SDSU physics professor and coordinator of nuclear education (I like that job title!) Dr. Robert McTaggart is disappointed that our friends up in North Dakota nuked the Deep Borehole Field Test that would have studied the feasibility of sealing nuclear waste in three-mile-deep holes. He says nuclear power is good, and we need to do science to figure out what to do with nuclear waste:
Trying to halt nuclear energy altogether by opposing any kind of nuclear waste storage is misguided. It completely ignores the security issues and on-going costs of storing waste that has already been produced. Also, there would be the cost of replacing nuclear power with other carbon-free energy sources, and the cost of losing the most reliable form of baseload power we have to stabilize the electric grid.
…Until now we have gladly accepted the many benefits of nuclear technology, while kicking the can down the road with respect to our nuclear waste responsibilities. To store the waste that we have already produced, and to facilitate the generation of new clean energy, we must establish a robust process for disposing of our nuclear waste. This will not be possible without sound science and the consent of state and local governments [Dr. Robert McTaggart, “Address Concerns Re: Nuclear Waste Disposal,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.04.12].
Bill Wicker, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy, tells me that DOE is sticking with Battelle Memorial Institute, the organization that won DOE’s contract to conduct the Deep Borehole Field Test. Battelle spokesman T. R. Massey says Battelle is “examining several potential places around the country in concurrent fashion” as alternative sites for the DBFT but says “it would be imprudent to divulge the locations of those sites until we know more about each.” Wicker says DOE is not directing or recommending Battelle’s site selection process but will work with Battelle to ensure that whatever site it chooses is acceptable.
A source tells me that international engineering and design firm Parsons Brinckerhoff bid for the DBFT with a South Dakota site in mind. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology was one of the partners in the Parsons Brinckerhoff proposal. I contacted the School of Mines hoping to review that proposal, but Mines spokesperson Fran LeFort replied, “Proposals belong to the investigators who write the proposals and the university cannot release them.” Parsons Brinckerhoff has not yet replied to this blog’s request for comment.
- Dr. McTaggart has called the proposed Powertech-Azarga in situ uranium mine in the Southern Black Hills a “prudent” step in “reducing our dependence on imported uranium from countries in the former Soviet Union and moving toward cleaner energy.
- Meanwhile, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead wants to “double down” on coal, even as regulation and cheap natural gas cut the jobs and tax revenue to be made working the black seam together.