Berkeley, Calif. — A new Deep Borehole Demonstration Center will be publicly launched Feb. 27 at the Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix, Ariz. It was founded as a new nonprofit organization and is open to participation from governments, utilities, nuclear operators and research organizations interested in studying nuclear waste disposal technologies for worldwide deployment.
The nonprofit’s Board of Directors includes Deep Isolation and inaugural members from the National Radiation Protection Institute in the Czech Republic, U.S.-based utility Southern Company and Deep Isolation’s CEO. The Board has appointed Ted Garrish, former Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy, to serve as Launch Executive Director.
“This is the beginning of being able to offer countries a new option: a deep borehole repository,” Garrish said. “This gives countries an alternative, and in some cases, boreholes could also work alongside mined repositories for particular waste streams, such as from advanced reactors. The Deep Borehole Demonstration Center will allow multinational and cross-organizational collaborations to begin the work of characterizing the entire system. This is how we get to the next stage.”
The impetus for the Center was an international survey of waste management organization stakeholders published by Deep Isolation and the University of Sheffield in March 2022. Four-out-of-five stakeholders surveyed for the report said they want more international collaboration to advance deep borehole disposal and agreed overwhelmingly that the key next step is a demonstration of the end-to-end technology.
“Our customers and prospective customers have been asking for something exactly like this — a facility designed to advance the development of the deep borehole repository concept so they can feel confident that, as they commission new nuclear power plants to meet net zero goals, they will be able to simultaneously plan for a flexible, affordable waste disposal solution,” said Deep Isolation CEO Liz Muller, chair of the Center’s board.
Using a membership-funded model, the Center will draw on international participation to demonstrate the viability of deep borehole technology and to develop improved guidance and international consensus around how regulators can best assess the safety case for deep borehole disposal.
The Center’s mission is to advance the maturity of the safety case for deep borehole disposal and the technical readiness levels of the disposal concept, including characterization, construction, canister handling, emplacement and retrieval.
The Center’s board also includes Jitka Mikšová, Head of the RWM Division at the National Radiation Protection Institute (SÚRO), Czech Republic, and Dr. Richard Esposito, R&D Program Manager for Geosciences & Carbon Management at Southern Company. The Board is also establishing an independent science-driven Advisory Committee to assist in ensuring transparency and scrutiny of the Center’s work.
Dr. Esposito of Southern Company said: “Deep borehole disposal brings an important new option to the table for geologic disposal of nuclear waste. We look forward to working with public and private sector partners worldwide to both evaluate and demonstrate the viability of the technology through the new Deep Borehole Demonstration Center.”
Mikšová of SÚRO said deep borehole disposal is especially of interest to countries with small waste inventories where a conventional mined geological repository is not economically efficient.
“The Center foundation is creating the right platform for the necessary demonstration of the feasibility of this disposal option, and one through which international teams can contribute to improving the borehole disposal technology with respect to the environment and further adapting it to country-specific conditions and building public confidence,” she said. “On behalf of the Czech partners I am representing, we are looking forward to engaging in the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center work.”
Further details of the government and industry organizations that are backing this work will be announced at Waste Management 2023. In the meantime, interested parties who would like to become members are welcome to contact the Center’s Launch Executive Director.
Garrish said, “The Center is ultimately about answering the age-old question, ‘What about the waste?’ which is inevitably posed by governments considering the merits of nuclear power. This is the question that we’ve got to answer. And that is what the Center was created to do.”
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.