Best Way to Protect Our Sacred Land from Borehole Nuclear Waste? Democracy.

The most challenging part of this is the social aspect….
—Andy Griffith, U.S. Department of Energy,
on the Deep Borehole Field Test, 2016.04.28.

We may not have had the Governor in Redfield for last night’s public meeting on the Deep Borehole Field Test, but we did have a governor:

Spink County resident and former Governor Harvey Wollman speaks to his neighbors and Deep Borehole Field Test officials. Photo by CAH, Redfield, SD, 2016.04.28.
Spink County resident and former Governor Harvey Wollman speaks to his neighbors and Deep Borehole Field Test officials. Photo by CAH, Redfield, SD, 2016.04.28.

Harvey Wollman, who, among other things, governed our state for half a year, offered perhaps the calmest and most reasoned comments from the floor… and certainly the most statesmanlike. He spoke of the strong emotions evident in his neighbors’ questions and arguments. He spoke of the understandable fear roused by anything remotely associated with the word nuclear. Wollman said he doesn’t have a problem with the science of the Borehole project. However, he said that arable land is precious, and that “just invading it with a pipeline upsets me.” To overcome that emotion, Wollman said Battelle has to help his neighbors understand this project, understand the need for research on nuclear waste disposal, and understand that this project poses no danger to their sacred (Harvey used that word) land:

“Please understand the mood of my Spink County people here. They are not crazy, they are not irrational, they’re just protective of this beautiful area, and they are very cautious about it becoming something they do not want it to become,” he said.

Wollman’s comments drew applause at the meeting, and [USDOE’s Andy] Griffith called them eloquent [Shannon Marvel, “Spink County Residents Express Concerns About Borehole Drilling Proposal,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.04.29].

KSFY screen cap, 2016.04.25
Hmmm… are these words in KSFY’s first report what the lady meant by media misinformation?

Receiving equally vigorous applause was a woman who blamed the media for misinforming everyone about nuclear waste coming to Spink County, then said we should welcome this project because Redfield is dying. Redfield can’t recruit professionals, she said, only meth-heads who sponge off welfare. Applause.

Much of the rest of the two-hour-plus question-and-answer session had the experts from Battelle, the Department of Energy, and the School of Mines patiently repeating reasonable responses to people who came convinced that they couldn’t believe anything they heard anyway and who thus played Matlock or Erin Brockovich, mingling recitations of Web printouts with rapid-fire yes/no cross examinations, trying to box the witnesses into a lie.

Three key logical fallacies rose from the audience:

First, much nodding and affirmative rhubarb-in-the-suburbs greeted one woman who established the veracity of her opposition to the Borehole project by citing her status as a veteran and by noting the thickness of the stack of online articles she printed—I used up a whole printer cartridge! She read maybe a paragraph or two from those few dozen papers, then abandoned her rich paper-and-ink investment at her seat when she left. (When I glanced at the papers, I’m pretty sure a big chunk consisted of my comment section. Thank you for reading!)

Second, several members of the audience sought to paint the project leaders into a paradox. Opponents contended that it is impossible that anyone would ever drill this kind of deep borehole just for science, that Battelle and USDOE have to be doing it with an intent to place nuclear waste here. They then demanded that Battelle and DOE promise that they would do this project just for science. I’ll be generous and merely deem it tricky to say that the only way to prove one is not lying is to promise to do the impossible.

Third, the greatest rhetorical challenge of the evening was responding to opponents who said, “But how can you guarantee” that no one would ever bring nuclear waste to the Spink County Borehole site. Multiple times, the project backers explained the legal, regulatory, contractual, and natural factors that preclude the Department of Energy from placing nuclear waste in Spink County, and multiple times, folks in the audience basically dismissed those statements as meaningless. There’s no winning that argument.

How are we going to stop them from coming in and putting in nuclear waste?” folks kept asking. USDOE’s Andy Griffith and Battelle’s Rod Osborne seemed to make the answer to that question pretty clear: the single best guarantee that the people of Redfield, Spink County, and South Dakota have against nuclear waste coming here against our will is our political will. The Office of Nuclear Energy has put on the record its consent-based siting policy. If no landowner will sign the five-year lease, if the county commission won’t grant the necessary zoning change and permit, if the people don’t want it, Battelle won’t drill. Even if Spink County permits the Borehole, the five-year contract will prohibit any nuclear activities and require that the hole is filled with cement and clay, and the only exception to that protection again depends on public support.

I understand the protectiveness of which Governor Wollman spoke. I love this state as much as he does, as much as Lana Greenfield does, as much as anyone else in the Spink County 4-H hall with us last night does. This land is sacred to me. (Why else would I spend an entire day writing about one plan to dig one hole in South Dakota bedrock?)

Also sacred to me is democracy. That’s where we find our guarantee. Instead of asking others to guarantee our government’s words, I recognize that we are our own best bulwark against government bullcrap. Our best response to the public servants backing the project is to say, “Thank you. We will take you at your words, and we will hold you to those words every day, forever. We will watch you. We will blog you. We will demand answers and action from you. And if you take any action we don’t want, we will protest and petition and vote and run you out of your offices to protect our sacred land.”

That social aspect of the project, the constant attention we must pay to public affairs to keep our government in line with our will, is harder than the geological and technological aspects of this remarkable and potentially useful engineering project… but no one said democracy is easy. We must overcome our mistrust of government by recalling that the government is us.

The Deep Borehole Field Test is not about putting nuclear waste in South Dakota. Batelle, Uncle Sam, and Governor Dennis Daugaard have told us so. We have their word. Our guarantee that they will keep their word is our democratic vigilance.

245 Responses to Best Way to Protect Our Sacred Land from Borehole Nuclear Waste? Democracy.

  1. The Harv is looking very good. I am glad to see he is keeping both a watchful eye and an open scientific mind on The Borehole.

  2. The problem is that few trust our state government to do the right thing and there are not enough checks in the system. Daugaard already said he would sign any future nuclear dump project for the state (IIRC a recent KELO story detailed that).

    The test itself of drilling one or two holes doesn’t involve nuclear waste but people could clearly see how it could be the prelude to that in the future. The rather secretive nature of the lead up to the public meetings left a nasty taste in many people’s mouths.

    The bottom line is they refuse to take the potential for a subsequent national nuclear dump in SD off the table and people clearly do not trust the current mechanisms in place to provide enough democratic process to not have this rail roaded through by the feds. Most people would not be foolish enough to sign a business deal without everything spelled out in writing. “Trust me” doesn’t fly in business dealings and in the end that is what this is.

  3. Robert McTaggart


    If the process is safe, which includes drilling operations and any transportation issues, and the material stays isolated from the biosphere over millions of years (which is overkill given the half-lives we are talking about), then I don’t have the same issues that you do with siting a deep borehole disposal facility. We’re going to have to agree to disagree about that.

    It sounds like you are not satisfied with the level of disclosure, and/or the timing of said disclosure. So I would like to ask why competing grant applicants would tell the others what they are doing prior to the award of the grant?

  4. mike from iowa

    Democracy should carry the day,but, pols have proven time and again that they can and will dismiss the will of the people when large sums of money is at stake for their friends. No one in their right mind should trust any politician for any reason when they can be so easily bought.

    Nothing is totally safe or fool proof. With this country as divided as it is,it is easy to see where half the population could vote against the other half out of pure spite. You can bet pols and special interests will be there to take advantage of that vote. Be easier to invent time travel and return the nuclear genie to the bottle.

  5. Robert McTaggart

    Different people will want different levels of transparency, particularly when self-interests and money are at play. But we should want an honest competition for federal dollars.

    This requires some initial independent development so there is no influence of one proposal on the other one.

  6. Keep voting republican, that is the only way to solve our problems in our state.I know you just pull the lever then look at what we get.We get weak lite weight in the PUC.Feigen, Nelson and Hanson talk great to your face .Greatest lip service I have ever seen by a Puc delegation.

  7. The people of SD turned away from one of the most brilliant and reasonable persons who ever served this state in Pierre. It was my good fortune to have served with Harvey Wollman six years in the 1970’s. Last week at Augustana University, The Dakota Conference on History agreed those six years were the most productive. The consensus was that the governance of that period will never be equaled again. South Dakota needs to listen to that reasonable and honest man, Gov. Harvey Wollman!

  8. Thanks for the excellent coverage Corey. We have seen this movie before. After a successful borehole, the governor and PUC will decide putting nuclear waste under our feet is good for our economy (eg state coffers & their retirement funds) and display cognitive dissonance about any risks. The Feds push to make program go live for national security and eminent domain will be used to secure the actual site for the hot stuff with a long half life. See Keystone pipeline history for playbook. Can’t blame the good folks there for being very skeptical.

  9. Mr. Hall, I like to think that if The Harv had won the Democrat primary for Governor he would have served as well in that chair as he did in the legislatures, but alas the Democratic Party ousted him before he could really get going. A shame indeed.

  10. I just can’t help but think that if you want to dig a test bore hole for a class 1 injection well, it’s because you have naughty little thoughts about shoving toxic waste down that hole, or a similar one, in a similar location, in the near future.

    It only makes sense, to me, to drill test holes in the locations you’re interested in putting a waste well. Seems impractical to test in a place which has no possible final application for the stated purpose of the testing. Smells fishy as heck.

  11. Robert McTaggart

    So, if the deep borehole disposal method were perfectly safe (i.e. items are trapped for millions of years without getting into any groundwater), and let’s say normal agriculture or pheasant habitat could resume on the surface shortly after burial (with no radioactivity whatsoever at the surface from the wastes), the state shouldn’t take the money?

    We don’t have the same worries about trash at the city dump, and yet that is not buried several kilometers below the surface.

  12. I’ve lived in SD a very long time. I’ve never had a better man serve as our Governor than Harvey Wollman – ‘cuz we rejected Bernie Hunhoff in favor of a (fill-in-the-blank).

  13. Robert McTaggart


    Flying airplanes involves risk as well. Would you want a pilot to start working on a high-traffic route like Washington D.C. to New York without practice on some easier flights?

    The geology at this site has some benefits in terms of the regions of homogeneity. They will build experience by trying this on progressively more complicated underground structures. You cannot have a situation where one of these vessels gets stuck midway.

  14. This concept has not been proven safe.
    Nuclear waste from the weapons program is not just like tossing trash in the city dump. That level of hubris is pretty disturbing.
    The bottom line is that most of the public has only been aware of this potential project for about 6 months to a week, as in it being a serious possible project. What goes on within DOE, contractor or academic closed circles isn’t something the general public is privy to. Usually even non nuclear projects have a pretty long lead up time. DOE clearly is trying to rush this to start. They are still holding to that Sept-Dec 2016 start date. Considering how many of the stakeholders didn’t even know about this until recently defies the claims of democracy and public consent.

  15. Nor one for a shorter time in recent years, Mr. Curt. I will give you that The Harv is a much better man that Mr. McKellips could have hoped to be, even though Mr. McKellips is a nice enough fellow in his own right. I hear he’s still kicking so maybe he’ll pitch in here with some comments on The Harv but I don’t know that Roger reads blogs much these days.

  16. Robert McTaggart


    You are making my point. They need to do the research to show that it is safe.

    Please allow me to elaborate on my other comment. The radiation dose that you would get from the waste several kilometers below the surface will be smaller than what you would get from trash at the city dump, which is at or close to the surface. NORMs in the trash will be the primary, but tiny, contribution.

  17. Donald Pay

    Yeah, I would agree, Cory. The problem is the mechanism for “democracy” or “consent” or “transparency” or whatever you want to call it is not set up by either state government or federal government. Until it is, you can’t trust them.

    Congress hasn’t set up the agency that is supposed to take these radioactive waste matters out of the Department of Energy and put it into a more broad-based, independent agency. The federal government hasn’t established any rules or decided how to regulate either the borehole disposal test or the broader borehole disposal program. State government hasn’t established a mechanism for broad-based citizen authority in this matter, and has actively suppressed information on these matters for three years. DOE has hidden the information as well.

    Now, desperate, they are, perhaps, willing to say all the right things, at least for as much time as they can get their foot in the door. They should make a down payment on real “transparency” to see if they have really changed their ways. Let DOE and the state release the information collected and transmitted in the RFP process. And let’s have a down payment on “democracy” by having the state and the federal government commit to a vote of the public, and actively help citizens set up that system.

