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The Deep Isolation Texas nuclear waste plan

An excellent article, explaining Deep Isolation, and thoroughly outlining the global problem of radioactive trash.
What a pity, then, that this article, and its title, mindlessly accept the current dogma about nuclear power being the solution to climate change!. To believe this is to ignore nuclear’s serious problems, and especially the fact that the thousands of nuclear reactors required would never be built in time to have any effect on global warming – even if that claim were true – which it isn’t.


The Deep Isolation Texas demonstration 

“………Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 site will remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years. In July 2019, 33 years after the explosion, 200 metric tons (220 tons) of uranium, plutonium, liquid fuel and irradiated dust was finally encased below an enormous 36,000-metric-ton (40,000-ton), €1.5 billion steel and concrete structure taller than the Statue of Liberty. The new sarcophagus will last about 100 years — after which it will deteriorate and future generations will have to decide how to dismantle and store it permanently.

Skip forward to Cameron, Texas, on January 16, 2019. This was a nerve-wracking day for Liz Muller, co-founder of California startup technology company Deep Isolation and her father, Richard Muller, professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and now chief technology officer at Deep Isolation.

The father-daughter team had invited 40 nuclear scientists, U.S. Department of Energy officials, oil and gas professionals, and environmentalists to witness the first-ever attempt to test whether the latest oil-fracking technology could be used to permanently dispose of the most dangerous nuclear waste.

At 11:30 a.m., the crew of oil workers used a wire cable to lower a 30-inch (80-centimeter)-long, 8-inch (20-centimeter)-wide 140-pound (64-kilogram) canister — filled with steel rather than radioactive waste — down a previously drilled borehole. Then, using a tool called a “tractor” invented by the industry to reach horizontally into mile-deep oil reservoirs, they pushed it 400 feet (120 meters) farther away from the borehole through the rock.

Five hours later, the crew used the tractor to relocate and collect the canister, attach it to the cable and pull it back to the surface — to the cheers of the workers. Until then, few people in the nuclear industry believed this could be done.

By avoiding the need to excavate large, expensive tunnels to store waste below ground, the Deep Isolation team believes it has found a solution to one of the world’s most intractable environmental problems — how to permanently dispose of and potentially retrieve the hundreds of thousands of tons of nuclear waste presently being stored at nuclear power plants and research and military stations around the world.

“We showed it could be done,” Elizabeth Muller says. “Horizontal, directional drilling has come a long way recently. This is now an off-the-shelf technology. Using larger canisters, we think about 300 boreholes with tunnels up to 2 miles (3 kilometers) long would be able to take much of the U.S.’s high-level nuclear waste. We think we can reduce by two-thirds the cost of permanent storage.” ……In 80-odd years of nuclear power, in which more than 450 commercial reactors, many experimental stations and tens of thousands of nuclear warheads have been built, great stockpiles of different levels of waste have accumulated.

Depending on how countries classify waste, only about 0.2–3% by volume is high-level waste, according to the World Nuclear Association, a London-based industry group that promotes nuclear power. Mostly derived from civil reactor fuel, this is some of the most dangerous material known on Earth, remaining radioactive for tens of thousands of years. It requires cooling and shielding indefinitely and contains 95% of the radioactivity related to nuclear power generation.

A further 7% or so by volume, known as intermediate waste, is made up of things like reactor components and graphite from reactor cores. This is also highly dangerous, but it can be stored in special canisters because it does not generate much heat.

The rest is made up of vast quantities of what is called low-level and very low level waste. This comprises scrap metal, paper, plastics, building materials and everything else radioactive involved in the operation and dismantling of nuclear facilities.

The consensus is that around 22,000 cubic meters (29,000 cubic yards) of solid high-level waste has accumulated in temporary storage but not been disposed of (moved to permanent storage) in 14 western countries, along with unknown amounts in China, Russia and at military stations. A further 460,000 cubic meters (600,000 cubic yards) of intermediate waste is being stored, and about 3.5 million cubic meters (4.6 million cubic yards) of low-level waste. Some 34,000 cubic meters (44,000 cubic yards) of new high-level and intermediate waste is generated each year by operating civil reactors, says another nuclear industry group, the World Nuclear Association (WNA).

The U.S., with 59 nuclear power plants comprising 97 working civil reactors each generating at least several tons of high-level waste per year, has around 90,000 metric tons (99,000 tons) of high-level waste awaiting permanent disposal, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Although it’s impossible to come up with a global total because of differences in how quantities are measured and reported, and with some inventories kept secret, other countries harbor significant amounts of waste as well.

Many Ideas

In the early days of nuclear power, waste of any sort was barely considered. BritishU.S. and Russian authorities, among others, dumped nuclear waste, including more than 150,000 metric tons (160,000 tons) of low-level waste at sea or in rivers. Since then, billions of dollars have been spent trying to identify how best to reduce the amount produced and then store it for what may be eternity.

Many ideas have been investigated, but most have been rejected as impractical, too expensive or ecologically unacceptable. They include shooting it into spaceisolating it in synthetic rockburying it in ice sheetsdumping it on the world’s most isolated islands; and dropping it to the bottom of the world’s deepest oceanic trenches.

Vertical boreholes up to 5,000 meters (16,000 feet) deep have also been proposed, and this option is said by some scientists to be promising. But there have been doubts because it is likely to be near impossible to retrieve waste from vertical boreholes…….

Only Finland is close to completing a deep repository for high-level waste. In May, work started on an “encapsulation” plant where waste will be packed inside copper canisters that will be transferred into 400- to 450-meter (1,300- to 1,500-foot)-deep underground tunnels. But doubt has been cast on the long-term safety of the canisters.

“The problem is intractable,” says Paul Dorfman, founder of the Nuclear Consulting Group, a group of around 120 international academics and independent experts in the fields of radiation waste, nuclear policy and environmental risk. “The bitter reality is that there is no scientifically proven way of disposing of the existential problem of high- and intermediate-level waste. Some countries have built repositories, some plan them. But given the huge technical uncertainties, if disposal does go ahead and anything goes wrong underground in the next millennia, then future generations risk profound widespread pollution.”

Many people now doubt that a satisfactory final repository will ever be found. …..

August 1, 2019 - Posted by | USA, wastes

1 Comment »

  1. It is good to isolate nuclear waste. They actually did nuclear fracking in the sixties, in Nevada. Halliburten did it. It is how they invented fracking. They did it cause the government paid them and learned how to frack well in the process.
    I cannot find any articles on Nevada Nuclear Waste Fracking, from the sixties now.
    What they need to do mainly, is to shutdown the nuclear power plants and stop making any nuclear waste. Stop polluting the workd with the fuel cycle and uranium wastes. The world is overcontaminated now.

    There is no panacea with this stuff. Fracking radioactive waste deep, in the 60s still contaminated the water supply of Fallon Nevada. It created a huge cancer cluster there.

    If they could find a safe way to sequester waste, this way and also create some safer deep repositories, not relying on any one thing, it would be best.

    I will deeply search the inet google and google scholar since enenews is dead now, to find the articles of nuclear fracking in the sixties in Nevada and by Fallon. Google is really sucking these days. The government or the nucleaoapes or someone else is busily scrubbing the internet of Nuclear information and articles that were there 4 or 5 years ago. It was always hard to get good information anyway, in the american nuclear-security state and world nucleoape apparatus

    –This comment will probably be censored–

    Comment by Ken Raskin | August 1, 2019 | Reply

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