Mr. Pay alerts us to the sinking of the borehole nuclear waste disposal test project in North Dakota and the possibility that South Dakota might get a second look for hosting this engineering endeavor.
In January, the feds chose Rugby, North Dakota, as the site of their five-year, $35-million project to test the feasibility of drilling a 16,000-foot-deep hole and burying nuclear waste at the bottom.
Rugby is about an hour east of Minot on the Amtrak Empire Builder and 45 miles south of the Canadian border. The town bills itself as the geographical center of North America, though that place is actually 16 miles southwest of town.
When the Pierce County Commission held a public information session on the project in February, about 300 people showed up to ask about the engineering, the economic and environmental impacts, and, perhaps most importantly, the possibility that, once drilled, the borehole would become an actual nuclear waste dump. A neighboring county commissioner said many folks in the area believe if the test succeeded, the feds wouldn’t let a big usable hole go to waste (maybe I should rephrase that?) and Rugby would indeed become a nuclear waste dump. After receiving a petition with 2,000 signatures opposing the project, the Pierce County Commission voted March 8 not to allow the borehole in their turf.
So where do the feds turn now? As Mr. Pay helped report last October, South Dakota was one of three good borehole locations listed in a 2014 paper prepared by Sandia National Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy. An article in Science yesterday says Ohio-based nonprofit research firm Battelle Memorial Institute still wants to start drilling somewhere this year. Says Science, “Programs in Texas, South Dakota, and South Carolina had submitted bids before North Dakota was initially chosen, an EERC official told the audience in Pierce County.”
Even if you don’t like nuclear power, we’ve got seventy years’ worth of nuclear waste sitting around and no permanent place in the U.S. to put it. Rugby said no to testing one disposal method; should South Dakota follow their lead?