  18. Poking holes through containment layers of aquifers in and of itself risks cross contamination between aquifers – in the log haul. Filling the holes with concrete is an imperfect solution for 10,000 years of movement and weathering. Water we might be able to use one day could be ruined. But some of us are so focused on tomorrow’s dollar that 1,000 years seems like something you shouldn’t have to be responsible for.

  19. Robert McTaggart

    Mr. Pay,

    They need to do the research in order to write the regulations for the deep borehole disposal method.

    Generally we know what they should be doing, but when the rubber hits the road, the responsibilities of said body will have to be spelled out due to jurisdictional issues: What do they review, do they submit a report, are any recommendations binding, when must reports be released to the public, etc.

  20. Robert McTaggart


    I don’t think it is just concrete that they are using to fill the holes.

    They will have to monitor the aquifer and stop if they detect something. I would imagine that they will submit some kind of plan regarding environmental impacts and/or restoration.

  21. Donald Pay


    Thanks a lot for all your work on this. You are an amazing and talented researcher and journalist. South Dakota needs you so much. As someone who once did the work you are doing, I realize you do it so much better than I ever did.

  22. Robin Friday

    Allowing a borehole leads to approving a nuclear waste site just as surely as the turning of the Earth leads autumn into winter. There is not enough money or jobs in the world for South Dakotans to justify or countenance a nuclear waste site in South Dakota.

  23. I never knew you were a professional blogger, Mr. Pay. One can learn something every day no matter how old you grow as I am always astonished to find out.

  24. Ms. Friday, if The Borehole is inevitable and is going to be filled with wastes then we should embrace the best science that is available to make it the best Borehole we can dig.

  25. Robin Friday

    “The rather secretive nature of the lead up to the public meetings left a nasty taste in many people’s mouths.”
    Yes, Lilly, and somehow it tastes a great deal like something called “Keystone”.

  26. Robin Friday

    grudznick, let me clear it up for you. No borehole. No nuclear waste site in SD.

  27. Robert McTaggart

    Hi Robin,

    Eventually there will be a waste site somewhere, if not more than one, and more than one kind. They will still need a “yucca mountain” like kind of repository regardless of whether the deep borehole technique works out. The question is whether this method is suitable for the waste forms under consideration, and they need to figure out why they shouldn’t store it at the “yucca mountain” like location.

    If you are implying that the very same land used for the proposed test site in Spink County will be come an actual deep borehole depository for nuclear waste, then I will respectfully disagree with you.

    Yes, other sites in South Dakota share a similar geology to Spink County, but security, transportation, workforce requirements, flooding issues, workplace safety and regulatory oversight will be considered along with public consent. So if you asked me when would they start putting nuclear waste into a deep borehole disposal facility in South Dakota, I couldn’t tell you because many of those issues have not been resolved.

    But what if it was completely safe? What if we could finally clean up and decommission some of those facilities storing the waste on the surface? Isn’t part of being an environmentalist actually cleaning up the environment?

    If nothing is going into the water, and no radiation dose is reaching the public, then you are left to argue about transportation issues and public consent. The two appear to be linked, because a lot of opposition stems from transportation concerns.

  28. Douglas Wiken

    I guess I did not realize Harvey W. was still alive. I have a little story. Too many years ago as a thesis project, I put together a questionnaire for delegates at a Democratic State Convention. Publications read was an open question. Most delegates listed one newspaper if anything at all. Then one popped up with several newspapers and a half dozen news and opinion magazines. The questionnaire was anonymous, so i had no idea who this “outlier” was even if I was happy to see at least one more delegate who read as much or more than I did. I mentioned this to an older delegate. He chuckled and said,”It has to be Harvey Wollman. I never did get that thesis written and approved, but I did try to pay attention what Harvey was saying and doing after that.

  29. No body even knows what makes this test hole different than any other class 1 deep water hazardous waste disposal well. What exactly are they trying to learn through this proposed test? What’s the new technology they are testing? You people who support this thing don’t seem to know, yet you use it – nebulously – as the grounds for your personal support of the thing.

  30. Robin Friday

    Dear mr. McTaggart: “Eventually there’s going to be a waste site somewhere” is not good reasoning for why it should be here. I’m not a geologist, but have you talked to the Saudis?

  31. Hmmm… Adam, since Class I wells are already authorized and regulated, shouldn’t that indicate this research project should give us less to worry about? Alternatively, since Class I wells are not approved for radioactive waste, isn’t it logical that this research is about researching a new, untested form of disposal?

    Does the Borehole project differ from Class I injection wells in that the injection wells shoot the fluid straight into the hole, while the Borehole project is talking about dropping nuclear waste 5,000 meters down in canisters?

  32. barry freed

    State and business officials spoke much like our Mr. Taggart here about sewage ash from Minnesota. In the end, it is still blowing and drifting out of their “Safe, clean” disposal site. Who knows what is leaching into the water table.

    The bore hole tests spoken of here have never been done before? That would be beyond amazing.

  33. “We must overcome our mistrust of government by recalling that the government is us.” Well said my friend.

  34. mike from iowa
  35. Donald Pay

    Dr. McTaggart,

    Rules and regulation are like parenting. You’re never going to know everything about situations, but you have to set down some basic rules as a starting point, and then adjust them as necessary. There are independent scientists who can help figure out the basics. EPA regulates similar disposal wells, though not as deep as this. How about using those as a starting point?

  36. Thanks, Mark. We can debate whether to dig these holes. We can debate how to dispose of the nuclear waste we already have and whether we dare create more with further use of nuclear power, production of nuclear weapons, and application of nuclear technology in medicine and other fields. My main point here is that, whatever our concerns and positions, the way to resolve them and make sure the action we want to arise from those debates is carried out is to make democracy work, to get educated and participate so actively in public affairs that Governor Daugaard and whoever else makes decisions will not think they can get by with corruption and ignoring the will of the people.

  37. The People want The Borehole in Spink county. The Harv’s Spink county people want it.

  38. Donald Pay

    74:55:02:02. Class I and IV disposal wells prohibited. No injection through a well which can be defined as Class I or IV is allowed.

    So, the above is the South Dakota rule regarding Class I and Class IV disposal wells. Clearly, the intent was and continues to be to prevent disposal by this means in SD, because SD citizens decided early on that this was not something they wanted to have in the state. I recall one or two iterations of the entire set of these rules, the the idea was always to provide for certain production activities from such wells, but not for disposal.

    Now, the question is does South Dakota rule apply, or do EPA rules, which allows and regulates Class I and Class IV disposal wells, apply? If you’re a 10th Amendment conservative, you are inclined to say South Dakota rules should take precedent. Under court rulings, EPA rules apply. In reality, if state citizens make enough noise and they have some legal hook, EPA, under many circumstances, will find legal ways to drag out the permit or deny it. But there is no guarantee. NRC would also be involved in the process. I’m not sure what their rules are.

  39. Even in “Mission Accomplished” land sometimes you may have to do civil disobedience to get the point across to those who will not listen to the reason of the people.

  40. Nevada has already drilled a deep borehole and so has Russia, why do we need to prove they can be done here in South Dakota? Something just does not seem right with the whole thing. Infrastructure would also seem to me very important when considering where to store this glow stuff. Redfield/Spink County has good rail service so that is a plus for delivery with just a spur needing to be constructed to the site.

  41. Robert McTaggart

    Mr. Pay,

    I agree that there are a lot of rules by different agencies that need to be followed, EPA, NRC, DENR, etc. But the processes they study in this research will shape the rule-making for deep borehole disposal sites. And that will be updated on a regular basis. I’m not saying we need to re-invent the wheel in this case, but the specifics will matter in jurisdictional issues, labor law, etc.

    The work is also an opportunity to study occupational rad safety issues that could occur with this disposal method. Radiation safety (a.k.a. radiation protection engineering) tries to reduce all doses by time, distance, and shielding. It is also about environmental monitoring and deploying proper dosimetry equipment for workers. Simple occupational safety to have processes in place for zero accidents (trips, falls, etc.) is also worthwhile to study.

    Dry runs to develop good safety practices from the get-go during drilling or installing a vessel would be beneficial and only add to the safety culture that federal agencies want. Optimizing procedures to reduce doses will require less time to complete them, so it saves money at the end of the day.

    I believe that is a good way to earn public consent: Showing lots of zeros on the dosimetry reports and environmental testing will boost public confidence.

  42. The economic benefit The Borehole could bring to Redfield really hasn’t been quantified yet. Mr. H could probably do it but I can’t. And while perhaps small we should not discount the tourism angle. How many people would stop by Leo’s Good Food after a visit to The Borehole to peer into the bowels of the earth or see rocks from a mile underground?

  43. Robert McTaggart

    I agree with much of what Cory says above, and applaud him for bringing a lot of these issues to light. I also appreciate the passion that many of you bring to these issues….even if I disagree with you.

    To Cory’s point above, I do not think it is inconsistent to want the benefits of modern technology while taking responsibility for the waste that those benefits produce. But that responsibility should occur across the board, not just for nuclear.

    There are big changes in energy that I see on the horizon. The first of these is a conversion to having a larger number of cars run on electricity or fuel cells. The second is the need to desalinate more water due to issues of drought. The third is that the third world will demand the same energy-intensive standard of living that we enjoy. Extracting carbon from the atmosphere would be another of these grand challenges.

    I don’t see how we meet those challenges without nuclear energy in the mix, so getting the waste management correct is critical.

  44. Robert McTaggart


    I don’t see why that couldn’t occur in Redfield. I thought one of those posters that Cory showed talked about STEM education and impact, so maybe something like a visitor center could be a focal point in that regard.

  45. If we can use nuclear energy to suck carbon dioxide from the air in the future it really does behoove us to let people practice digging The Borehole so that later we could dig similar holes in the future, wherever the geology and rock doctors say is best, to store the nuclear cores. It is all about science to do the testing and see. Remember, people used to be afraid of computers and mechanical adding machines in the past.

  46. Donald Pay

    The current marketing approach being used by DOE for the deep borehole project is really not much different from that used at the tail end of the Reagan administration, when the “Office of Nuclear Negotiator” was set up to foist Monitored Retrievable Storage on Indian Reservations. I recall that a South Dakota reservation (can’t remember which one) actually was interested for a brief time.

    Several articles/books have been written on this. Here is one:

    DOE’s game plan for marketing has never waivered. They may call it “consent-based” now, but it’s the same strategy that was tried (and failed) on Indian tribes in the early 1990s: find a poor or declining community, get a couple big shots on board, promise lots of money, insist the risks are minimal or non-existent, get their foot in the door, expand the project beyond what was first discussed.

    Really, this is how DOE works all across the United States.

  47. Mr. Pay, The Borehole is not to store waste, it is a scientific experiment to get to the deep rock.

  48. Robert McTaggart

    What has changed is that Yucca Mountain happened (or didn’t happen as the case may be). So they have to do things differently in order to deal with the waste. I apologize once again, but since my time machine only moves forward, I can only work on making things better in the future.

    There may be a different reason why such communities tend to be involved from your perspective. Waste facilities require certain things like a drier climate to avoid issues with water. Those sites are often located away from large population centers, the economic engines which so happen to need and use a lot of water.

    So the remaining communities near potential sites are typically smaller because they have achieved equilibrium with available economic growth and access to water.

  49. Robert McTaggart

    I agree with grudznick that once again, no waste is going in Spink County. But the lessons learned will generate a much safer and better deep borehole disposal facility somewhere else.

  50. You keep saying that no nuke waste is going into that borehole, but then why was the subject of nuke waste even attached to this supposedly pure geologic research project at all?
    There are plenty of deep boreholes of Class 1 status around the country to show geology and such. Why not use the data from them?
    And with water now becoming the new blue gold, and some cities around the world being so strapped for clean water that they have to go 10,000 ft deep to get it, I think that this aquifer area might be the last area of clean water if we need it. Depositing anything down there would preclude that. So would disturbing the aquifer separation with boreholes.
    And isn’t SD one of the hottest areas for geothermal? Heat down below? Has anyone thought about depositing the nuke waste in such heat down there?

  51. Donald Pay

    And there you have your hook, Grudz. You are a fish on DOE’s line, and you ain’t fighting to hard to get away.

    DOE folks have written all about how to market radioactive waste to a community under “consent-based siting.” Here’s how they see it: conduct a “scientific study” and deny any other motive and once you have them acclimated, change the project to a disposal project. This is what happened at WIPP in New Mexico, where the project expanded from a study to a low-level waste dump to a high-level dump. This is the history of the Department of Energy, and it’s why the Blue Ribbon Commission decided all “science projects” and all “consent-based siting” efforts need to be taken away from the Department of Energy.

