Deep Isolation Is Thinking Ahead

Image: Deep Isolation

Deep Isolation and its partners have built a first prototype of a nuclear waste disposal canister. It’s an important step toward a working system to safely dispose of spent fuel in boreholes deep beneath the Earth’s surface.

Buried deep: Deep Isolation is on a mission to develop a long-term solution for disposing of nuclear waste in boreholes. Borehole disposal has a much smaller footprint than a mined repository for waste would, and it uses directional drilling to eliminate the need for humans to go underground with the waste.

The canister prototype unveiled last week was manufactured by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Center. It’s about 5 m long, weighs 2,000+ kg, and resists corrosion sufficiently to meet UK regulatory requirements for permanent nuclear waste disposal. And it would fit nice and snugly into a borehole.

Make it universal: In addition to this prototype, which was developed under a UK government partnership, Deep Isolation is also working on building a universal canister for waste disposal under an Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) contract with the DOE.

  • Deep Isolation won a $3.6M award to build a universal canister.
  • The design “can be used for various different types of advanced reactor waste, and…both for temporary storage and for eventual disposal of that waste,” Deep Isolation CEO Liz Muller told Ignition in a recent interview.
  • Using a single canister for temporary storage and permanent disposal reduces the complexity and danger of transferring waste.

What’s next? Now that the team has delivered its first prototype, it’s time for testing. The Deep Borehole Demonstration Center will host the canister for testing. A second prototype is in the works for 2025 delivery, with the team applying lessons learned from the first version.

+ Want more? Check out our recent Q+A with Liz Muller, where we talked about the climate tech → nuclear energy pipeline, the challenges of getting the public on board, and a whole lot more.

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