Our Technology

Deep Isolation leverages recent advances in directional drilling to provide a safe and less expensive approach to the long term storage and disposal of nuclear waste.

Spent Nuclear Fuel

Nuclear waste is composed of dense, compact pellets made of uranium dioxide and stored in a fuel assembly made of zirconium alloy that can hold 22,000 to 92,000 pellets.

When the fission energy in these pellets is spent, the assemblies along with their pellets are removed from the reactor and placed in cooling pools. After several years the radioactivity has decayed to the point where “dry” storage is possible; about one third of the current nuclear waste is stored in dry casks above ground at the nuclear reactor sites. This is considered to be “interim storage”; there is not yet any licensed location where the waste can be sent for long-term disposal.

Directional Drillhole Configuration

Rather than creating large tunnels, Deep Isolation will place nuclear waste in narrow 18-inch horizontal drillholes in rock that has been stable for millions of years. No humans need go underground.

The Deep Isolation repository begins with a vertical access drillhole extending thousands of feet deep and will then gently turn horizontal. Canisters containing nuclear waste would be stored in the deep horizontal section.

Benefits of this patented design:

  • One drillhole can store 5 years of waste from a Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) and 11 years of waste from a Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR).
  • Tilted horizontal drillhole offers excellent isolation from surface.
  • The drilling, placement, and retrieving techniques are standard and reliable.
  • Sites can be at or near power plants to minimize transportation.

Nuclear Waste Disposal Technology
How Deep Isolation will dispose of nuclear waste using directional drilling.

Geologic Isolation

A deep horizontal drillhole repository takes advantage of the exceptional isolation properties of geologic formations whose stability has endured for a million years or more.

Deep disposal would also be far below aquifers, in a region in which water has had no contact with the surface for a million years or more.

Deep, stable rock formations thousands of feet underground provide:

  • A billion tons of rock between the waste and the surface.
  • Extremely long time for waste to diffuse to the surface, even if it penetrates the engineered barriers, allows most radioisotopes time to decay naturally.

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Safety is Paramount

Experience with oil and gas drilling shows that the drilling itself does not trigger earthquakes; the observed earthquakes from oil and gas fracking come from the pumping of waste water into storage facilities, something that we will not need to do since we are not fracking. 

The geology of the deep horizontal repository also offers natural protection against human intrusion and terrorist attempts.

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Additional Resources

Technology of the Deep Isolation Repository

Dr. Richard Muller introduces our method and issues pertaining to safety requirements.

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Thermal Evolution near Heat-Generating Nuclear Waste Canisters Disposed in Horizontal Drillholes

This paper examines the impact that design parameters and host-rock thermal properties have on temperatures in and around the drillhole.

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Corrosion Resistant Alloy Canisters for Nuclear Waste Disposal

Joe Payer writes about how canisters made of highly corrosion resistant alloys can remain perforation free for 10,000’s of years.

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Deep Isolation Intellectual Property

Learn more about the Deep Isolation technology patent US10002683B2 for storing hazardous material in a subterranean formation.

Patent Information