Deep Isolation's patented technology leverages standard drilling technology that has been refined over the past two decades in the oil and gas industry. Deep Isolation had been testing its technology in private, and this was the first time that members of the public have been invited to see the demonstration. No radioactive material was used in the test, and the location was not one where actual waste would be deposited.
Participants saw first-hand the Deep Isolation prototype canister designed to hold highly radioactive nuclear waste and were able to tour the test rig and site while the test was being conducted.
The canister held no waste, but a steel rod simulated the weight of true waste. The canister was lowered over 2000ft deep in an existing drill hole using a wireline cable and then pushed using an underground tractor into a long horizontal storage section. The canister was released and the tractor and cable were withdrawn. Several hours later, the tractor was placed back in the hole, where it latched and retrieved the canister, bringing it back to the surface.
"Our team has worked tirelessly to reach this moment," said Rod Baltzer, Deep Isolation's COO. "We have been working on canister design, drilling technology, stakeholder engagement and other aspects, and today, we were able to show people our disposal concept using a prototype canister. It was incredibly special to share this accomplishment with many of the key people who have made it possible, and with our guests who can see how this solution could benefit them, their organisations and communities."
Dr Richard Muller, Deep Isolation CTO, noted: "We have not invented new drilling technology; the oil and gas industry has already perfected directional drilling. What we are doing is using this technology for an unexpected and extremely important new application. Right now, the US is holding 80,000t of highly radioactive nuclear waste. Something must be done with this, and every major scientific group that has studied the challenge concluded that putting it deep underground is the safest solution for the present and future generations." He further explained that the method has significant advantages over the widely considered alternative of putting the waste in mined tunnels. "A drilled repository allows you to go deeper while disturbing less rock. It is both safer and less expensive than a mined repository."