Nuclear waste well display center started

A diagram of what a waste well might look like, with various additional things to scale included.
Zoom in / An artist’s impression of a deep pit for nuclear waste disposal by Sandia National Laboratories in 2012. The red lines show the depth of the mined repositories: Onkalo is the Finnish repository, and WIPP is the US Department of Energy’s defense waste repository in New Mexico.

Sandia National Laboratories

Deep isolationa company founded in 2016 and headquartered in California, launched “Deep Well Demonstration CenterOn February 27th. It aims to show that get rid of nuclear waste In deep wells is a safe and practical alternative to the mined tunnels that make up most designs today for nuclear waste repositories.

But while the launch has identified initial board members and published a high-level plan, the startup doesn’t yet have a permanent site, nor does it have the funds secured to complete its planned drilling and testing program.

Although the idea of ​​using deep wells to dispose of nuclear waste Not newNo one has proven successful. The Deep Wells Demonstration Center aims to be a comprehensive demonstration on a large scale, testing everything: safe handling of waste containers at the surface, disposal, retrieval and permanent sealing deep underground. You will also practice techniques to ensure that underground seeps do not eventually contaminate the surface environment, even thousands of years after their disposal.

But it will do all of that without any actual nuclear waste: “To be clear, this site will never be used for radioactive waste disposal,” said Liz Mueller, CEO of Deep Isolation and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center.

“The goal is to bring people together to understand the key issues that need to be resolved before we move forward,” said Ted Gresh, executive director of Launch Center. “There’s nothing really new here in terms of the actual technologies; it’s just that they marry each other and do it in a nuclear environment.”

Universal tray

By the time of this announcement, the Center’s first exercise on “marrying” standard oil exploration and nuclear technology had already begun. In February, there was a technical demonstration at a well equipment test site near Cameron, Texas. “We had to have a bolt-on mechanism for this nuclear-designed canister to attach to standard oil and gas fittings,” Mueller explained.

They used a newly designed enclosure large enough to enclose a 14-foot long box Fuel collection from pressurized water reactor (PWR). They sealed it using standard oilfield equipment, lowered it through the rig floor, and unscrewed it there. They later returned it and confiscated it again.

Funded by the US Department of Energy ARPA-E The Deep Isolation program is to design a new universal canister that can fit into the wellbore and dispose of the waste from the well Various reactor designs, not just PWRs: “We’re talking to a number of different advanced reactor companies, what would their waste be like, can we design it in a way that fits into this universal can?” said Mueller, who believes they should all fit in a canister the same size as the PWR spent fuel canister used in the February test.

decentralized disposal

The overall enclosure should make deep wells suitable for a variety of nuclear waste, while the depth of wells should make them suitable for a variety of locations.

At the depths where excavated nuclear waste repositories are located—about 400 meters deep—there is usually plenty of groundwater flowing that could carry pollutants to the surface. So mining repositories for nuclear waste must find uncommon locations, ones where the rock is tight and the water is still, ensuring that leaks in the repository don’t move away, even after thousands of years. But by going deeper, Müller argues, waste can be placed at depths where groundwater flow would normally be minimal, so there are far fewer restrictions on suitable locations. “The geology is much more fluid than when you look at a mining deposit,” Mueller said. “When you go deeper, when you go a kilometer, or two kilometers down, there are many suitable sites.”

This means that there will likely be deep well disposal facilities in most places where nuclear waste is generated, reducing the need to ship nuclear waste to a central facility, such as to fail Location of Yucca Mountain in Nevada. “We expect the first iterations of Deep Isolation technology to be at existing waste facilities,” Mueller said.

“I think if we’ve learned anything from the attempts to … consolidate positions and move [nuclear waste] Across the states, I think the big, big, big lesson of coming home is: Don’t do it! Transportation of nuclear waste continues to this day, Mueller said. cited as one of the objections From Nevada to the Yucca Mountain disposal site.

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