Muller and Baltzer: Deep Isolation’s solution to nuclear waste disposal

Blog by Rod Baltzer, COO of Deep Isolation

Viewpoint: Yucca Mountain

North Portal of Yucca Mountain
The north portal of Yucca Mountain. Photo by Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun 3/27/98

I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the past year about Deep Isolation and our deep, geologic horizontal drilling solution for nuclear waste.  One frequent question I hear is “what is Deep Isolation’s position on Yucca Mountain as a repository for the US”? While there has been an extensive amount of time and effort invested in the proposed Yucca Mountain repository for nuclear waste, our company does not take a position and remains neutral on this decades-long effort. I think I should explain why in a little more detail.

The first thing I want to note is that there is no real need for Deep Isolation to have a position on the proposed Yucca Mountain repository, as its legislated capacity of 63,000 metric tons falls short of the nearly 80,000 metric tons of waste currently in the US. There is a daunting amount of waste to safely dispose of that already exceeds Yucca’s capacity. We think a Deep Isolation solution is a good option as a second repository.

It is also important to share something about Deep Isolation’s employees and consultants – they are a group of diverse, eclectic, and very thoughtful experts.  We have staff that has been involved in nuclear waste for their entire careers and those that didn’t know anything about nuclear waste until they joined the company.  It makes for some really interesting team meetings; but, it also gives each of us better insight into the values and concerns each of us bring to the company about nuclear waste – whether that is a concern with the status quo or a concern with a particular nuclear waste.

I personally have been involved in nuclear waste for over 20 years. I have my own views on Yucca Mountain as does everyone in the company. But we all equally recognize that there is enough nuclear waste to go around and that whatever solutions are chosen, the US needs to get its disposal efforts moving.

At Deep Isolation we have corporate values that encourage us to be inclusive and consider each other’s positions.  Our private owners and advisory board members have diverse views as well – but they all want a solution for nuclear waste.  We believe the Deep Isolation solution provides an additional disposition pathway for commercial spent nuclear fuel and DOE nuclear waste inventories and should be considered a second repository disposal option.

Deep Isolation’s charge is to make forward progress on nuclear waste disposal but to do so in a dialogue with all stakeholders.  We do that every day and hope you’ll join our discussions.

To follow our progress, please subscribe to our newsletter on our website.  You’ll then be informed of webinars and other opportunities to interact with us.

Company will Present Multiple Papers at the 2019 International High-Level Radioactive Waste Management in Knoxville, Tennessee 

Berkeley, CA – Deep Isolation, a leading innovator in nuclear waste disposal solutions, announces the publication of its paper, “Thermal evolution near heat-generating nuclear waste canisters disposed in horizontal drillholes” in Energies, a peer-reviewed open-access journal of energy-related scientific research, technology development, engineering, and policy and management.  The paper was published February 13, 2019, and was written by hydrogeologist Stefan Finsterle, alongside Deep Isolation colleagues Richard A. Muller, Rod A. Baltzer, Joe Payer, and James W. Rector.

A second paper, “Corrosion performance of engineered barrier system in deep horizontal drillholes,” written by Joe Payer, corrosion and reliability engineer at Deep Isolation and chief scientist emeritus for the National Corrosion Center at the University of Akron, has also been accepted for peer review in Energies on April 11, 2019. Coauthors include Finsterle, Muller, and John Apps.

Deep Isolation will give presentations on thermal issues and waste disposal canister design that draw from these papers at the International High-Level Radioactive Waste Management Conference (IHLRWM 2019) taking place April 14-18, 2019 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Two other papers covering drillhole technology and stakeholder engagement will also be discussed at the conference.

 “Deep Isolation is bringing something new to the table. Our technology for horizontal drillhole disposal is sound and our community-based siting approach is groundbreaking,” says Rod Baltzer, Deep Isolation’s COO. “Our disposal solution can be customized for a country’s needs and specific waste inventory.” 

Richard Muller, the Chief Technology Officer, said, “We believe that deep disposal of high-level nuclear waste in horizontal drillholes addresses a multitude of issues that challenged previous approaches while offering a less expensive solution. Even though we are a private company, we believe that transparency and full engagement with the scientific community is essential to assure the safety of the public, and publication of these papers is a key step in that process.”

