Blog by Liz Muller, CEO on April 16, 2018

Liz’s Story

Prior to forming Deep Isolation, I had never imagined myself working in the nuclear industry, let alone nuclear waste. I am a newcomer in a remarkably small field where everyone else seems to know one another. Well, now many of them already know about us.

The best problems are those that most people consider unsolvable, but which aren’t. It is unbelievable how many people warned us away from tackling the nuclear waste problem. Don’t we understand that our government isn’t functioning when it comes to nuclear waste? Don’t we understand that there hasn’t been any progress in over 30 years?

We took those warnings as an indication of opportunity. Despite the roadblocks set up by preconceived prejudices, I believe that the nuclear waste problem can be solved. Not only that, I believe it can be solved within the next few years. I will not pass on the problem to my two young children – the buck stops here.

Challenges are opportunities. We are doing something that has never been done before. And that’s much of what makes it so exciting.

At Berkeley Earth, I spent almost a decade tackling problems relating to global warming and air pollution. Those too are big problems, with vast amounts of misinformation and public confusion, disagreement among experts, and enormous political pressures. The key to a solution on global warming is strict objectivity, innovation, and careful analysis of contentious data. Now Deep Isolation is bringing that objectivity, together with some fresh ideas, to the nuclear waste industry. We can draw on the vast advances made by the drilling industry over the past 30 years, together with a few new concepts of our own, to dramatically improve the safety and reduce the cost of disposing of nuclear waste.

We don’t need to build vast centralized repositories with humans hauling highly radioactive waste underground. We can improve waste isolation by going deeper, while simultaneously decreasing the risks of transportation and exposure to workers.

One in three Americans currently lives within 50 miles of a nuclear waste repository. That’s because the current waste is stored temporary in cooling pools or in dry casks at nuclear reactors. Some communities are distressed by this situation, and the continued inability to move forward with any central disposal site. In many cases, Deep Isolation can offer communities a safer solution: put the current waste a mile down, and do it soon (within a few years). Communities that prefer to wait for a central government repository can do so. But for sites that are unhappy with the existing options, we provide an additional choice.

If they choose to do so, we can work together to secure the waste already in their community under a billion tons of rock. We plan to seek not only “informed consent” (which I consider a bare minimum), but “enthusiastic partnership”. We can start with the waste at just one site. We expect that as other communities see what Deep Isolation can do, they will want to join in this approach.

We are making significant progress in clearing the legal/regulatory path to using the Deep Isolation approach. We believe that the US government will move to level the field. Deep Isolation can meet the current strict NRC standards for nuclear waste. In our own internal reviews, we can be even more stringent.

Our government has failed to solve the nuclear waste problem. They keep struggling, but we know nobody in the field who expects them to provide a solution in the next twenty years. Deep Isolation is in this business to finally get the problem solved, and quickly.

Challenges are opportunities.