    Here’s the problem: this is a big-government applied science project, not a research project, funded out of an agency that has a mission to site a radioactive waste disposal facility. Not only is this a mission of the agency, but DOE is so desperate in speeding up its mission that it is ignoring the advice of independent scientists. Even Dr. Stetler at SDSM&T indicated he would core the whole borehole. Now that would be a science project, but that doesn’t meet the time schedule that DOE has demanded for its real mission: site a disposal facility.

    Inevitably, this project is going to change, and it’s going to turn into a disposal operation. Prior to settling on their latest lie, that the site in Spink County is disqualified from the start from hosting a disposal site, they targeted NE South Dakota in a number of studies. It is a prime target.

    Then you have DOE’s statements that there are numerous places in the United States that could host the facility. Yet they are selecting their prime target area to do this “scientific project.” You think the government wants to sink a hundred million dollars and lose five years on a site that they say is not feasible as a disposal site? That just isn’t reasonable.

    Look, this project does not have a lot of support in Congress. If DOE is seen as being so wasteful that it would throw money purposely at a site that isn’t feasible, the money is going to dry up. DOE’s statement’s that the site is not feasible as a disposal site is just marketing.

    Let me throw Dr. McTaggart’s line back at him: how does DOE know the site is not feasible when they haven’t yet done the research?

  52. mike from iowa

    If memory serves,dumbass dubya promised Nevadans that Yucca Mt would not be the repository and changed his mind shortly after the Scotus appointed him Potus. Shortly after that,I believe,there was a rather severe earthquake (seismic activity) in the vicinity.

  53. mike from iowa

    but since my time machine only moves forward, I can only work on making things better in the future.

    No offense,but does your time machine remember and learn from past mistakes?

  54. They were run out of ND, SD should run them out now too, before they get a foothold with their fake science project.

  55. Robert McTaggart

    Hi Mike,

    Yes, I can learn from past mistakes ;^). Why would I a mistake to happen? We need to figure out all of the little issues so that does not happen.

    Mr. Pay:

    The governor has stated that he supports the research as long as no nuclear waste goes there. And from previous entries on this blog, he would have to approve it.

    I would also imagine that there will be some kind of agreement with the private landowner on whose property the drilling will occur. I wouldn’t be surprised if the terms of such an agreement addressed these kinds of issues.

    I don’t doubt that technically they could put a real waste vessel down a test borehole. However, you of all people should appreciate that the issue is liability. If there is no aquifer, the probability of water coming from an aquifer into the borehole is zero. If there is an aquifer, then the probability is not zero any more.

    Any water that gets in there is likely to become steam due to the heat from the radioactive decay. Not only would steam produce pressure on seals and rock, it would also be a delivery system for any radionuclides that leave the vessel, and they are not counting on those vessels to stay intact forever. Plus water could also be a catalyst for all kinds of chemical reactions with the vessel or the rock.

    So I believe they are telling the truth when they say they are not bringing waste into Spink County. No waste at this particular site, no issues of radiological liability to deal with.

  56. As there is a successful borehole in Nevada, why does there need to be one in South Dakota? Do MacTaggert already has a place to study and take notes on. This report says it is a successful drill so why here and why so much cloak and dagger with Daugaard?

  57. The Russian borehole is the deepest and what they found was water and lots of it. So Doc, you want us all to believe that by putting these glow plugs down in our mother all will be well in the well? Why South Dakota, as it could damage the aquifers when you already have a borehole Nevada? How does this scam work? Will the Chinese and South Koreans be involved?

  58. Dr. McTaggart, I fear some people here cannot listen to reason. They cannot accept into their minds that our Governor is not a 3 horned devil beast. I kind of wish he was but he’s apparently not. Unless Mr. H gets elected over the 2 horned devil beast of Mr. Novstrup the elder nobody here will believe anything anybody says despite scientific evidence.

  59. Robert McTaggart

    How do you know if the vessel is a dummy or if it has waste in it? Trust, but verify!

    Cesium-137 will often emit a gamma ray (a.k.a. a photon) when it undergoes radioactive decay. The gamma ray is well-known by all nuclear laboratories, because it has a characteristic energy of about 661 keV (1 keV is 1000 electron-Volts, and 1 electron-Volt is the energy that an electron picks up by going through a voltage of 1 Volt).

    I would think you should be able to tell if a vessel contains Cesium-137 with a particle detector, even if the signal is small.

    Also, while the dummy vessel may use power to generate a heat load for thermal studies, a waste vessel needs no batteries to produce heat due to radioactive decay. So, take a picture with an infrared camera.

  60. mike from iowa

    I’m gonna pull a Stumpy on you,Grudz. Prove Daugaard isn’t a 3 horned devil beast.

  61. Robert McTaggart


    If they find water coming in from the rock, that site is not suitable for storing any waste using the deep borehole disposal method as I stated above. Even at this site there is likely to be some nonuniformity in the rock, so they can study whether water can travel along such boundaries and into the borehole.

    Yes, you can drill lots of holes all over the earth, but not every hole that is drilled is being drilled to place nuclear waste down it. Some are just being drilled to see what is down there. Some are in fact looking for extremophiles (microbes that live in extreme environments), since they may tell us something about early life on earth and the potential for life elsewhere in the Solar System.

    Dr. McTaggart or just Rob is fine. I don’t know who this MacTaggert or Taggart guy that some are referring to ;^).

  62. Mr. jerry, it is often silly to argue science on blogs with people who don’t understand science, so I really admire Dr. McTaggart for taking it on. I also appreciate your nice blue link to a two page paper that I hope you read again after your blogging. I note that it says, “Geographically‐distributed deep borehole disposal can reduce transportation requirements and risk relative to centralized storage and disposal.” Now, Mr. jerry, I may just be an old feeble-minded fellow with a fancy chair to ride in but I think your own blue link answers your own question. Please read it all again.

  63. Mike, I know you’re from Iowa, but here in South Dakota everybody knows I am a three horned devil beast and I can vouch that Dennis isn’t in the club.

  64. mike from iowa

    Professor-I am wondering if you are intentionally being silly? Particle detectors? Not something Joe Blow would normally have on him,is it?

    Sorry, but it is bedtime in iowa.

  65. Robert McTaggart

    No, the average Joe Blow will not have a particle detector on him. The average Joe Blow who works in the nuclear lab will however!

    We cannot see ionizing radiation. A particle detector is simply a device that produces a tiny current or a burst of light when radiation passes through it. The amount of current or light will be related to the energy of the incoming particle. Those energies help identify what produced the radiation in the first place.

    A simple particle detector is a sealed garbage can full of water (or a big old-fashioned milk jug) and a photomultiplier tube. The latter is a specialty item that will convert the light produced in the water into a current, which is then fed to some electronics for analysis.

    Historically I think one of the earliest detectors was zinc sulfide, which would scintillate (or show phosphorence) when placed next to a radioactive sample.

  66. Mr. Grudznick, thank you for your eloquence and juriscience on this matter. Regarding Dr. McTaggertt and his speaking on his behalf, that is a plus for him to do so. Of course, he is trying to seal the deal and who can blame him for what he gets paid to do. I am not a science guy, but do see questions as many at that meeting did as well. I wonder where Dr. McTaggert and crew will go for their next drilling adventure if the folks at Spink County prevail to deny the drilling.

    Also, I did read that link, as I read every link before I push that send button. In that link, it indicates that Nevada has a borehole that was done successfully. As that has been done, why do we need to do one here in Spink County?

  67. Dr. McTaggert, a question. Do you or your team have any information about the results of the deep drilling at Wasta in 2013? Would the intent be that if you are as unsuccessful with your lobbying efforts in Spink County as you were in North Dakota, to move westward into the super hard rock for the real prize of using west river as your storage goal?

  68. Robert McTaggart


    Just because they dug a hole doesn’t mean the instrumentation was there to collect the data, or they collected any data there that could be applied to the current review of this approach for disposal.

    This seems to keep coming up, so I will keep addressing it. I was not at either meeting, and I am not doing any research with the group. I certainly support their efforts to move the ball forward on solving our nuclear waste issues with this research, and I appreciate all of the scientific and engineering challenges they need to solve.

    I would have liked to go to one of the meetings, but the last week of the semester dictated I needed to complete several teaching-related tasks instead.

    It is not surprising that I am not participating in the research, because this study is geological in nature, not radiological.

  69. Robert McTaggart

    Once again, I am not part of the team since I am a physicist, not a geologist or a geological engineer. So I have had no involvement with any drilling in Wasta.

    That article deals with oil and gas fracking. Fracking nearby any site being considered for nuclear waste disposal would disqualify it. The fracking could produce tiny earthquakes (see Oklahoma) and produce new pathways for water to infiltrate a waste repository.

  70. So the “samplings of cuttings” sent to the state from the Wasta drill would have no kind of useful information for a physicist. I find that odd as I do believe that as a physicist that would be of interest as you will be examining the core samples or cuttings from this project in Spink County if you prevail.

    You are correct about the dangers of fracking as the pressure of the solutions not only fragment the formation, but also pollute the water systems they penetrate. But we both know that there would be no fracking in or around Spink County or the Wasta site either. I was questioning the samples that the state received of the deep cuttings at that site. As a physicist, those could be of importance. What was your thesis on?

  71. Robert McTaggart

    The core samples would be interesting for me to look at, but I am not on the team that would be investigating them. This is an SDSMT project. So I am just a cheerleader…or a cheer captain…not sure.

    I would look for things like NORMs due to naturally-occurring uranium, thorium, or potassium that could be in the core samples. Similar activities are of interest to physicists at Homestake, where such information would help determine the shielding requirements for underground experiments (like neutrinoless double-beta decay, or dark matter).

    I could look inside the core sample with non-destructive testing methods that are available here at SDSU (ultrasonics, computed tomography, etc.). Maybe some other characterization techniques could also be pursued here.

  72. As part of the reason for deep boreholes for the purpose of storage is not being in earthquake areas. It looks like Spink County did have at least one epicenter incident though as part of at least 65 registered quakes for the state. How will that factor in as more of these quakes occur East and South of the river.

  73. Robert McTaggart

    My thesis was on something called charmonium, which is produced in high speed collisions of protons and antiprotons. In a nutshell charmonium is a molecule made of a charm quark and its antimatter partner.

  74. Robert McTaggart

    Earthquake detectors are pretty good, so just because they detect a tremor doesn’t mean the site is unsuitable.

    They probably have a threshold for the strength of earthquakes that occur in an area, as well as a earthquake frequency which the site needs to stay below. Apparently tremors in Spink county must be small and relatively rare.

  75. mike from iowa

    That article deals with oil and gas fracking. Fracking nearby any site being considered for nuclear waste disposal would disqualify it. The fracking could produce tiny earthquakes (see Oklahoma) and produce new pathways for water to infiltrate a waste repository.

    I believe if you check with state officials in OK.Texas,Penn, Kansas and elsewhere you will find a phalanx of wingnuts who claim you can’t prove fracking causes earthquakes. I’m pretty sure they also claim that zero of the toxic chemicals used can get into groundwater because they say so.

  76. I do keep saying that, Linsey, because that’s what every official and expert involved with the project keeps saying. I contend we can hold them to their word with continuing citizen vigilance and participation like what we saw with 120+ people attending this public meeting.

    No one supposes this is pure geological research, from Battelle and DOE down. Dr. Stetler and his colleagues can certainly do some pure geological research along with some fascinating engineering research. However, the speakers made clear this research is meant to provide data to inform future decisions on whether to proceed with deep borehole disposal of a specific subset of nuclear waste. The distinction is that this specific project, digging a hole or two in Spink County, involves no nuclear waste on site.

    Aquifer separation and usability of existing data from previous deep drilling in other parts of the world are valid points to raise. I don’t have answers yet.

    The real hotspot for geothermal energy in South Dakota is in the south central part of the state. Geothermal potential is lowest in northeastern South Dakota:

  77. Yes mfi, the article about the wildcatter does deal with the feasibility of fracking and oil extraction. My point was the core examination of the deep drill and its findings to the state of South Dakota. As has been pointed out, it looks as if the North Dakota site was more of a feint than the real deal with South Dakota always in the sights. Given that, we in west river should always be aware of the envy dump folks look at it when they see it for a site. We do have a history here of just that. Currently, we are even fighting the fight to stop uranium in situ in the Black Hills. I think the people get it that we do not want the land or the land underneath to be abused any more than we already have. These boreholes to me just mean one more brick in the wall to turn South Dakota into the refuse dump for the world.