IHLWRM 2019 is an international forum attended by hundreds of the world’s most reputable scientists, all working on issues surrounding long-term storage and disposal. It attracts an international audience from over 70 countries. This year’s theme centers around consent-based processes with an emphasis on information sharing across multiple generations.

The following four papers will highlight major aspects of Deep Isolation’s solution to the global nuclear waste disposal challenge:

  • Nuclear Waste Facility Siting: Learning from Success and Failure; Monday, April 15, 2:20 p.m. 
  • Corrosion Resistant Alloy Canisters for Nuclear Waste Disposal in Horizontal Drillholes; Tuesday, April 16, 10:15 a.m. 
  • Numerical Evaluation of Thermal Effects from Nuclear Waste Disposed in Horizontal Drillholes; Wednesday, April 17, 9:25 a.m. 
  • Deep Isolation: Innovative Technology for the Storage and Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and Other High-Level Waste; Thursday, April 18, 9:50 a.m. 

High-level waste such as spent nuclear fuel is currently stranded at points of generation in the U.S. and is waiting for permanent disposal. In the U.S., billions of taxpayer dollars have already been spent without yet obtaining a solution for nuclear waste. In addition, over 30 countries play host to a growing inventory of radioactive waste that is also waiting for disposal. Deep Isolation offers a global solution that provides a deep horizontal drillhole repository that could be near or at the point of waste generation, which would reduce the need for long-haul transportation.

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About Deep Isolation 
Berkeley-based Deep Isolation is a leading innovator in nuclear waste disposal solutions. Founded through a passion for environmental stewardship, scientific ingenuity, and American entrepreneurship, Deep Isolation’s world-class team of experts has developed a patented solution using directional drilling to safely secure waste deep underground. For more information, visit www.deepisolation.com or contact info@deepisolation.com. 

Press Contacts

Zann Aeck — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com  

Deep Isolation, Inc.
2001 Addison St, Ste. 300
Berkeley, CA 94704
www.deepisolation.com  

Deep Isolation team member giving presentation

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Blog by Joe Payer, Corrosion and Reliability Engineer

The “Right Stuff” for Nuclear Waste Disposal Canisters

The metal canisters that will hold the spent fuel or other high-level nuclear waste are part of Deep Isolation’s engineered barrier system; the canisters directly protect the waste from mechani­cal impact, exposure to the chemical environment, and contact with fluids. One of the key decisions then, to ensure the canister’s usefulness as a barrier, is the choice of material used. Our material selection process began with an extensive analysis of the peer-reviewed literature, over the course of months, which of course included examining test results and recorded observations and measurements. I was the lead as a senior corrosion engineer, but the entire technical team helped vet the choice of best material. Our decision is to use highly corrosion-resistant nickel-chromium-molybdenum (Ni-Cr-Mo) alloys which are very stable in the deep underground environment. These alloys also have high strength and are readily fabricable by conventional methods. My paper, “Corrosion-Resistant Alloy Canisters for Nuclear Waste Disposal in Horizontal Drillholes,” summarizes the technical basis for our selection of these alloys and gives both the experimental analysis and real-world experience on performance in a wide range of highly corrosive applications.

Deep Isolation Canister Cross-Section
Cross-section of the canister containing a fuel assembly.

How can we be sure that Ni-Cr-Mo alloys are the best choice for the long time periods needed? The answer lies in the fact that these alloys are passive, that is, they are protected by a self-forming and self-healing film if damaged either chemically or mechanically. This passive film is an extremely thin layer of a chromium-rich oxide, essentially a ceramic material. The general corrosion rates of the passive Ni-Cr-Mo alloy are extremely low; it would take 17,500 years for this type of corrosion to penetrate to the thickness of a quarter, and the canister’s thickness is equivalent to 5-6 quarters.

Corrosion of canister equal to 1 quarter after 17,500 years.
Canister thickness equivalent to 5-6 quarters.

