Deep Isolation Announces New Award with the US Department of Energy on Sequential Advancement of Technology for Deep Borehole Disposal as Part of $9 Million Funding Initiative

BERKELEY, CA – Deep Isolation is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s $9 million “CREATE” funding initiative to help shore up domestic energy production, improve energy efficiency and reliability, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Deep Isolation’s selected project will deliver testing and demonstration of key technologies for deep borehole disposal at a test facility in Cameron, Texas managed by the non-profit Deep Borehole Demonstration Center.

The U.S. Department of Energy selected 18 projects covering a wide range of energy technologies across the nation, as part of the Creating Revolutionary Energy and Technology Endeavors (CREATE) Exploratory Topic managed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The selected projects support America’s net-zero goals while increasing energy and national security.

This investment by the U.S. Department of Energy represents a major early contribution to the work of the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center – a nonprofit, multinational initiative launched by international stakeholders in February 2023 to progressively implement a full-scale demonstration of deep borehole disposal. 

In the official ARPA-E announcement made earlier this month, Director Evelyn N. Wang said “the projects announced today are outside-the-box ideas, and present a variety of exciting ways to identify solutions and reach President Biden’s ambitious decarbonization goals”. Click here to read the ARPA-E press release.

Deep Isolation’s awarded proposal, titled Sequential Advancement of Technology for Deep Borehole Disposal (SAVANT) and led by Dr. Ethan Bates, Director of Systems Engineering for the company, is a close to half a million dollar project that focuses on laboratory and field testing of the Universal Canister System (UCS) being developed by Deep Isolation. Deep borehole disposal and the canister designs being advanced could provide a safe disposal option for most heat generating wastes currently in storage around the world and for a wide range of the spent fuels from major advanced nuclear reactors currently in development. Dr. Bates stated: “Our Technology Readiness Level assessments show that the canister emplacement and retrieval operations are key components of the wider disposal system that are priorities for additional tests and demonstration. By conducting laboratory, surface, and sub-surface testing of Deep Isolation’s canister designs at partner labs and at Cameron over the next two years, the SAVANT project will help us move deep borehole disposal as a total system from a conceptual design stage towards a licensing design stage”.

“This is another big achievement for our team, and a significant step forward for nuclear disposal”, said Rod Baltzer, COO at Deep Isolation. “I am very proud of our team and looking forward to working with global partners on tackling one of the biggest issues of our time”.  

Ted Garrish, Director of the independent, nonprofit Deep Borehole Demonstration Center, said: “This is an exciting development that will accelerate the work of the international, public-private-partnership that is coming together to demonstrate the whole system on an end-to-end basis at the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center.  I look forward to working with the Deep Isolation team to test the Universal Canister System and to share the results widely across the growing international community of stakeholders that see borehole disposal as pivotal to solving the world’s nuclear waste problem.”

This project supports ARPA-E’s mission of “improving management, clean-up and disposal of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel”.

In parallel, the project will open up a global opportunity for U.S. high-value manufacturing of deep borehole disposal system components estimated at $135 billion. As part of the SAVANT project, Deep Isolation will partner with EPRI (the Electric Power Research Institute) to develop a U.S. based supply chain to support large-scale manufacture of the Universal Canister System. Craig Stover, Senior Program Manager at EPRI, says: “The supply chains surrounding advanced nuclear technologies are a key priority for the successful deployment of these technologies. The SAVANT project correctly identifies supply chain development as fundamental. Deep borehole disposal is an important option for the nuclear power companies that EPRI works with, and our team looks forward to supporting this technology option as it matures.”


About Deep Isolation

Deep Isolation is a leading global innovator in nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions. Driven by a passion for environmental stewardship and scientific ingenuity, the company’s patented solution of advanced nuclear technologies enables global delivery through its partnerships with industry leaders as well as flexible IP licensing options.

About the Universal Canister System

Deep Isolation is developing – with support from the ARPA-E ONWARDS program – a Universal Canister System (UCS) for the safe storage, transport and disposal of spent nuclear fuel from advanced reactors. Once encapsulated in a UCS canister, the spent fuel from any advanced reactor will be both safe and future-proofed – that is, ready for any option the waste owner may choose in the future: long-term storage, disposal in a mined geologic disposal facility or disposal in a deep borehole repository. The prototype UCS canister being developed by the current ONWARDS project will be used for field testing at Cameron in Project SAVANT.    

About the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center

The nonprofit Deep Borehole Demonstration Center was established to provide interested entities and governments worldwide with an independent organization through which to commission projects that characterize and advance the technical readiness of deep borehole nuclear waste disposal technologies. Work at the Center kicked off in February 2023, when it worked with industry partners Deep Isolation, Amentum and NAC International to conduct a first series of tests in Cameron, Texas. The tests demonstrated the compatibility of a newly designed waste canister for a Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) spent nuclear fuel assembly with standard lifting equipment for the oil and gas industry for use in deep borehole disposal operations. The PWR canister (developed by Deep Isolation) is suitable for disposal of the great majority of spent fuel assemblies currently in existence, and forms a key technology building block being used to inform the development of the Universal Canister System for future disposal of spent fuel from advanced reactors.

