Sure enough, the Deep Borehole Field Test could come to South Dakota. The Pierce County Commission gave the project the boot from North Dakota last month; now Ohio-based nonprofit research firm Battelle Memorial Institute says it is considering Spink County, the area discussed in my October 2015 post on the topic, as its new site for the Deep Borehole Field Test.
Battelle and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology will host two public meetings next week to discuss this engineering research. The first will be at the Hitchcock-Tulare High School in Tulare on Wednesday, April 27, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The second meeting will be at the Spink County 4-H building in Redfield on Thursday, April 28, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The DBFT is intended to test the feasibility of digging holes more than three miles deep to dispose of nuclear waste. However, Battelle says no nuclear waste will come to Spink County, even if they do punch a big deep hole into our bedrock, since the Dakota Aquifer is too darn close for regulatory comfort.
Here’s Battelle’s press release in full:
Battelle, South Dakota School of Mines to Hold Open House Meetings in Tulare and Redfield
SPINK COUNTY, South Dakota – Battelle and a team that features the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SD Mines) and Rapid City-based RESPEC is considering sites in Spink County, South Dakota for scientific experiments in crystalline granite rock formations as deep as 3.2 miles below ground.
A final decision has yet to be made on whether the rock formations in this area are suitable for this Deep Borehole Field Test (DBFT), but Battelle and SD Mines will hold at least two open house meetings in Spink County to answer questions from the local community about this research.
The DBFT would continue the theme of South Dakota’s long history of pioneering underground research, such as the work being done at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), in Lead, SD, that explores dark matter and the early origins of the universe. The SD Mines also continues its work on the state-funded Shale Research Initiative. Similar to the work in Lead, the DBFT is funded by the United States Department of Energy (DOE).
The Field Test is intended to increase scientific understanding of the potential uses for crystalline rock formations. This includes the potential for disposal of certain types of radioactive waste, but also includes the potential for geothermal energy development. It is important to note that no radioactive waste will be used in this project.
The project also benefits South Dakota and Spink County, where it is projected to have a five- year, $1 million local economic impact and $10 million in the state.
While the rock (the Benson Block) seems to be ideal for scientific study, it will not be considered as a potential disposal site for radioactive waste. Due to the proximity of subsurface water (the Dakota aquifer) in the area, nothing beyond geological research can be done as part of this project. Regulatory standards for nuclear waste disposal are extremely demanding, and due to the close proximity of water to the granite, this site is not expected to meet those performance standards. The DOE has no plans to use the field test site for the disposal of radioactive waste. Additionally, it would be performed on private land where the owners do not wish to host a waste disposal site.
If scientists from SD Mines and Battelle determine that Spink County is suitable for geological study, the DBFT would investigate the type of rocks, the chemistry of the water, the depths of these rocks and water and the temperature deep underground. It will also provide a unique opportunity to gather other deep local geologic data and may have follow-on potential for geothermal research.
The project could last as long as five years, with drilling of the characterization hole taking six to eight months. After drilling, a series of tests will be done inside of the borehole that will last approximately another six months. After these tests are studied, a second deep borehole could be drilled to conduct further testing of the engineering and scientific characteristics of deep boreholes. Neither of these tests will involve radioactive material.
Spink County is one of several sites around the country that are currently under consideration for this research.
Details on the planned open house meetings are included below.
Open house meetings to share information on the Deep Borehole Field Test, to be done by Battelle and the South Dakota School of Mines
Tulare High School gymnasium, 401 4th Street, Tulare, SD 57476
Spink County Fairgrounds 4-H building, 38497 174th St., Redfield, SD 57469
Representatives from South Dakota School of Mines, RESPEC, Schlumberger, Battelle and the U.S. Department of Energy
April 27 Tulare High School 6-9 p.m.
April 28 Spink County/Redfield 4H building 6-9 p.m.