The Ni-Cr-Mo alloys also have high resistance to the localized corrosion processes of pitting, crevice corrosion and stress-corrosion cracking. Alloy 22, one of the Ni-Cr-Mo alloys, is among the most resistant to microbially-induced corrosion; its MIC resistance has been examined under a range of conditions with no evidence of surface damage. Galvanic corrosion also needs to be taken into account and will be addressed when considering the effects of the Ni-Cr-Mo alloy upon the other metals incorporated in the repository, the relative surface areas and the conductivity of filler materials, and the pore waters present in the rock.

A number of beneficial attributes of disposal in deep horizontal drillholes reduce the complexity of corrosion analysis and contribute to our conclusions regarding the high performance of Ni-Cr-Mo alloy canisters.

Read more in my technical paper that has been recently accepted by Energies, a peer-reviewed journal.

Blog by Mary Woollen, Director of Community Engagement

Nuclear Waste. Would you like it here or there?

Green Eggs and Ham

I would not like it
Here or there.
I would not like it
Anywhere.

Nuclear waste.  It has been with us for over six decades with nowhere to go.  The first nuclear power plants came online in the United States in the 1950s. The push at the time was to get the plants operational and address the production of nuclear waste as a problem to be solved thereafter. It is now 60 years later and the questions of when, where, how, and for some even why, continues.

Many believe that it is morally wrong to continue production of nuclear power as long as there is no certain path for its disposal.  Others are advocates of nuclear power who believe it can be safely stored while we work to solve the problem. And then there are those (like me) who believe the problem needs to be addressed and solved regardless of whether the nuclear plant switch is on or off.

Unless you have been “in the dark or on a train” you are aware of the fact that there is no present workable solution to dispose of our nation’s growing inventories of nuclear waste.  Around 90,000 metric tons and growing.  There have been policies and plans set in motion to do so, but they have all been stalled primarily for social and political reasons.

In the U.S. as well as in other countries faced with this problem, the scientific consensus is that the best disposal solution for the waste is in a deep underground repository.  Although this is the goal most are pursuing, there is not one high-level waste repository to date that is operational. Finland is the closest to doing so at the Onkalo facility, but even that is not assured.

I have been in some conversations this past year in which people are floating some alternative means of disposal. And why wouldn’t they be – it has been a half-century since the first method was chosen.  These ideas range from shooting it to the moon, burying it in the deep seabed, disposing it in the Antarctic Ice Sheet, isolating it on a desert island, pitching it into a volcano.  I kid you not. 

I would not, could not, in a volcano.
Not in an Ice Sheet. Not on a moon.
Not on an island, not in the deep sea.
I do not like it, Sam, you see.

As far-fetched as they may seem, these and other options were all considered for the management and disposal of spent fuel.  This review of alternatives began in 1957, when the first National Academies study on the subject was published, to 1982 when the Nuclear Waste Policy Act put the choice of disposal in a mined deep geologic repository into law.   

There is no basis to challenge the finding that a suitable geologic environment at depth provides the most sound and secure means of isolating the waste, but options old and new deserve to be re-examined.  Technology and innovation have solved lots of age-old problems and it would seem only reasonable that there is additional knowledge to consider.

The logic would be that if we can refresh and defend the most viable option(s) we could bring renewed legitimacy to the task of disposing of waste and a societal issue that has not received its due. We then would need to apply all we have learned about how to best engage and collaborate with each other to find a suitable host location(s) to meet a commitment that we have grossly mishandled.

You do not like it.
So you say.
Try it! Try it!
And you may!

If the hunger is there, it is possible to serve up Green Eggs and Ham in a way that is socially responsible, technically feasible, and economically reasonable. And it may go down better than one may think. 

The End.

Blog by Zann Aeck, Marketing & Communications

Nuclear waste disposal demo – keeping the dialogue open

Recently, Liz Muller and I hosted a webinar about a public equipment demonstration that Deep Isolation conducted in January.   Our intent was to both re-engage people and groups with whom we’ve already connected and at the same time reach out to those not familiar with us. In doing so our goal was to share an important milestone not just as a company, but one for nuclear waste disposal in general. The outcome of this demonstration showed how today’s drilling technology can successfully be applied to deep geologic disposal of nuclear waste.