  78. Mr. H, please help me read the map your blue link points to. I see windmills and dams but no geothermal diggings and don’t understand how the potential is mapped. I know they have geothermal in Midland and Philip but there are no little circles there. And it is very hot down in Homestake which is only 2500 meters deep. Think how hot it will be at the bottom of The Borehole.

  79. mike from iowa

    Jerry, my post was a reprint of part of Mr McTaggart’s post @ 22:20. It was not a reply to you. Sorry for the confusion. :)

  80. Donald Pay

    Here’s an important point to consider regarding “democracy,” and it’s something South Dakotans need to be cognizant of. You might think this issue should be settled by state or local-level democracy and real “consent” by the people. The democracy you might want is not federal policy and it’s not state policy. All you have are the hollow words of some folks who haven’t been all that trustworthy on this issue.

    There is nothing in federal law that requires DOE to gain “consent” prior to siting a radioactive waste disposal site in Spink County. Yucca Mountain did not have “consent,” and Congress passed the “screw Nevada” bill over state objections and in spite of other federal law that was looking at siting in a scientific manner.

    “Consent-based siting” is not federal law now. It’s just a policy recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Commission that has not been filled in and set down in law. What the Department of Energy means by “consent” is that they get a Governor and a few local officials to agree. That’s all they think they need to show “consent” to site a dump. They will argue that is also “democracy,” since you voted for these people.

    Governor Daugaard has said his position is that the state electorate votes, and that provides or withholds “consent.” That’s “democracy,” and that’s my position, too. But, again, that noble notion is not in not state law. It used to be before the Legislature repealed it. Though Daugaard wrote his statement supporting a state-wide vote three years ago, he hasn’t provided the legal mechanism for that vote, and so it remains a hollow notion.

    So, you can’t trust the political class in any of this. You can only trust your own due diligence. A conservative person would get everything down on paper with all the i’s and t’s crossed. Until all of this is clear in law and policy, and to your liking, I’d just say “no” to anything they propose.

  81. mike from iowa

    Bloody well said,Mr Pay! Should be required reading for everyone.

  82. Robert McTaggart

    No, there is nothing in federal law that currently requires a consent-based process. But if they actually want it to work, then the lesson from Yucca Mountain is to develop those processes from the ground up, not the top down.

    But it sounds like you do not want them to develop a consent-based process, nor participate in such a process, because you do not want them to do the research necessary to solve this problem. This research may actually yield a much safer disposal facility. And if it is safe, then you cannot criticize it for being unsafe.

    I invite you to be skeptical. When they say they will not put waste in Spink County, then you can measure the vessels for heat and the energy signatures from the radioactive decay. Do the environmental monitoring around the site. When you do not find anything, then somebody else can repeat the measurements and either confirm or not confirm your findings.

  83. mike from iowa

    Do the environmental monitoring around the site.

    Not to be a pest,but aren’t there rules about no trespassing around such sites and might there not be armed guards and security fences close by?

  84. Donald Pay

    Dr. McTaggart,

    The Department of Energy has been studying the “consent-based process” for nearly a decade. They have completed all sorts of reports and studies on how other countries have sited various radioactive waste facilities. Please look at them. They have had tests of a similar concept in the 1990s, when they were trying to site Monitored Retrievable Storage. They do not need the Spink County project to test out “consent-based siting.”

    What needs to happen is for Congress to get its act together to implement Blue Ribbon Commission proposals. When all those have been implemented and the radioactive waste programs have been lifted out of DOE and put in a more broad-based, scientifically oriented commission, as the Blue Ribbon Commission suggested, then we can get to the point of filling out what is meant, specifically, by “consent-based siting.”

    Until that happens, there should be no further efforts on deep borehole disposal.

    You know, states can play a huge role in this matter. It is rare that states can have so much power over a federal program, particularly high-level radioactive waste. Daugaard, Noem, Rounds and Thune could be heros, if they really cared to lead on this. If states follow the example of North Dakota, and turn this study down because of question over how “consent-based siting” is not being done, they can mold the federal program into something that gives them and their citizens much more power and control. This is a real 10th Amendment fight, something you would think conservative leaders of a red state like South Dakota would want to lead. But you can’t fold your cards early and accept DOE’s position. That would cripple your bargaining position.

  85. How do mineral rights come into play regarding The Borehole? If you own mineral rights on somebody else’s land you get to go digging there and they can’t stop you. If you own mineral rights on somebody else’s land, does that give you the right to put stuff back into the ground? Does the Energy Department own any mineral rights in Spink County?

  86. Robert McTaggart

    Mr. Pay,

    It would be nice to implement a ready-made consent-based process for the testing, but the nature of that will depend on the engagement of the public. I agree that they don’t need to start from scratch…just try to follow best practices and keep on a path of assessment and improvement with regard to consent.

    Things may not be linear: They probably have to walk and chew gum at the same time with regard to testing borehole procedures and developing consent-based processes. You get information from the test, and new questions arise in interactions from the public, which leads to other tests.

    I don’t know if turning down the research gives South Dakota any new leverage on the development of the consent-based siting processes. It is not like the geology in South Dakota is the only place where the storage of nuclear wastes would be possible. Could they group together with other states and initiate their own processes and guidelines, such as what could be considered with the Clean Power Plan…perhaps.

    It would not surprise me that the issue of mineral rights would be discussed as part of any agreement between DOE and the representatives of any potential private landowners that would host the research.

  87. Dr. McTaggert, it is me again. I am fascinated by Mr. Pay’s and Mr. Cory’s superb knowledge of this and frankly, I find your response kind of admitting that this is the endgame “It is not like the geology in South Dakota is the only place where the storage of nuclear wastes would be possible.” If you already have a borehole in Nevada, let freedom ring and put the stuff down that hole that is proven. In other words, go someplace else rather than mucking up this place. Your tests are just a mind game we have been playing for several posts now. The gig is up and the wizard has been seen behind the curtain. Now, gang, how do we give the good doctor and his team the boot. I say a moratorium and then a state wide referendum to finish this charade for good.

  88. Donald Pay

    Dr. McTaggart,

    Well, yeah, if states wanted to flex their muscles, they could just band together and say, “Here’s our proposal for consent-based siting. It must include this, and this and this.” So could Thune, Rounds and Noem from a federal perspective. I note the Nevada delegation has introduced bills that would flesh out some of this. The bill needs some work, but it’s going in the right direction.

    In the mean time, the House appears not to give a rats ass about whether South Dakota’s voters or even the Governor can consent. They want to cut off all money to the Department of Energy for developing “consent-based siting.”

    As I said, none of this is written in stone, and all the DOE’s talk of “consent” for the state is very, very premature.

  89. Mr. jerry, I do not think you have a say in this. The Harv’s Spink County people want The Borehole in their back yard.

  90. Mr. Grudznick, as a citizen of South Dakota, you can bet your behind I have a say in this. This will have an effect on us all if allowed to be used as a dump. There are all kinds of things that can go wrong. Even when there are safeguards, there are no guarantees that a breakdown can happen. Yep, this is coming home to America, but where? Spink County?

  91. Robin Friday

    I also live very close to Spink County, and I believe I have a say as a citizens also. The dangers of nuclear waste don’t observe any county lines.

  92. Robin Friday

    I also live very close to Spink County, and I believe I have a say as a citizen also. The dangers of nuclear waste don’t observe any county lines.

  93. Dr.:

    Don Pay has a long history involving activism protecting the environment in SD. Your statement is unfair and he knows from these experiences your assurances are not binding nor reliable:

    “it sounds like you do not want them to develop a consent-based process, nor participate in such a process, because you do not want them to do the research necessary to solve this problem. This research may actually yield a much safer disposal facility.”

    Brohm Gold Mine’s Acid Lake near Deadwood is a prime example of industry failure. it happens over and over again. trust is an insufficient protector. these complex concerns he raises MUST be formally, legally nailed down. This is burdensome and expensive but must be fully documented first.

    I have already made the statement that the cow is out of the gate. if you do not have the experience to know this, perhaps you are not helpfully using your obvious expertise in the best way in this discussion. I do appreciate your engagement with us here.

    however, my appreciation and your assurances of safety are neither binding nor effective in the real world.

  94. leslie, thanks for the gold mine rethink. In the 1980’s, I was fishing on the Cheyenne River before it enters Foster’s Bay when I came upon a sign in the willows and cottonwoods there. It was a warning sign not to eat the fish in that river because of contamination, I believe Mercury was the main contaminant . Of course we humans are not so aware of things like this because we are not informed with to much more than a little warning sign that is placed where you would have to look hard to find it about the dangers we think we are protected from. Thanks for the memory.

  95. Robert McTaggart


    Just because they dig a hole in Nevada doesn’t mean it was engineered to hold nuclear waste. It doesn’t mean that they had the instrumentation nor the sampling techniques to extract the data they need to design a safer disposal method. Nor did they necessarily use the same kind of drill or go through the same rock.

    Lilly and Robin,

    Trust is not necessary regarding their statements about not putting waste in Spink County. Do the environmental monitoring before, during, and after the research. Set up the instrumentation to assay incoming equipment for Cs-137 or heat signatures.

    At the end of the day, this is research. This research does not obligate the State of South Dakota to any service as a host for a permanent deep borehole disposal facility, and in fact the Governor would oppose such an effort if this research tried to do that. The goal is to produce the safest disposal method possible in the United States. Why would you oppose the development of a safe method that would help clean up the environment?

  96. Robert McTaggart

    Sorry, I meant leslie…

  97. Robert McTaggart

    It is clear that the primary goal of the research is to support nuclear waste management, but geothermal energy would be a secondary benefit. Maybe they’d be interested in converting local schools to maximize the energy they get from hydro, geothermal, solar, wind, efficiency, etc. to minimize the energy from fossil fuels. I mean, this is the Department of Energy we are talking about. Then we could apply those energy savings to pay the local teachers more.

  98. Dr. McTaggert, you stated without question, “It is not like the geology in South Dakota is the only place where the storage of nuclear wastes would be possible.” That reads the truth to me, finally of what the intent is. This is not about anything scientific, it is about dumping nuke waste in Spink County. You can window dress this as much as you think, but your words finally ring true and for that, I am thankful. Find another geological place like Nevada, for instance, that already has a hole in the ground that you can study to your heart’s content. Then you can drop that ooze into it and we here can move on. No nuke’s in South Dakota!

  99. Robert McTaggart

    Hi Jerry,

    I’m glad you like that comment. It was made in response to Mr. Pay about somehow gaining leverage in the development of a consent-based siting process by refusing to do the research. Saying no to the research would not give us any new leverage. Sort of like Trump saying that he is going to build a wall and Mexico would pay for it…as if that would give him some kind of leverage over Mexico when that is not in Mexico’s interests.

    The benefits to Spink County need to be spelled out a bit more for doing this research. I have thrown out the possibility that the DOE could improve schools’ energy footprint so that the energy savings could pay teachers more. There are economic factors as well for people doing the research and operating in Spink County.

    Please, do not trust me nor the statements about not putting waste in Spink County. Verify that zero waste is brought in with radiation detectors, environmental monitoring, and heat signatures of any vessels brought in. Put that in place as part of the “consent-based” nature of this research to build public trust.

    If surface operations (including transportation) are safe, and the kilometers of rock attenuate any radiation to zero, and nothing gets into the groundwater, and all of the research they do confirms all of this, then I fail to see why the storage of this subset of our nuclear waste (Cs-137 and Sr-90) at a suitable location would be an issue….with the possible exception of cost.

  100. Something that seems lost in all of this is that this is NOT “our” problem. South Dakota is not part of the list of states that hosted any part of the national lab system that created this mess. South Dakota has no obligation to host this research project or the national nuclear dump that will be the result of their research. We should tell the DOE and Battelle to move along and go bother someone else with their “spiffy science project”.

  101. Mr. McTaggart keeps saying this but it is not correct.
    “then I fail to see why the storage of this subset of our nuclear waste (Cs-137 and Sr-90) at a suitable location would be an issue”

    This is the DOE list of what is to be stored in borehole nuclear waste sites:

    DOE has identified the following waste forms as potential candidates for deep borehole disposal:
    • Cesium and strontium capsules stored at the Hanford site in Washington State.
    • Untreated calcine high-level radioactive waste currently stored at the Idaho National
    • Salt wastes from electrometallurgical treatment of sodium-bonded fuels that could be
    packaged in small canisters as they are produced.
    • Some DOE-managed spent nuclear fuel currently stored in water-filled pools at the Idaho
    National Laboratory and at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

    This is far more than cesium 137 and strontium 90 by DOE’s own definitions. This was also repeated at the Redfield meeting by the DOE representatives that it would include these wastes as listed in the DOE document.

