The deep borehole method of the non-retrievable burial of nuclear waste has been discussed for more than half a century, but it remains in the form of projects, and up until now it has not been implemented by any country (World Nuclear Association par. 23). This approach presupposes drilling an on- or offshore borehole and filling 2000 meters with nuclear or vitrified radioactive waste (World Nuclear Association par. 21). The borehole is then sealed with about 3000 meters of bentonite or similar materials. The method is supposed to be feasible for relatively small amounts of waste that are not suitable for re-use; when compared to mined repositories it appears more expensive as it is situated at a greater depth (“Team selected for US deep borehole field test” par. 2)
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The United States plans to carry out a study devoted to the feasibility of deep boreholes as a means of nuclear waste disposal. To experiment with this method, a grand field test will be run in North Dakota that will involve drilling a 16,000 feet (4880 meters) borehole into crystalline basement rock. The projects’ team consists of the US Department of Energy, “the University of Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center, Schlumberger of Houston, Texas, and Swiss company Solexperts” (“Team” par. 2). The test is meant to investigate the possible difficulties, indicate the issues, and provide the opportunity for the development of specific techniques of drilling, stability, and safety ensuring, sealing, and other that will be required in the process. According to the US Energy Secretary, this is only a first step that will advance the understanding of the use of crystalline rock formations, and long-term nuclear waste repositories are only one of their possible applications. As a result, the test can provide the information that may be employed in the future when considering the use and working with other similar regions that have been found across the US and undoubtedly can be discovered in other countries.
The US Department of Energy considers deep boreholes a promising or “robust” means of waste isolation that can offer faster disposals than mined repositories (World Nuclear Association par. 23). However, the US is not the only country to investigate the method. As it was mentioned it is still in development, but the projects have been considered in countries “including Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland” (World Nuclear Association par. 22It is noteworthy that the issue of the feasibility of these projects is still questionable, and the US is unique in actually preparing to test it.
For example, in Sweden, there is a “large-scale geological structure of the crystalline rock” at Forsmark (Follin et al. 313). In other words, this area is technically suitable for the deep borehole method, and it has been considered in this respect, but it was given up eventually. Currently, Forsmark is in operation as a mined final repository for high-level waste (Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB par. 1-2; “The Forsmark NPP” par. 1-5). The issue of the safe disposal of nuclear waste in Sweden is, therefore, solved with the help of another method of geological storage for the time being (Andersson et al. 1054). Still, the results provided by the US field test may provide the necessary impact for other countries to consider testing or otherwise implementing the method (World Nuclear Association par. 23).
Andersson, Johan, Kristina Skagius, Anders Winberg, Tobias Lindborg, and Anders Strom. “Site-Descriptive Modelling for a Final Repository for Spent Nuclear Fuel in Sweden.” Environmental Earth Sciences 69.3 (2013): 1045-60. ProQuest. Web.
Follin, Sven, Lee Hartley, Ingvar Rhén, Peter Jackson, Steven Joyce, David Roberts, and Ben Swift. “A Methodology to Constrain the Parameters of a Hydrogeological Discrete Fracture Network Model for Sparsely Fractured Crystalline Rock, Exemplified by Data from the Proposed High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository Site at Forsmark, Sweden.” Hydrogeology Journal 22.2 (2014): 313-31.ProQuest. Web.
Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB. “The Final Repository SFR.” Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB Website. Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB, 2015. Web.
“Team selected for US deep borehole field test.” World Nuclear News. 2016. Web.
“The Forsmark NPP, in Sweden, will be first to house a deep geological repository for its high-level radioactive waste.” ENS News. 2009. Web.
World Nuclear Association. “Radioactive Waste Management Appendix 2: Storage and Disposal Options.” World Nuclear Association Website. World Nuclear Association. 2016. Web.