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Environment

Borehole Testing For Spent Nukes

by Steven K. Gibb
July 20, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 29

The Department of Energy is investigating deep borehole storage as an alternative way to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive waste. Deep borehole disposal consists of drilling 5,000 meters deep, putting waste canisters in the lower part of the borehole, and sealing the upper parts with bentonite—an absorbent clay—and concrete to prevent leakage. DOE is seeking contractor support for a borehole field test given opposition by the White House and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to storing waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain facility. President Barack Obama’s July 10 designation of the Basin & Range National Monument in Nevada as a 704,000-acre protected zone further constrains spent-fuel rail transport options to the Yucca site. DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz says 1,936 strontium and cesium capsules from the department’s site in Hanford, Wash., could be disposed of sooner if a borehole demonstration project were successful. The borehole field project tests slated for the next five years will not be conducted using radioactive materials.

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