    As for your claim that transportation is “safe” I suggest people go through some of the studies the state of Nevada has produced on the “safe” transport of high level nuclear wastes and spent nuclear fuel.

  102. Robert McTaggart


    I am sorry to bring this up, but there will be no nuclear waste put in Spink County. Any waste that would be disposed of by this method would need to be done elsewhere. The private landowner probably will have something in this regard written into any contract.

    Regardless of the waste form, you can use radiation detectors, environmental monitoring, and heat signatures to identify any waste that could possibly be transported in. Make it part of the consent-based process to build public trust.

    They also say in one of those reports on the DOE or NWTRB site that the chemistry of the waste may have some bearing as to what could be disposed of via this method. The ones that you list are the initial candidates. That may also impact what they would backfill the boreholes with. The wastes that I hear the most often are the Cs-137 and the Sr-90.

    They are not counting on the vessels to stay intact forever, so they need to understand the geochemistry that pre-exists in formations like the one in Spink County. That will influence the chemistry of the waste form with the rock and other materials they use to fill the borehole. They could even take samples and do some chemical studies elsewhere.

    Thus it is incorrect to say that all of those waste forms will be disposed of by this method, because nobody knows yet. It is also incorrect to say that none of those waste forms will be disposed of by this method, because nobody knows yet. We don’t know if DOE will study this, and then decide to focus on the Yucca Mountain like form of waste disposal due to costs or other factors. Sounds like a good reason to do some research.

  103. Robert McTaggart

    Retrievability seems to be an issue. There may come a time when a state declines to participate as a host for a disposal site, declines the fees from DOE to host the facility, and wants the DOE to remove things. Or if they ever try this with commercial fuel, perhaps they want to recycle it.

    Overall, public consent for the actual waste storage facility may be easier to get if retrievability is possible.

    So the ability to retrieve the waste may need to be investigated in this research as well, and that will in part depend on how straight they can drill. If the vessels are OK for a couple of hundred years, then that would help retrievability.

  104. Robert McTaggart

    While it is not necessarily South Dakota’s problem…it is our opportunity. The folks at SDSMT have the opportunity to do some world-leading research to make any storage of non-commercial nuclear waste the safest it can be. Every other nuclear nation has waste forms it would like to isolate from the biosphere and rogue actors.

    Let’s not rain on the parade of the other geological/microbiological/geochemical science that will come along for the ride, as it would not be possible to do without this test. They will be drilling far deeper than is typical today into undiscovered country.

  105. Robert McTaggart

    Here are a couple of sites for you to look at regarding safety in the transportation of nuclear waste.

    The NRC states “Over the last 40 years, thousands of shipments of commercially generated spent nuclear fuel have been made throughout the United States without causing any radiological releases to the environment or harm to the public.”

  106. Dr. McTaggert, you keep saying that the plan is not to dump nukes in Spink County, but you contradict yourself by implying something else. If this is not going to be used for a dump site and it is only going to be used so that “The folks at SDSMT have the opportunity to do some world-leading research to make any storage of non-commercial nuclear waste the safest it can be.”, why not do it in a place where it actually would be storage rather than a dry hole? Now the idea that this will then be used to “pay teachers more” is a pretty neat trick, I like that one. The other one I liked was that the landowner will probably have something in his contract to protect his holdings. We recently have seen how that works regarding Keystone I and the big spill there. The landowner had much difficulty to even access his home place. There is to many holes in this hole in the ground to make this seem anymore than what it really is going to be used for, a nuke dump. If we do not stop it now, no amount of democracy will be able to rid ourselves of it or the others that will surely come. This is not economic development by any means even though you are packaging it as such. School of Mines operatives can find some other research targets. No nukes in South Dakota.

  107. Robert McTaggart


    I am glad that you like what I am writing…..Are you saying that you are not in favor of finding new ways to pay teachers more, especially those that wouldn’t require new state money?

    I am sorry if I am confusing you…I am trying to address multiple issues.

    The first issue is whether actual nuclear waste will come to Spink County. It will not. People keep saying this will happen, but you can prove that it won’t through radiation detectors, environmental monitoring, and heat signatures. Case closed…drop the mic.

    Pick the mic back up. The second issue is why they are doing the research. If DOE pursues the deep borehole disposal method…..once again somewhere other than Spink County….we should want that method to be as safe as possible. Why are you in favor of the unsafe storage of nuclear waste? Would it be better if it were stored unsafely in Minnesota instead of unsafely in South Dakota? Really?

    As a sidebar, instead of filling up your car with gasoline to go protest about Keystone…you should charge up your electric car with electricity from nuclear energy instead. That would be facilitated by the storage of commercial wastes, which is a third area of discussion.

  108. Why Dr. McTaggert, you are getting a little snarky on me. It serves me right though as we both think that each of us is full of bull crap.

  109. “the chemistry of the waste form with the rock and other materials they use to fill the borehole.” would that be the specific rock in the specific hole and related neighborhood, or would research from spink cty be generally applied to different rock in unrelated jurisdictions?

    you mean nuclear commercial waste?

  110. Robert McTaggart


    You can still take in all of the information in favor of the research and still vote no on it based on a personal preference. But you would have to be fine with the costs that are incurred by keeping the waste in facilities that should be decommissioned and that are not as secure as underground storage, and be fine with not using those monies to fund other things.

    It is just untrue that nuclear waste is coming to Spink County….once again you can verify that no waste is delivered with radiation detectors, environmental monitoring, and heat signatures. But that would end the conspiracy once and for all.

    It is pure speculation that doing the research will lead to a nuclear waste facility somewhere in South Dakota. That is great for blogs I guess. It is less speculative to say that this research would make for a better waste facility, wherever it could be located. Let’s say for the sake of argument that one is proposed for SD. Wouldn’t you want any facility to be voted upon by the public to be the safest possible, particularly if the public approves it?

  111. Robert McTaggart


    They will put the waste container into that borehole, and fill it up with something. I think it is either concrete or clay or some type of salt. I anticipate that the geochemistry of each site will be slightly different, but the checklist for analyzing that geochemistry and how the waste forms interact with the borehole will be uniform.

    For example, the salts of the WIPP site in New Mexico work to immobilize the radionuclides that they store. In a perfect world you would want something that would trap any radionuclide that may leave the vessel and have good heat transfer properties.

    Yes, when I say commercial wastes I mean any nuclear waste generated by commercial nuclear power. The Cs-137 and Sr-90 were generated by the development of nuclear weapons.

  112. Dr. McTaggert, you ask “Wouldn’t you want any facility to be voted upon by the public to be the safest possible, particularly if the public approves it?” Your good with that debate gotcha question by inserting “facility” instead of the drill itself. As you ask, here is my answer. To the whole project, I say a moratorium on all drilling boreholes in South Dakota until the entire state can be let in on the secret. If the citizens approve, then democracy prevails and I will go along with them.

    Would you allow a public vote by all of the citizens of South Dakota on their approval or denial of your borehole project? Furthermore, a moratorium on this and all projects in the state of South Dakota while the good folks here know about the project and vote on it? What say you sir? As Cory says, Democracy should rule the day, more or less.

  113. Robert McTaggart

    To be clear, it is not my project…i.e. I am not working on it, but I am a supporter.

    I disagree with the need for a blanket moratorium as there will be no nuclear waste involved in the deep borehole test proposed for Spink County. There are other drilling projects that such a moratorium would impact, such as oil/gas fracking, drilling for water, and geothermal studies.

    Plus, such a moratorium may backfire for opponents. It may be the case that the science shows that the process is not feasible. Skipping the research means you would miss out on all of that data.

    I would be fine with a public vote, but in reality I suspect one would have to change state law in order to do that. It’s also unclear why folks in Sioux Falls would get to vote on an issue that directly impacts Spink County. If nuclear waste were involved, then it would need to be transported, so that is more of a broader state issue for the electorate.

  114. To be very clear, in your own description of yourself “So I am just a cheerleader…or a cheer captain…not sure.” A cheer leader or cheer captain has a very important job to do for the team and that is to encourage them to win. You are trying to do that as it is something that you want to win on. There seems to be those in Spink County along with others, who want to win as well.

    You are correct about the drilling in that the moratorium would be specific to deep drill boreholes to clarify what it is the moratorium would directly impact. The reason that someone in Sioux Falls or Pukwana would get to vote on this issue is that it directly would have impact them in the event of an incident if one of the canisters would fracture. The poison gas could wreck havoc on them with long term effects. Unintended consequences should always be considered and that is why your team thinks that a place in a sparsely settled part of the country would be just a swell place to place nukes. Lets put it to a state vote after the moratorium to see if the good folks of South Dakota think like you do. We can call it our ace in the hole (pun intended)

  115. Dare I suggest that the “not our labs, not our problem” argument sounds like saying, “South Dakota didn’t invade Iraq, so treating veterans with PTSD isn’t South Dakota’s problem”?

  116. Robert McTaggart

    Yes, I believe that the research is worthwhile, and would solve a big problem. And we need to solve the waste issues for nuclear in order to produce the amount of clean power that we will actually use. Replacing nuclear with natural gas may be cheaper today, but you end up putting more carbon into the atmosphere. Replacing nuclear with solar and wind also means you will burn more natural gas to make up the difference.

    No, I think water is the primary issue with regard to siting. Please consider an alternative hypothesis that the sparse populations are a result of communities maintaining an equilibrium with available economic growth and the water supply. Lower water supplies affiliated with sparser populations also happen to be beneficial to site selection for waste facilities.

    Why not pick on the bigger cities instead? Bigger cities need access to larger amounts of water, and are thus more likely to run into water issues for below ground facilities. They are already picked on in the form of dry concrete cask storage that occurs on the surface of utility properties.

  117. Robert McTaggart

    Cory…well said.

  118. barry freed

    Mr. Taggart,

    If it is strictly research, then you wouldn’t be opposed to filling the hole with concrete the day after it is finished?

  119. Barry, filling the hole with cement and clay is exactly what DOE and Battelle anticipate doing and say will be written into the five-year lease. There will be an exception: if the landowner, community, and state all agree, they can ask DOE to transfer the facility to the state for further scientific research, and DOE will consider that request.

  120. barry freed

    Since the 1970’s, we are told ad nauseam that alternative energy is not practical at this time and we need nuclear power to bridge the gap while we continue to under fund AE implementation, allow Energy Monopolies to set the price of independent energy produced by someone other than themselves, and ignore the available research and facts. Mr. Taggart, with due respect for your work to attain the knowledge set you have, it’s too bad our tax dollars aren’t paying you to improve batteries or the technology for extracting energy from our 266 days of sun, average 12 mph plus of wind, and the million BM’s created daily in SD. A wind and solar installation north of Rapid City 10 miles and Methane Digestor and power plant on the Treatment Plant would not be an impossible undertaking. There is a BHP back-up jet engine powered generator north of the Interstate that we bought for them. It runs on natural gas and can power all of Rapid on a windless, cloudy day. It is ludicrous to push Nuclear in America while Germany, who has fewer sunny days. is taking their plants off-line using current science and technology.

  121. Barry, any chance we could drill these three-mile-deep holes and use them to bring up geothermal energy? As I noted above, northeastern South Dakota is far from the hottest spot for geothermal, but at 300 degrees, that bedrock ought to be able to do something for us once we reach it.

  122. Donald Pay


    My understanding is that DOE wants the option to extend the lease beyond 5 years.

    DOE has been toying with “privatizing” nuclear waste storage, and other aspects of its nuclear enterprise. In fact two private companies, one in Texas and one in New Mexico, are seeking approval for nuclear waste storage sites. It strikes me the DOE could say that THEY were not interested in disposing radioactive waste at the site of the borehole, but then pass the site on to a private concern.

    And another issue: with DOE seeking to privatize more and more of their radioactive enterprises, another thing to be concerned about is the potential for one or another private entity, not DOE, seeking to establish a radioactive waste storage site in the shales of western South Dakota.

    Does privatizing these efforts allow DOE to get out of “consent-based siting?” If DOE spins off the borehole operation to some private entity, does that mean all of DOE’s promises and assurances no longer apply?