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LONDON — Deep Isolation EMEA Limited has been contracted by the radioactive waste management organizations of Slovenia and Croatia, ARAO and the Fund for financing the decommissioning of the Krško NPP (Fond-NEK) respectively, to deliver a cost study for the potential borehole disposal of spent fuel and high-level radioactive wastes from the Krško Nuclear Power Plant.

This study will examine the costs associated with the disposal of the two countries’ shared inventory of PWR spent fuel assemblies in either generic crystalline basement geologies or shale geologies such as at the Krško power plant.   It will include cost comparisons for repository architectures based on both vertical and horizontal boreholes.  The results of this eight-month project are due to be delivered to ARAO and Fond-NEK in February 2024.

ARAO’s Head of Planning and Development, Leon Kegel says “We are working in parallel to update our estimates for the option to construct a mined repository for this waste, as well as working with Deep Isolation to quantify the economic benefits of the deep borehole option.  These projects will provide us with important cost data to inform our updated waste management strategy for Krško in 2024.”

This project builds on previous work that Deep Isolation has undertaken for Croatia and Slovenia: a preliminary high-level cost review undertaken as part of a wider review of deep borehole disposal across the European countries that are members of the ERDO Association; and a study carried out for ARAO in exploring boreholes as a safe and economic option for the disposal of Slovenia’s TRIGA II research reactor waste.

We are excited to be working with ARAO and the Fund again on this next project, “ said Chris Parker, Managing Director for Deep Isolation EMEA.  “The inventory of waste at Krško is extremely well suited to boreholes and we are keen to help the governments of Croatia and Slovenia to optimize their waste management strategy for Krško.”


About Deep Isolation

Deep Isolation specializes in deep borehole disposal of nuclear waste. We work with government waste management organizations to design a directionally-drilled borehole disposal solution that meets strict safety standards alongside local community preferences. We tailor our patented solution to the specific waste form, available geology options and local regulatory requirements of each client, with implementation through our partnerships with industry leaders as well as flexible IP licensing options.  Projects include advanced reactor and SMR waste disposal, stand-alone borehole disposal of small existing nuclear waste inventories, and working alongside mined repository programs to increase safety and reduce costs by moving certain waste streams into boreholes.

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Deep Isolation EMEA Limited
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In spite of its hydro and wind power (not to mention fossil fuel) resources, Norway is in the process of considering small nuclear reactors (SMR) for some applications. Far flung population and industrial centers may make SMRs useful to, for example, towns in the far north (above the arctic circle) that rely on fossil fuel for power and/or for hydrogen production to provide a possible alternative to fossil fuels for shipping and heavy industry. Norway always hedges its bets for future energy resources as fossil fuel demand decreases and before the real costs and capacities for floating offshore wind and grid upgrades are better known. And, not least, Norway wants to continue and to enhance its role as a major supplier of energy to Europe and the U.K.

TEXAS/HALDEN — Today, the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center is pleased to announce the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate on demonstration of deep borehole disposal in Norway in addition to its work in Cameron, Texas.

The MOU signing marks a milestone in the Center’s journey. The memorandum is with Norsk Kjernekraft, a recently established Norwegian company with the goal of building and operating Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in Norway, to provide clean and reliable power as Norway phases out fossil-fueled energy production leading up to net zero in 2050. 

The Center’s Executive Director, Ted Garrish (former Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy) is encouraged by these developments, and says “It is an exciting development to collaborate with Norsk Kjernekraft to explore opportunities for demonstration of borehole disposal technology in Norway. At the technical level, Norway’s crystalline rock, including granite, is a very different geology to the Center’s initial shale environment in Texas – so it helps demonstrate the wide variety of rock types that offer safe and effective options for deep borehole disposal. Further, it demonstrates that Europe’s SMR industry is rightly focused on the need to engage with communities in planning for waste disposal right from the outset.”

Jonny Hesthammer, CEO of Norsk Kjernekraft, said: “Norsk Kjernekraft is passionate about the benefits that nuclear power will bring to Norway’s net-zero energy market – and to achieve these we must show the communities we work in that there are practical solutions available to put the resulting waste safely and permanently out of contact with the biosphere. Deep borehole disposal is a technology that offers huge potential benefits to Norway – for our communities, and for our world-leading drilling industry – so I am delighted to be working with the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center to demonstrate this technology here in Norway.”

The Center is an independent, nonprofit, science-driven organization – funded on a multinational, public-private-partnership basis – with the aim to advance the maturity of the safety case for deep borehole disposal and the technical readiness levels of the disposal concept. Since the public launch at Waste Management Symposia in February 2023, the Center has been engaged in dialogue with a large number of interested parties and already has membership from organizations representing waste disposal interests in nine countries, from both the public and private sectors. The Center has already started its multi-year program of work to cumulatively deliver an end-to-end, non-radioactive demonstration of deep borehole disposal. The initial tests at Cameron in February 2023 successfully demonstrated the compatibility of a PWR waste canister with standard lifting equipment for the oil and gas industry for use in deep borehole disposal operations.


Learn more about the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center here.
Read the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center’s Strategic Plan.


About the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center
The nonprofit Deep Borehole Demonstration Center was established to provide interested entities and governments worldwide with an independent organization through which to commission projects that characterize and advance the technical readiness of deep borehole nuclear waste disposal technologies.

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