Deep Isolation publishes study of deep borehole disposal for the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

Press Release, Mar 20, 2023

Deep Isolation publishes study of deep borehole disposal for the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

London — Deep Isolation EMEA Ltd. has published a study, commissioned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), that provides an initial assessment of the role that the company’s directional borehole technology might play in supporting the UK Government’s strategic commitment to deep geological disposal of nuclear waste. The report can be found here

Key findings include:

  • Borehole disposal cannot replace the UK’s need for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), because it is not suited to the full diversity of the UK’s waste inventory.
  • However, the waste that is potentially compatible with deep borehole disposal includes all the UK’s heat-generating waste, accounting for 96% of forecast activity levels in 2200, assuming it can be appropriately packaged.
  • Cost estimates for the use of deep borehole technology vary across different geologies and between single-site and multi-site approaches.  Six scenarios for disposing all of the UK’s current and future forecast high-heat generating wastes vary in an initial estimate between £2.98 billion and £4.45 billion.

Nuclear Waste Services (NWS), the NDA business charged with developing and operating a Geologic Disposal Facility for the UK’s inventory of higher-activity radioactive waste has welcomed the study, which supports its mandate to review new and emerging technologies which could have the potential to improve the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity radioactive wastes.   

The study concludes that deep borehole disposal cannot replace the UK’s need for the GDF but may nevertheless have a helpful role to play in the disposal of some of the UK’s nuclear waste inventory, subject to further technical and business case development and assessment.  Deep Isolation’s recommendations to NDA include:

  • Undertaking more detailed business case work to assess the possible role for the technology as part of the NDA’s integrated waste management strategy
  • Engagement in international collaboration on demonstration of deep borehole technology.

“We are excited to have delivered this project for the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority” said Elizabeth Muller, CEO of Deep Isolation.  “NDA is a global leader, and I welcome their commitment to exploring the benefit of new and innovative options for nuclear waste disposal.” 

Publication of this study follows announcement by the UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero on February 8th 2023 that it is providing grant support to Deep Isolation EMEA Ltd to develop in the UK a corrosion-resistant canister capable of safely encapsulating spent fuel assemblies for disposal within deep borehole repositories 1 to 3 kilometers underground. Funding for this project comes from the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, part of the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio.  The canister will be tested at the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center, a new nonprofit initiative being launched with multinational support from government and industry bodies.


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 programmes to increase safety and reduce costs by moving certain waste streams into boreholes.

About NDA and NWS

NDA is charged, on behalf of government, with the mission to clean-up the UK’s earliest nuclear sites safely, securely and cost effectively – overcoming the challenges of nuclear clean-up and decommissioning to leave the 17 nuclear sites ready for their next use. NWS is the part of the NDA group responsible for Developing a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for the permanent disposal of higher activity radioactive wastes. The NWS – GDF – Annual Report 2020-2021 estimates the total whole life cost of the GDF program to be in the region of £20-£53 billion.

About the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center

The nonprofit Deep Borehole Demonstration Center was established on 1 December 2022 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.  The Board of Directors and Executive Director were announced on 12 January 2023, and full public launch was held on 27 February 2023 at the Waste Management Symposia in Phoenix, Arizona.

Press Contact
Deep Isolation, Inc.
2001 Addison St., Suite 300
Berkeley, CA 94704 USA