  123. Robert McTaggart

    Mr. Pay,

    Privatization is probably an effort to save money, and there is the philosophy that perhaps non-government entities would better operate the facilities if the profit motive is there.

    I do not think that privatization waives any responsibility for doing things safely. In fact, it would probably open up possibilities for more independent third parties to do some of the tasks like safety oversight or environmental monitoring.

  124. Robert McTaggart

    Hi Barry,

    The experience from Germany so far is that electricity prices have gone up, and they burn more coal when renewables don’t work. So their carbon levels have gone up. Perhaps they will feel better if they import electricity from France, which produces more of its energy from nuclear.

    Even Japan, the site of Fukushima, is slowly turning their nuclear plants back on. Perhaps not all of them will come back, but importing and burning coal and natural gas is expensive and increases carbon levels. They also see what the air looks like over in China on bad coal days.

    In my opinion, trying to push wind and solar to do everything, instead of optimizing what they actually do best, is inefficient. The result is yes, you have to burn more natural gas to make up the difference when wind or solar are either not available or not enough. Wind suffers a little because its optimal times are actually overnight, when people are asleep and not using electricity. Now it turns out that not only do leaks of methane cause an issue, but natural gas activities also emit ethane, which facilitates ozone production and is a greenhouse gas.

    Things like home geothermal or home solar would help reduce our demands from the electrical grid. The big barrier at the moment is the cost of such a system. For home solar, that could also include battery storage. Neither works as well in the depths of winter.

    And who says I am not doing research on solar? Right now we are looking at the effects of gamma irradiation on the performance of solar cells, to mimic the impact of space radiation on solar cells used by NASA. On earth, it would be things like effects of ultraviolet radiation and/or cosmic rays that would do most of the radiation-based damage.

  125. Robert McTaggart

    A large nuclear plant would not make sense around here just due to economics. Once they are built, the operational costs are low per kilowatt-hour. But they are great for powering large population centers 24/7.

    A small nuclear reactor would make sense around here. Those would tackle the big challenges for nuclear today: Be more economically competitive with natural gas, and drop the initial high costs of construction for a large plant. One could power Sioux Falls, or be used to power biofuel facilities or other industries off the grid on a 24/7 basis. If you want to remove a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, then run a small nuclear reactor to do that all day long. They would also work better in a distributed energy grid that accommodates the nature of solar and wind.

    At the end of the day, we shouldn’t choose nuclear or renewables…..they should be working together to strengthen each others weaknesses and reduce carbon output. Each has their own environmental impacts and waste streams that must be dealt with.

  126. Robert McTaggart

    Not sure if the site is great for the production of geothermal energy. The higher the temperature the better it would work. But the drilling techniques would be applicable wherever it would be optimal.

    Where does that heat from geothermal energy come from? It comes from radioactive decay of uranium, thorium, and potassium within the earth. The radiation doesn’t make it up here, but the heat does. Homestake may be able to see some of the neutrinos produced by radioactive decay in the earth (so-called geoneutrinos).

    Where does sunlight come from? It is produced by fusion of hydrogen into helium within the sun, a nuclear process. And of course wind is produced by convection, etc. that is a result of sunlight.

    So these things are more connected than you think they are on the surface.

  127. What?! Geothermal energy comes mostly from radioactive decay? Holy cow! I thought it came from the simple pressure of gravity pressing all that matter together. Shows what I know!

    That still seems like an incredible amount of energy coming from radioactive elements that make up such a tiny fraction of the planet. But that’s the whole idea of nuclear power: lots of bang for the buck.

    But that means geothermal isn’t renewable either, right? Eventually, uranium and potassium isotopes decay, and the planet’s innards will be cooler… though I suppose that decay is on such a cosmic time scale that it’s a negligible factor in calculating how many geothermal turbines we need to build to replace current power sources.

  128. mike from iowa

    Let the end-timers have their war and this debate won’t matter.

  129. Robert McTaggart

    Yes, technically speaking geothermal energy is not renewable, but it is green and clean (see Iceland). Essentially the heat from geothermal is a use-it or lose-it proposition, so you might as well use it.

    This is another reason why nuclear waste is not necessarily waste. It produces heat that can be used for other applications. So I often use the term “nuclear energy” to cover both the production of electricity and the generation of heat.

    The half-life of Thorium-232 is about 14 billion years. Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Those decay into other elements that decay and release heat. That heat is also responsible for things like plate tectonics, which plays a role in the whole life cycle of the planet.

    Nominally these elements occur at low concentrations, but you would need to talk to a geologist to see how much they think is in the inner/outer core. The recent proposals to study geoneutrinos at Homestake would shed some light on that subject.

  130. Redfield, South Dakota the American Fukushima Part Deux

    Lucky us for having the thing, making money and living the dream. Teachers getting a 10 buck a month raise, life is good.

  131. Robert McTaggart

    Thanks Jerry,

    Just one more reason to actually do the environmental clean-up that this research would support and isolate these wastes from the biosphere. The costs of said clean-up will not go down over time.

  132. Your very welcome Dr., What is a few sick and dying people in South Dakota compared to profits from dumping that crap down the wellhead. interesting outfit. The difference between geothermal production and this nuke is the amount of nuke. Test hole indeed, testing the limits of what we are willing to accept.

  133. Robert McTaggart

    If the deep borehole research shows that the process is safe, then nothing will get out. No radionuclides, no radiation. So there won’t be anybody getting sick. This is why this research is so important.

    Before, during, and after the research, you can use radiation detectors, environmental monitoring, and heat signatures to show unequivocally that no waste is being brought in.

    But we know the risks of leaving this stuff on the surface with more direct access to the biosphere than it would several kilometers under the ground.

  134. Yucca Mountain still looks viable as of 2013 with the report of 2015, so there is that which is already built.

  135. Robert McTaggart


    In many ways Yucca Mountain should have moved forward. The jury is still out on whether the deep borehole method is the appropriate method for storing many of these wastes, but I agree that Yucca Mountain would be a viable alternative technically. I am not sure if it makes economic sense yet for the borehole wastes. It will be interesting to see if Yucca Mountain makes any progress at all in the next administration.

    The problem of course is that once you fill up Yucca Mountain, you may need to build another Yucca Mountain. So storing some of these non-commercial wastes somewhere else via deep borehole disposal may extend how long a Yucca Mountain could receive commercial wastes. The other alternative of course is to recycle first, and then store the smaller volume of commercial wastes.

  136. Korey Jackson

    Spink County’s aquifers already have hundreds of boreholes, thanks to the pioneering deep drilling efforts of early Redfield resident and former South Dakota governor Peter Norbeck.

    Granted, the Norbeck-Nicholson Company’s boreholes are not anywhere near as deep as this proposed project; but they were instrumental in making Spink County and South Dakota what it is today.

    I wonder: what would Peter Norbeck’s position be on this proposed Deep Borehole project?

    Kudos to Dr. Robert McTaggart for providing good factual background information and analysis to this discussion.

  137. I feel like McTaggart should just come right out and say that South Dakota is so far removed from the rest of the country, and it’s people are so few and far between, contributing so little to the rest this nation that we really sort of owe it to everybody to put in a new nuclear waste dump – in our backyard.

    Cory, I know you’ll eventually get to the bottom of this.

  138. Korey, did Norbeck ever get down into the granite? Do folks still use Norbeck’s water wells? What environmental impacts did his drilling have?

    Adam, everything we have on the record says USDOE will not allow nuclear waste in Spink County. One of the speakers at today’s Spink County Commission meeting claimed that Rep. Kristi Noem opposes this project. Frankly, the only solid reason I can think of right now to oppose this project is the possibility that the experimental holes are a secret opening to bring nuclear waste here later, but we have no evidence that any such plan is in the works, and every bit of evidence that if someone tried to spring such a plan on us, we would have USDOE’s consent-based siting policy and a lot of statements on the record to back up our effort to hold officials to their word and block any nuclear waste.

    Adam, I will most certainly keep watching, because if USDOE and Battelle bring the Borehole project here, and then if USDOE, Daugaard, Wilson, and whoever else is plotting to somehow profit from dumping nuclear waste in South Dakota, we would have on our hands a deceitful reversal of enormous proportions that could by itself bring down the regime in Pierre.

  139. Donald Pay

    Costs “savings” of DOE’s privatization projects have been assessed by the Government Accounting Office. No savings and lots of delayed and cancelled projects.

    The following article, which includes a reference to SDSM&T President Heather Wilson, indicates why privatization never seems to result in cost savings.

  140. Nuke power has run its course and is no longer feasible.

    Here is a long article about Yucca Mountain, but a good read.

    One thing to note is why Yucca Mountain in the first place. The answer is a place that is weak with political power. “However, the State of Nevada and other groups believe politics played a huge role in the decision. Notably, when the 1987 NWPA amendments were passed, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was Jim Wright, from Texas, and the House majority leader was Tom Foley, from Washington State. Nevada was the smallest and politically weakest state of the three.”

    If that nuke camel sticks its nose in the tent, we will have full nuke wells all over the state. Check out that link, it is pretty informative about liability as well.

  141. Solar and wind power are basically the same thing, and are only “renewable” in the sense that there’s probably a lot of it. It’s not infinite. It’s not cheap. It’s not practical. Nuclear power is fine and dandy. And The Borehole isn’t about radioactive waste, people. Aren’t you paying attention?

  142. Dennis R Wagner

    Cory, is there anything that would prevent the DOE and/or Battelle from using the Borehole for burying other types of hazardous, but non-nuclear waste, materials?

  143. Korey Jackson


    Regarding the Norbeck wells. Off hand, I don’t know how many, if any, of the Norbeck-drilled artesian wells are still used in the area. I imagine that, if the casing is still intact and the well has not collapsed on itself, some could still be in use today.

    I do not think that the artesian water wells did not drill into the underlying granite bedrock, especially 100 years ago. The base of the aquifer rests on on the bedrock, so the well base would be well off the bedrock itself, but deep into the aquifer layer.

    One readily available reference may be found at

    Regarding environmental impacts: providing a reliable source of water for livestock and homes enabled the early development of South Dakota agriculture over the years of uneven rainfall. I am not an environmental engineer, but would have to say, over the many years since, the aquifer water level has dropped.

  144. You know, the EPA and government, do not have a stellar record in paying damages on incidents. You cannot count on them to be there in the case of a serious problem like nukes in the ground. When something like this happens, you kind of get what I am talking about

  145. Robert McTaggart


    Sorry, DOE does not keep a list of who is naughty or nice. Neither do I for that matter :^).

    Geology and water issues are the driving factors for locating a deep borehole disposal facility. Do states get to choose their geology? Do states serve their nation in different ways?

    Spink County is not a site for the actual disposal of nuclear waste due to water issues, but the science and engineering that would occur in this test will support a safer deep borehole disposal facility.

    I am less concerned about where such a facility would go, and more interested in having the research generate the safest facility possible. Then it won’t really matter where it ultimately goes.

    Certainly you are free to disapprove of any research or of the storage of nuclear waste. But I think you are ignoring two things.

    First, the real deep borehole disposal process for storing nuclear waste may actually be safe. Yes, that has to be demonstrated, which is why the research without nuclear material in Spink County is important.

    Second, you have already benefited from the military efforts that developed this material, and continue to benefit from them. Now we need to remove them from the surface to enhance our national security. Our foes are not the same and their methods are not the same either.

  146. Trump wins Indiana, yikes

  147. Robert McTaggart

    Mr. Pay,

    I’m not saying I’m in favor of privatization of all government functions, only that cost savings are what the intent seems to be these days.

    There are some things that government does best….for example, I am not going to re-build I-29 and I-90 by myself.

  148. Robert McTaggart


    Yes, building nuclear plants in the same way that they have been doing for the last 50 years is not cost competitive with natural gas. Which is why the smaller reactors would be better.

    Just because research would occur here doesn’t mean that nuclear waste is coming. As Freud once said, sometimes research is just research.

  149. Donald Pay

    Sorry, I neglected to link the correct article regarding privatization, Sandia Labs, Lockhead Martin and SDSM&T President Heather Wilson.

  150. mike from iowa

    Cruz quits-the earth should start shattering at anytime.

  151. Robert McTaggart

    Cruz is a lawyer who says he argued in front of the Supreme Court, but if you saw that video with the Trump supporters in Indiana yesterday, he definitely lost that exchange. So it is no wonder he left the race.

