Deep Isolation to study borehole disposal in Slovenia

August 31, 2021, 6:59AMRadwaste Solutions
The TRIGA II research reactor at Slovenia’s Josef Stefan Institute. (Photo: Josef Stefan Institute)

The Berkeley, Calif.-based startup Deep Isolation has contracted with Slovenia’s radioactive waste management organization ARAO to conduct a feasibility study on the use of deep boreholes to dispose of the country’s spent research reactor fuel.

Under the contract, Deep Isolation will investigate whether a deep borehole repository would accommodate spent nuclear fuel from Slovenia’s TRIGA II research reactor at the Josef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana. The study will evaluate data about the research reactor’s spent fuel, provide cost estimates for constructing boreholes in granite and shale, and provide a timeline.

The reactor: The 250-kW TRIGA Mark II reactor began operations in 1966. One of 66 of its kind worldwide, the TRIGA reactor produces radioisotopes for use in the medicinal industry and science. It is also used as a source of neutrons for various experiments and for the training of personnel for the Krsko nuclear power station. The reactor is scheduled to be shut down in 2043.

They said it: “We are very interested in the potential for deep boreholes to provide a safe disposal solution for Slovenia’s spent nuclear fuel at a lower cost than in a mined repository,” said Leon Kegel, ARAO’s head of planning and development. “We are already studying this at the Krsko nuclear plant as part of a separate project with Deep Isolation and other ERDO [European Repository Development Organization] members. The TRIGA II project gives ARAO the opportunity to evaluate the potential for Slovenia’s research reactor fuel.”

Chris Parker, managing director of Deep Isolation EMEA Ltd., said, “Research reactors are an interesting market for Deep Isolation, and waste disposal is still an unsolved problem. More countries have research reactors than full-scale power plants. Slovenia is an early adopter in this market, and we expect that the work will show that deep borehole disposal is a cost-effective solution.”

The tech: Deep Isolation said that its deep borehole disposal technology, which combines directional drilling techniques with patented technologies and processes, can be deployed in many geologies. The company has completed other feasibility studies for advanced nuclear projects, including for the Electric Power Research Institute in the United States and Fermi Energia in Estonia.

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