Liz began the session with a brief overview of the Deep Isolation technology and concept for implementing it to dispose of nuclear waste, and in doing so encouraged tough questions and input from all. She also highlighted the fact that in the months preceding the demonstration we met with the local community leaders on a few different occasions to get their full support. Liz then outlined the events of the public demonstration, spending time to show pictures of the prototype canister sized to fit the test facility’s drill hole and how it latches to the drilling rig.  Along with photos of the test facility, the canister lowering, and empty wireline surfacing, the play-by-play also featured a short clip that shows what we can’t see underground – how the canister rounds the wide curve and is pushed in place into the horizontal section. One of the highlights of the session featured comments from Jeremy Renshaw of EPRI who attended the demonstration.

To keep the session interactive, I asked Liz about 40 questions from the participants.  Questions covered topics such as geology, site analysis, monitoring, canister and fuel assembly specifications, comparisons with other solutions – both waste disposal and interim storage, regulatory standards, licensing, cost models, local community impact as well as our views on liability and responsibility for packaging the waste for disposal.

It is critical to our organization that we keep the lines of dialogue open with all groups that have a stake in nuclear waste disposal especially as we continue to move forward and gain significant ground in bringing a viable solution to a challenging market.

March 6, 2019, COO Rod Baltzer Will Present Innovation for the Storage and Disposal of High-Level Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel at the annual Waste Management Symposium in Phoenix AZ

Phoenix, AZ – Deep Isolation, a leading innovator in nuclear waste disposal solutions, will present their solution for spent nuclear fuel disposal at the 45th annual Waste Management Symposium on Wednesday, March 6th. The annual conference draws over 2,000 policy makers, industry representatives, and nuclear experts from around the world to exchange ideas and develop potential solutions to managing and dispositioning radioactive waste.

“We have something new to address a pressing global issue,” says Rod Baltzer, Deep Isolation’s Chief Operating Officer. “We have a solution to dispose of spent nuclear fuel deep underground. Our horizontal drillhole repository concept can remove the need for transportation and we have solved the retrievability concerns with borehole disposal approaches. We think others will be as enthusiastic as we are about the benefits we are bringing to the table.”

The Deep Isolation discussion will begin at 3:45 p.m. in Room 105C at the Phoenix Convention Center. Rod Baltzer will participate during the Innovation for the Storage and Disposal of High-Level Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel track, part of Session 098 in the WM2019 program, Stabilization/Immobilization of HLW, SNF/UNF and Long-Lived Alpha/TRU. The company will also exhibit the solution at booth #427.

High Level Waste (HLW) and Used Nuclear Fuel (UNF) have been stranded at points of generation waiting on a permanent, safe disposal solution. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on permanent nuclear waste disposal.  Over 30 countries play host to a growing stockpile of radioactive waste in need of a solution. Deep Isolation offers a solution that provides a deep geologic repository at the point of generation, removes the need for long-haul transportation, and can be deployed worldwide.

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About Deep Isolation
Berkeley based Deep Isolation is a leading innovator in nuclear waste disposal solutions. Founded through a passion for environmental stewardship, scientific ingenuity, and American entrepreneurship, Deep Isolation’s world-class team of experts has developed a patented solution using directional drilling to safely secure waste deep underground. For more information, contact info@deepisolation.com.

Press Contacts

Zann Aeck — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com  

Deep Isolation, Inc.
2001 Addison St, Ste. 300
Berkeley, CA 94704
www.deepisolation.com  

Deep Isolation team member giving presentation

Why Deep Isolation?

Our approach is more than just technology. It’s how we work.

Learn More

FAQS

Deep Isolation answers frequently asked questions about our technology, our process, and safety.

Deep Isolation Answers

Subscribe to Receive Our Newsletter

* indicates required

Subscribe to Receive Our Newsletter

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Contact

For more information about our solution, please contact us.

info@deepisolation.com+1 415 915 6506

Deep Isolation, Inc.
2120 University Avenue, Ste. 623
Berkeley, CA 94704