    Cory: Did anything else beyond that tidbit above occur at the Spink County meeting today?

  152. Donald Pay

    I think if Cory were scoring the rope line debate, he would give it to Cruz.

  153. Robert McTaggart

    You mean give him a ten count?

  154. If you are gonna build smaller reactors, why go through the bother? Dump them like other smart countries are doing. Nothing good comes from nukes now, they did there thing and that thing is over. When you are in a hole, stop digging (betcha didn’t see that one coming) and move what is left of it to Yucca Mountain. Put it out on the Bundy place, maybe his Wildebeest cattle will put some weight on. Sorriest herd of cattle since South Dakota in the 30’s.

  155. Robert McTaggart

    In some sense the small reactors hold promise because of the success of reactors used by the Navy. They get to return to port or be refueled when they want to, not when they have to. But SMRs have to be designed for commercial use and then be licensed.

    Nearly 50 projects for small and advanced nuclear are underway:

    Nothing good comes from nukes? Scroll down on the following site to see the video.

  156. Robert McTaggart

    “Of all the incentives for installing solar panel systems, solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) are some of the most potent, yet least understood.”

    “Solar Renewable Energy Credits: More Is Better, But Not Too Much”

  157. Robert McTaggart

    “When you are in a hole, stop digging…”


  158. Ya don’t need a licence to have solar and it does not leave the glow stuff. And you don’t keep causing issues with the climate like this that is going on right now north of us

  159. I have some honey do projects as well, not 50, but nearly that many. The same thing will apply to me that applies to them, they will not be completed.

    The United States could use the used fuel right now, but the concern is that the by product from the use could get into you know who’s dirty little hands and create problems. Other countries already do just that with reused material. touch aii (redneck French)

  160. Robert McTaggart

    I suspect that you would want a licensed electrician to hook things up. And the installers should be bonded. So there is licensure…just different.

    No radioactivity (other than NORMs) in solar panels, but when their efficiency drops, you will either throw them away or use more and more electricity from the grid. Better have some nukes then. Better think about chemical wastes instead of nuclear wastes.

  161. Robert McTaggart

    The best way to get rid of plutonium is to consume it for electricity. The wastes that are left after recycling would still be radioactive, but the composition and chemistry would be different. The time that you would need to isolate the waste would also be reduced.

    I would be in favor of investigating the deep borehole disposal method for isolating what remains after recycling.

  162. now that the good doctor has deconstructed to politics and comedy, this one (reactor) is pretty small. the dome is six inches tall


  163. I accept that the USDOE has promised not to propose dumping in Spink County. However, they conveniently say nothing about future proposals of a new nuclear dump site in one or many of the surrounding counties. Seems that the surrounding counties also have the same geological similarities which attracted this bore hole proposal in the first place. Will they promise not to propose dumping nuclear waste East river all together, or perhaps throughout our whole state? I doubt it. I take zero comfort in how they promise not to dump in Spink County. In fact, for all I know, they could be thinking how my backyard is the perfect place.

    Of course, the US DOE will always have to drum up local support for installing a new hazardous waste dump in any US location – just like every single hazardous waste related industry has – before it installs itself and hurts the environment and often times the people. Private interests tend to bend the facts to suit their agenda, even when they’re pretty sure it’s going to hurt some people at the least – news flash – they will even go as far as to mislead the public about the potential hazards.

    When it comes to the future energy needs of the US, Bloomberg has these two fabulous articles, and I’ve provided short snippets in quotes below (nuclear isn’t even on investors’ radar):

    “Solar and Wind Are Crushing Fossil Fuels.”

    “Wind power is now the cheapest electricity to produce in both Germany and the U.K., even without government subsidies.”

    “For the first time, widespread adoption of renewables is effectively lowering the capacity factor [need] for fossil fuels… once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero—free electricity—while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff.”

    “Renewables are really becoming cost-competitive,” said Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Luke Mills. “We’re seeing the utilization rate of fossil fuels wear away.”

    Free market is deciding that fossil fuels cost too much, and nuclear . And with every new solar panel and wind turbine installed, our needs for coal/nuclear have ever-increasingly, and measurably, gone down. The brightness of our energy future revolves around this trend. Waxing passionate about making more holes in the ground for more radioactive waste over the next 1000 years, while South Dakota remains one of the US’s least tapped resources for solar and wind just makes me face palm.

  164. *Free market is deciding that fossil fuels cost too much, and nuclear costs about the same.

  165. Dennis asked about what stops DOE/Battelle from burying other non-nuclear waste in the Spink County borehole. I speculate:

    Cost: $35 million to drill one hole? I suspect there are more cost-effective ways to bury waste.

    Regulations: The same regs that prevent dumping nuclear waste down such a hole right now may also stop the dumping of other toxic goo down such a hole through the Dakota Aquifer.

    Volume: at 8.5 inches across (21.6 cm) and 5000 meters deep, the borehole would have a total volume of 183 cubic meters, or about three Keystone-Menno oil spills, 1150 barrels. Subtract the volume we’re taking up with canisters for whatever we drop down the hole, and we’re not getting a lot of disposal space for the effort. If I have a thousand barrels worth of yuck to get rid of, and if it’s not nuclear stuff that has to be contained as far from the ecosystem as possible for hundreds of thousands of years, I can probably get a better deal just loading my barrels into some old existing mine rather than banking on some unproven drilling technology and really skinny holes that require me to take on the added risk of repackaging my yuck.

  166. Robert McTaggart


    If you want comedy I have two words for you: Spinal Tap. Jerry and I are having too much fun on this blog.


    Let’s suppose that the NWTRB reviews the research years from now from Spink County and perhaps other sites, and declared that the process was safe: If engineers follow the protocols developed, nothing gets out onto the surface or into any water source for millions of years, by which time the Cs-137 has decayed to zero. The consent-based process includes a robust environmental monitoring program for before, during, and after the disposal process. Furthermore let’s also say for Jerry’s sake that it was more economically feasible to use deep borehole disposal for these wastes instead of a Yucca Mountain kind of facility.

    Would you rather let other states receive the influx of DOE funds and STEM majors? There would be engineers and nuclear scientists, but also chemists and biologists.

    Would you rather let these wastes stay on the surface, with potential risks for an attack and dispersal or environmental damage in places like Hanford? That is why I keep bringing up the mining issues of rare earths and wind power. Shifting the environmental burden over to China doesn’t seem right and doesn’t address that particular problem.

    Would you be OK with the government spending money on surface storage than other pressing social needs? If it is safe, we should move the wastes underground and use those monies for something else.

  167. Robert, my understanding from today’s coverage in AAN of yesterday’s Spink County Commission meeting is that…

    (1) the commission is just starting its discussion and is far from making any decision;

    (2) Harvey Wollman stated his explicit objection to the project;

    (3) no new information about the project came out that wasn’t available at last week’s meetings;

    (4) objection to the project remains rooted in mistrust of government and suspicion of camel noses under tents.

  168. When you are in a hole, stop digging… or dig harder—you’re bound to reach China, right? :-D

  169. Robert McTaggart

    I also do not believe that any participation in nuclear energy in South Dakota, be it manufacturing of parts and components, consultant work for engineering or environmental health and safety, a small nuclear reactor, or even a deep borehole disposal facility, would mean that other efforts for improving renewables could not be pursued with equal vigor as well.

    We will need all the clean energy we can muster, and deliver that energy when people want it. That includes renewables along with nuclear. But the waste issues of each need to be addressed. What nuclear waste issues have in common, regardless of the type of waste or facility design, is the need for better consent-based processes that help us solve the big problems.

  170. barry freed

    Mr Taggart,
    Please provide citations of your assertions disputing the claims of the German Government.

    Yes, they are flaring Methane all over the U.S. There are burning stacks within sight of the home that belonged to the woman in North Dakota who froze to death because she didn’t have the money for heat. They are in sight of laid off workers because the gas companies, who must not see any real control by the Government you say will keep us safe, was able to flare instead of creating jobs to pipe it to a generator and make electricity.

  171. I am strongly persuaded by the argument that, even if we decided nuclear energy is too dangerous for continued use, even if we shut down the extraction and use of all radioactive materials, we still have nuclear waste from our 70 years of misguided energy and weapons policy to move from temporary to permanent storage. The optimal solution appears to involve moving and isolating that waste as far from the ecosystem as possible. We can launch that nuclear waste into the sun (expensive and dangerous). We can drop it into the Marianas trench (stupid). Or we can bury it, the deeper, the better.

    Shall we study those potential disposal methods, or shall we let those leaky containers at Hanford break down completely and put workers and the Tri-Cities at risk?

  172. barry freed

    Have you vetted Dr. Taggart? Is he real, and what are his credentials? My patented BS detector is starting to climb when reading his public relations campaign for the drilling company. Taggart’s writings also demonstrate a lack of knowledge in alternative energy.

  173. Robert McTaggart

    Thanks Cory,

    Unfortunately we are the government: It seems we do not have the stomach these days to tackle the big problems, let alone solve them. We like having Thanksgiving dinner, but don’t want to hang around to clean up the kitchen afterwards.

    Those poor camels without any noses….

    There may be good reasons to do the first deep borehole disposal facilities within the boundaries of a national laboratory, particularly for the first installations of actual nuclear waste and demonstrate nuclear safety. Ultimately I think the viability of deep borehole disposal of actual nuclear wastes comes down to costs, not safety. Can they bring the costs down to deliver that safety below what is necessary for a Yucca Mountain facility?

    If the research shows it is safe, once again for millions of years by which time this stuff will have decayed away, then I have less of a problem as to where the actual facilities are located. As noted before with geothermal energy, radioactive material is already underground and is part of the environment…this would just be more concentrated and in a stable location for isolation.

  174. Dr. McTaggart is a real SDSU prof.. at least more real than Jon Lauck was when he professing history and blogging for John Thune in 2004:

  175. Robert McTaggart

    I must chuckle that I have to continually provide some kind of documentation and those making the request do not. I have already done that on another entry elsewhere on this blog, but I can do it again.

    I hope that Germany figures it out and brings the cost of electricity down at the same time.

    Today, a greater reliance upon solar and wind means that something else needs to produce power when the sun doesn’t shine (or is not enough) or when the wind does not blow (or blows too hard or not enough). Pushing that power to where it is needed over the current grid produces energy losses that must also be made up by something else.

    Replacing coal with natural gas is a carbon win. Replacing nuclear with the solar-wind-natural gas combo is a carbon loss, because more net carbon would be emitted by the natural gas. But nuclear is more efficient when it produces a constant level of power, so renewables and other things are needed to deliver the peak power. They need each other to deliver the power we need while keeping carbon low.

    Life cycle carbon costs for nuclear are on the order of wind and hydro (that means from beginning to end, not just the production of electricity). Solar’s is slightly higher. Natural gas is 15 times greater, and coal’s is 30 times greater.

  176. We are the government—hey, that’s my line! :-)

  177. Robert McTaggart

    ….it was a good line ;^).

  178. Robert McTaggart

    What is different from that article in the Collegian is that we are no longer in the College of Engineering. The Department of Physics was moved over to the College of Arts and Sciences.

    Technically we are a “BS only” department (yeah, I get it), because we only offer the Bachelor’s of Science in Physics and do not participate in the MS or PhD in Physics within the State of South Dakota.

    So as an undergraduate-only department we concentrate efforts in a couple of different areas, one of which is Nuclear science and engineering.

  179. Robert McTaggart

    I would also say that South Dakota could also participate in nuclear security, safeguards, and forensics. That is also a critical need.

    Yes, even if you are not a fan of nuclear energy, getting this stuff isolated safely is in everybody’s interests.

  180. Korey Jackson

    Speaking as one whose job entailed worrying about nuclear security, safeguards, and forensics, I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. McTaggart: safely isolating this nuclear material is in everybody’s best interest.

    The resources our nation spends on safeguarding nuclear waste is significant – and necessary. Securing waste nuclear material and used fuel rods in above ground sealed casks and storage ponds continue to present very real risks that must be minimized and alleviated.

    Cory’s concluding comments (08:51 time mark – we may disagree about the “70 years of misguided energy and weapons policy”) are spot on.

    If feasible and safe, sealing this hazardous material deep underground in stable bedrock appears, in theory, to be a feasible and attractive solution. But, serious additional research is needed before we commit to that path.

    More pertinent to our original discussion – I see no credible evidence that there is any real interest in storing that nuclear material in Spink County, South Dakota.

