Characterize the impact of microbial activity on the long-term performance of bentonites and seals and plug systems
      in European geological disposal concepts (SRA Key topic 3, sub-topics 9 and 10).
      – Gain systematic information on the effectiveness of specific bentonite buffers and their properties (density, pH) in
      inhibiting microbial activity (SRA Key topic 3).
  • Integrate, communicate and disseminate results and conclusions from the above listed objectives to the broad European community involved in radioactive waste disposal:

    • -To evaluate and integrate microbial processes towards the conceptualization and performance assessment of geological
      repositories and in the respective state of the art knowledge base.
      – To estimate the impact of the inclusion of microbiology on expert conceptualisation and public perception of geological
      – To ensure proper contextualization of results and to extract remaining key topics within and beyond the MIND project
      by maintaining an active dialogue with stakeholders.
      – To identify and cultivate possible synergies of the MIND program and consortium with ongoing research lines of
      European laboratories and institutes outside the MIND consortium, with special attention for those in the less advanced
      member states.
      – To distribute knowledge on general geomicrobiology and the outcome of the experimental work packages to a broad
      audience, including students, professionals, the scientific community, stakeholders and the lay community.
  • Project management:

    • Management structures and procedures are established in order to provide for adequate implementation, communication
      within the project, reporting, dissemination and communication of the outcome of the project to interested parties. In
      this context the roles and responsibilities of different bodies and partners within the project are defined and adequate
      resources are provided.



These objectives have been developed with consultation of waste management organizations (WMOs) and are thus targeted at specific remaining issues concerning geological disposal of intermediate and high level radioactive wastes.  The objectives are defined by a prioritized top down approach rather than a bottom up approach driven by scientific curiosity. As such, the proposed research does not intend to carry out a complete assessment of the potential impact of microbiology on geological disposal. Rather, it is intended to contribute to a more complete and realistic safety case and to communicate the effects that microbiological processes will have on the geological disposal of intermediate and high level radioactive wastes.

MIND consortium