Deep borehole repository could be cost-effective waste disposal option for Slovenia’s research reactor and nuclear power plant

LONDON – A preliminary study the ARAO commissioned in partnership with Deep Isolation finds that deep borehole disposal offers a safe, cost-effective solution for disposing of spent fuel from the Slovenia TRIGA II research reactor, set for decommissioning in 2043.

Of the options studied, the most cost-effective approach would be to build one deep borehole repository for fuel from both the TRIGA II reactor and Slovenia’s Krško nuclear power plant.

The TRIGA II study follows a Dec. 14 Deep Isolation study, published by Norwegian Nuclear Decommissioning, of Krško fuel disposal options and fuel inventories from four other European countries. It concluded that deep borehole disposal is a viable, cost-effective solution for all of the five participating countries’ high-level and intermediate-level long-lived nuclear waste.   

If Slovenia decided to implement a deep borehole disposal repository for Krško fuel, then the simplest and most inexpensive way to dispose of the TRIGA II waste would be within that same repository, with the TRIGA II waste requiring just one additional disposal canister. 

Another option for TRIGA II would be to find a location where a community would be willing to host a micro-repository to dispose of all the research waste in a single borehole with a small footprint, avoiding temporary storage costs. This pathfinder project could represent an invaluable contribution to research, demonstration and site characterization for a broader national repository — regardless of whether the Slovenian government decides to build a deep borehole or a traditional mined repository for Krško fuel.

Deep borehole disposal is becoming increasingly attractive to many countries, including NND study participants — Slovenia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Croatia — because they have small waste inventories, making a mined repository a more cumbersome, less affordable option. Deep borehole disposal benefits include: safety-at-depth (shown in evidence-based modeling that exceeds expected regulatory requirements when modeled for 1 million years at peak dose); greater flexibility in repository locations; implementation in shorter timeframes; and reduced financial risk due to the maturity of drilling industry costs.

“Deep borehole disposal is an important alternative option for us to consider in Slovenia,” said Leon Kegel, Head of Planning and Development at the Slovenian Radioactive Waste Management Organisation (ARAO).  “Deep Isolation’s recent work — for Slovenia on the TRIGA II fuel and for Slovenia, Croatia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway on disposal of commercial spent fuel and other high-level wastes — has been very helpful in highlighting the potential benefits, the increasing maturity of, and required next steps for deep borehole disposal as an alternative or addition to engineered mined geological repositories.”

The Slovenia and NND studies make a strong case for further international collaboration on a research demonstration project to gain technical and scientific knowledge about deep borehole disposal of nuclear waste, said Chris Parker, Managing Director of Deep Isolation EMEA Ltd. 

“This is more pressing as Europe looks to invest in new nuclear power as part of its low-carbon future,” Parker said. “Deep Isolation looks forward to partnering with Slovenia and other governments on a sustainable plan for the spent fuel.” 

Slovenia TRIGA II research reactor building
Slovenia TRIGA II research reactor building

About Deep Isolation
Deep Isolation is a leading global innovator in nuclear waste storage and disposal. Founded through a passion for environmental stewardship, scientific ingenuity, and entrepreneurship, Deep Isolation has developed a patented solution using directional drilling and inclusive community engagement to safely isolate nuclear waste deep underground.

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Kari Hulac — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com

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

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Berkeley, CA – Deep Isolation, a leading innovator in spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level nuclear waste (HLW) storage and disposal solutions, announced today it has acquired Freestone Environmental Services, a multi-discipline environmental and water resources consulting firm based in Richland, Wash. 

Freestone Environmental, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Deep Isolation, brings to Deep Isolation a team of 25 scientists and engineers experienced in providing services to public and private sector clients, with the most notable being the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford project, one of the largest nuclear weapons production clean-up efforts in the world.

“We are pleased to welcome Freestone as a Deep Isolation company,” said Deep Isolation CEO Liz Muller. “Freestone has a track record of delivering high-quality regulatory planning and environmental clean-up projects for government customers. These are essential elements of solving the nuclear waste disposal problem, and we are excited about our future.”

The acquisition broadens the depth of Deep Isolation’s science and technology teams, adding a cadre of scientists and engineers with expertise in environmental investigations and with providing scientific and regulatory support services to their clients.

The Freestone team, led by President Steve Airhart, a geologist, boasts decades of professional consulting experience with the environmental industry.

“We’ve been watching Deep Isolation’s progress toward solving the seemingly unsolvable problem of nuclear waste disposal, and we’re excited to join such an important mission,” Airhart said. “Having been involved in work at Hanford and the commercial nuclear industry, we know firsthand how critical it is to find a safe, permanent home for nuclear waste. Combining Freestone’s Hanford site consulting experience with Deep Isolation’s scientific and technological waste disposal capabilities will benefit both companies.” 

Deep Isolation has recently seen renewed global interest in deep borehole technology as a safe and flexible solution for nuclear waste disposal that could be simpler to deploy than a mined repository for many countries. Deep Isolation is investigating deep borehole disposal at potential locations around the globe and continues to be open to conversations with communities.

“This acquisition is a significant milestone in the history of both of our companies. It gives Deep Isolation access to experts with a wealth of real-world nuclear waste clean-up experience and opens up Freestone to new opportunities through our global network,” said Deep Isolation Chief Operating Officer Rod Baltzer. 

Baltzer will oversee the interface of Freestone’s operations with Deep Isolation. Airhart will remain President of Freestone and maintain responsibility for its daily operations.

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About Deep Isolation

Berkeley-based Deep Isolation is a leading innovator in nuclear waste storage and disposal. Founded through a passion for environmental stewardship, scientific ingenuity, and entrepreneurship, Deep Isolation has developed a patented solution using directional drilling and inclusive community engagement to safely isolate nuclear waste deep underground.

About Freestone Environmental Services

Washington-based Freestone Environmental Services, like its namesake — a swift-flowing stream that turns and wears smooth the streambed’s stones — brings experience, fresh perspective and energy to solve the complex environmental challenges of today via science-based, cost-effective solutions that are responsive and focused. Freestone provides services in environmental site characterization, planning and remediation, and in management of water resources for commercial and public sector clients, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Press Contacts

Kari Hulac — Deep Isolation
media@deepisolation.com

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

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