IAEA launches new research project on deep borehole disposal

August 14, 2023, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
A schematic illustration of a deep borehole repository assuming disposal into a bedrock. (Image: Sandia National Laboratories via IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency is launching a new Coordinated Research Project (CRP) to increase international knowledge and drive progress toward testing deep borehole disposal for intermediate- and high-level radioactive waste.

According to the IAEA, the new project is in response to interest expressed by nations such as Australia, Croatia, Denmark, Norway, and Slovenia in further exploring the disposal method.

“Several countries want to find out if deep borehole disposal would be suitable for their specific waste inventories,” said Stefan Mayer, an expert in radioactive waste disposal at the IAEA. “The conceptual studies and generic assessments done so far look promising, and to take the idea further, the IAEA is inviting research organizations to join this four-year CRP, which aims to help countries make an informed decision on whether to choose DBD.”

The goal: According to the IAEA, the overall objective of the CRP is to provide a comprehensive suite of assessments at the strategic and programmatic level to help countries make an informed decision on deep borehole disposal.

The intention is to expand the scientific and technical groundwork demonstrating the safety and implementation of the disposal concept to effectively provide the basis for a future field-scale demonstrator. The CRP also hopes to develop preliminary plans for a field demonstrator of the deep borehole concept that aligns with the national needs of at least one of the CRP participants.

Specifics: The deep borehole CRP is open for research proposals with the following objectives:

  • Structuring the deep borehole disposal concept, the associated materials, concept of operations, as well as construction and closure; assessing and progressing, as needed, the corresponding technical readiness levels.
  • Identifying site data needs, and assessing and progressing, as needed, the capacity to conduct site characterization for deep borehole disposal.
  • Assessing and progressing, as needed, monitoring approaches allowing verification of the as-built conditions.
  • Considerations of safeguards by design.
  • Assessing and progressing, as needed, the suite of functions and performances the borehole disposal system is expected to deliver, as well as the associated scenarios; features, events, and processes; models; and simulation capacity.
  • Operational risk assessment and long-term safety assessment.

How to join: Proposals for research can be submitted by email no later than October 15 to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section, using CRP identifier T22003 and the appropriate template on the Coordinated Research Activities web portal.

Potential applicants are encouraged to use the contact form on the CRP page for further information related to the deep borehole disposal CRP.

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