Deep Isolation receives ARPA-E award to further borehole disposal technologies

August 31, 2023, 7:03AMRadwaste Solutions

Deep Isolation announced this week that it has received funding from the Department of Energy to test a range of deep borehole disposal canisters at a test facility in Cameron, Texas, managed by the nonprofit Deep Borehole Demonstration Center.

The award is one of 18 projects selected by the DOE earlier this month as part of its $9 million funding initiative CREATE (Creating Revolutionary Energy and Technology Endeavors). Managed by the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, CREATE projects are intended to help shore up domestic energy production, improve energy efficiency and reliability, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Deep Isolation, the CREATE award represents a major early contribution to the work of the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center, a multinational initiative launched in February 2023 to provide a full-scale demonstration of deep borehole disposal.

The project: Deep Isolation’s winning proposal, Sequential Advancement of Technology for Deep Borehole Disposal (SAVANT), is valued at close to $500,000 and is being led by Ethan Bates, director of systems engineering for Deep Isolation.

The project focuses on laboratory and field testing of the universal canister system being developed by Deep Isolation. Deep borehole disposal and the canister designs being advanced could provide a safe disposal option for most heat-generating wastes currently in storage around the world and for a wide range of the spent fuels from major advanced nuclear reactors currently in development, the company said.

“Our technology readiness level assessments show that the canister emplacement and retrieval operations are key components of the wider disposal system that are priorities for additional tests and demonstration,” Bates said. “By conducting laboratory, surface, and subsurface testing of Deep Isolation’s canister designs at partner labs and at Cameron over the next two years, the SAVANT project will help us move deep borehole disposal as a total system from a conceptual design stage toward a licensing design stage.”

Ted Garrish, Deep Borehole Demonstration Center director, added, “This is an exciting development that will accelerate the work of the international public-private partnership that is coming together to demonstrate the whole system on an end-to-end basis at the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center.”

Supply chain development: According to Deep Isolation, the demonstration project will open a global opportunity for U.S. high-value manufacturing of deep borehole disposal system components, estimated to be worth $135 billion.

As part of the SAVANT project, Deep Isolation will partner with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to develop a U.S.-based supply chain to support large-scale manufacture of the universal canister system.

“The supply chains surrounding advanced nuclear technologies are a key priority for the successful deployment of these technologies,” said Craig Stover, senior program manager at EPRI. “The SAVANT project correctly identifies supply chain development as fundamental.”

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