    Spink County’s underlying relatively stable and relatively accessible bedrock provides great scientific research opportunities. I am curious to what may be discovered deep under Spink County.

    Borehole projects such as Oklahoma’s Bertha Rogers Hole, the former USSR’s Kola Superdeep Borehole, and Germany’s KTB Borehole back in the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s expanded (and for Gemany, continue to expand) mankind’s knowledge of the earth’s geology.

    For instance, the Kola Superdeep Borehole penetrated the impermeable granite bedrock layer and discovered an unexpected fractured, water-saturated, metamorphically different type of granite layer of rock; as well as mud “boiling with hydrogen”.

    As Arte Johnson used to say on Laughin: “Hmmm, verrry interesting.”

  181. Robert McTaggart

    Thanks Korey,

    I think there is a “camel’s nose under the tent” party that sees this as the first step to disposing of nuclear waste in Spink County, if not in other sites in South Dakota. A lot of general skepticism regarding the motives of government is happening as well.

    Maybe the county wants something to be put in writing to say there will not be any nuclear wastes brought into Spink County. I note once again that research operations could be monitored by third parties (not me) to show that no nuclear waste is being brought in to the test site or the county.

    My primary interest is having the research be done so that a future deep borehole disposal facility will be as safe as possible, regardless of where it could be located. The other research would be fascinating.

    Site selection is not arbitrary. The local geology for any site will need to satisfy a set of preconditions, which the research will help establish based upon data from the deep underground environment. Transportation issues, environmental monitoring plans, workforce development, and occupational safety for surface operations would be considered as well.

    I agree that South Dakota may have some favorable rock formations when viewed from the tools we have at the surface. But since the final specifications will rely on research that hasn’t happened yet deep underground, it is premature to say whether any South Dakota sites would qualify.

    But for the sake of argument, let’s say that one did. If there were no radiation at the surface, and nothing escaped into any body of water, and the boreholes are sealed, and the radionuclides decay in place for a million years, and all of those preconditions for geology and operations have been passed, then wouldn’t it have no impact on the biosphere or human health or agriculture?

    Nevertheless, the cost compared to a Yucca Mountain like facility will be the deciding factor as to whether this technology is used. Ironically for all the talk about reducing carbon, natural gas is beating coal because it costs less.

  182. One cannot help but wonder if the local associate professor is verbally publishing or perishing on this topic – brown nosing/soliciting for a PR position at the DOE – seeking that higher paying job with the federal government. Overly-passionate inherent lack of quality in an approach begs the question.

  183. Robert McTaggart

    You forget that I have been writing pro-nuclear op-eds in the local papers and the Argus Leader for over 10 years, and I have not been offered any position yet by DOE as a result.

    I guess if the process is actually safe, and you have no interest in the research that may solve a nuclear security problem for the United States, then you must attack the proponent instead of the argument.

  184. Donald Pay

    I have a lot to say on Cory’s question above: “Shall we study those potential disposal methods, or shall we let those leaky containers at Hanford break down completely and put workers and the Tri-Cities at risk?”

    The first thing to realize is that the same agency that brought us the leaky containers of radioactive waste at the Hanford site is none other than the Department of Energy or predecessor agencies. This is the same agency that asks South Dakotans for their trust in this deep borehole disposal test. And maybe if Hanford was the only DOE problem site you might decide to overlook it, but there are scores of issues at other DOE sites. And there are other examples of DOE using the camel’s nose under the tent approach to eventually site what they want. The Blue Ribbon Commission realized that the Department of Energy lacks credibility on these issues and suggested that a new agency oversee radioactive waste disposal. Maybe the right question to ask is: Do you want to move some of the Hanford waste to South Dakota to have it threatening South Dakota communities in addition to the communities around Hanford?

    Second, let’s assess why DOE lacks credibility in conducting science. In the late 70s and early 80s, we had a good federal process to address the scientific questions around the high-level radioactive waste disposal issue. Good science was being done, addressing various geological media. Anyone could gain access to the studies by just writing to the DOE. Things began to change as budgets were slashed through the 1980s. Less money meant cutting corners. The first thing to go was free public circulation of the scientific studies coming out of the Office of Nuclear Waste Isolation. That meant less eyes on the science and a bubbling up of distrust. I’m not sure if research was harmed by budget cuts, but it seemed the political pressure was on to site something, not study. Then Congress, caving to the nuclear industry and trying to solve a delicate political problem, passed the “screw Nevada” bill. The lesson: you can have great intentions and even good science, but once the nuclear industry lobbyists and their minions decide to drop the hammer, you and good science and honest government are toast.

    Third, let’s look at this project in Spink County. It has been in the works for over a year. No one, not the scientists, not DOE, not the contractor or partners, not the Governor, bothered to address this issue with the citizens of the state or of Spink County in all that time. They certainly didn’t come to you before they submitted the proposal. You learned about it early if you were a regular reader of this blog, but you never heard it from THEM. You heard a lot of the sounds of silence from THEM, because they didn’t want you to know.

  185. Robert McTaggart

    I don’t believe that the DOE or its predecessors that initially stored the waste envisioned that the waste would be there this long. So these vessels would not be engineered the same way today.

    Federal budgets, as you know, have not kept up with the actual needs and responsibilities of the federal government. Just look at social security. Funding for science faces the same challenges. And when that happens, you start cutting manpower. Less manpower, less time to do a lot of the overhead.

    I agree that more work needs to be done to help build consent and public confidence. I think the more people know about the methodology, the more they could support it. But I would want the information that is released to be correct. And I would also want the competition for a federal grant (which apparently this was) to have some integrity until a selection is made.

    Heck, they didn’t even bother to contact the Coordinator for Nuclear Education at SDSU! What is going on here? ;^)

  186. Robert McTaggart

    It may be that the DOE needs a larger budget to provide the manpower necessary to disseminate a lot of the information you would like in a timely fashion. But Congress holds the purse strings.

  187. Yeah, the USDOE needs to hire more people, like perhaps McTaggart, for local promotion of projects like these. That’s my point about brown nosing/soliciting for a PR position at the DOE – with public statements such as they are.

  188. To passionately ignore any/all currently implemented technologies designed to alleviate complications with “when the wind the wind doesn’t blow” and “when the sun doesn’t shine” is to marginalize the value of renewable energy in the future.

    To question whether or not renewable energies are ‘renewable’ or ‘not’ is just pure silly-talk.

    To claim we cannot currently contain nuclear waste on the surface is to claim that we cannot implement secondary, and perhaps even tertiary, containment vessels to keep the nuclear waste from dripping on to soil is ignorant.

    What are the things we could discover, through this Redfield project, which might indicate that this borehole method of nuclear waste disposal may very well be “too dangerous to implement on the future?” I haven’t heard one darn thing about that in all of McTaggert’s pro-borehole talk.

  189. barry freed

    Mr. Taggart,
    Don’t chuckle, prove your thesis. Simply repeating something proves nothing. If you are as credible as you would have us believe you are, you would cite every claim you make without having to be asked. Laymen on this blog do so, why can’t you?
    Refusing to cite suggests that you have no citations or they will be easily exposed as Big Nuke propaganda.

  190. Robert McTaggart

    What exactly do you want me to cite?

    You mean the Energy Information Administration that shows that in February 2016, Nuclear produced 65,638 thousand megawatthours of electricity, wind produced 20,214 thousand megawatthours of electricity, and all solar produced 3,409 thousand megawatthours of electricity?

    It doesn’t look like to me that solar and wind are ready to take over. Coal and natural gas are each closer to 100,000 thousand megawatthours. Yeah, those systems to deal with intermittency are called….burning natural gas.

    We also use carbon-based fuels to make the infrastructure that collects solar and wind, as well as process biofuels. Thus all energy sources today have a carbon footprint. All energy sources have a waste stream, which you happily ignore. All of them use natural resources which produce an environmental impact, which you ignore as well.

  191. Robert McTaggart

    Sure, we can keep replacing barriers, but unless it is bunkered or slightly underground, the site would be a target. Would you be fine with dispersal of radionuclides by fire, and where those radionuclides would go since the prevailing wind patterns blow west to east? Yeah, you are right, that wouldn’t affect agriculture at all. Let’s do a double face palm and ignore that.

    And by all means, let’s beat up DOE for each and every radioactive atom, but allow DOE workers to receive a larger radiation dose while doing that maintenance that wouldn’t be required if we permanently stored the waste securely.

  192. Robert McTaggart

    Do you have a home solar system, or a wind turbine? Do you have an electric car powered by said home energy systems? Passive geothermal? Energy storage?

    It may need to be the utility that installs these systems that the homeowner rents. They would deal with all of the grid issues, and any maintenance or replacement of inefficient or hail-damaged cells, etc. That would reduce the independence from utilities that many green fans desire, but it would increase the distribution of green energy.

  193. If the USDOE chooses to pay a physicist for PR on this project, it probably won’t get off the ground. A qualified geologist is required to establish what we could actually learn about that rock strata, and the potential drawbacks of such a borehole – not an inordinately pro-nuclear physicist.

    I am going to speak with a geologist friend of mine as I am sure he will better satiate my curiosity on this topic. Maybe I’ll get back with you about it.

  194. Robert McTaggart

    Sorry to disappoint you, but the DOE isn’t paying me anything. But I am flattered that you think they should be :^).

    The folks from SDSMT who would perform the research are all geologists. Environmental monitoring or health physics (radiation safety) on the surface would be more up my alley, not the drilling or study of rock strata and chemistry.

    The project would study how well this method would isolate radioactive materials and protect the public and the environment from them. Wouldn’t you want our government to do that effectively and cost-efficiently? Please explain how they can do that without doing the research.

    If you were held personally liable for a potential accident during the implementation or operation of such a facility, wouldn’t you want to have done some research so those could be avoided in the first place?

    There are other sites that have been cited here at dakotafreepress that will have all the information you want.

  195. Robert McTaggart

    Here is an article from 2015 from the Forbes website.

    One more to 200…..

  196. I wonder why the Roy Process has not been implemented by now for the neutralization of nuclear wastes. It is a photon transmutation. Here is some info on it:

    Sunday, November 4, 1979
    Process may kill radiation threat

    Copyright, 1979. The Arizona Republic

    TEMPE — An internationally recognized Arizona State University physicist disclosed Saturday that he has discovered a method for treating nuclear reac­tor and other highly dangerous radioactive wastes so they will be harmless.

    The procedure was conceived by Dr. Radha R. Roy professor of nuclear physics who is the designer and former director of nuclear-physics research fa­cilities at the University of Brussels In Belgium. and at Pennsylvania State Uni­versity.

    Roy said the process “very roughly can be described in part as a reversal of phenomena that occur during a nuclear fission chain reactions.

    The scientist said the process is the culmination of many years research

    “Theoretical analysis and mathematical calculations confirm the process is highly effective and that any level of radio activity, from weak to strong. Can be reduced to harmless state in a short period of time,” Roy said.

    The thing that is so encouraging is that the method can cancel radioactivity rapidly enough for it to be of r real practical value in disposing of dangerous wastes in storage and as they are being produced, Roy said.

    One treatment-plant design which Roy has devised could reduce the radioac­tivity of even the most dangerous wastes with half-lives or 15,000 to 40,000 years to a level where they would be essentially harmless in about 20 days.

    A half-life is the time required for a quantity of radioactive material to lose one half of its radioactive strength.

    Roy, who left his native Calcutta, India. to do advanced nuclear- physics re­search at the University of London during World War II, said all the necessary theoretical and quantum electrodynamical work on the process has been completed.

    “There remains perhaps as much as a years work in calculating parameters and preparing data that will he needed for the engineering design of a pilot radio­active waste-treatment plant’ he said.

    Roy is known internationally among scientists for his many advanced research contributions in the field of nuclear fission fragments and as the author of de­finitive graduate and post-doctoral textbooks used in universities all over the world. “During the 37 years since the first fission chain reaction there has been no progress whatever toward the development of a method of deactivating radioactive waste or even for storing it safely,” he said.

    “The collections of dangerous nuclear wastes in this country alone have now reached a total of at least 75 million gallons, and it is growing daily.”

    He estimated an operational nuclear waste-treatment plant could cost $40 mil­lion or more. By contrast, he noted, Congress last summer appropriated $80 million just to build more concrete storage bunkers to hold only a part of the growing accumulation of nuclear wastes.

    “Since it is so very dangerous to ship strongly radioactive materials it would certainly be sensible to build a treatment plant for each reactor so radioactivity could be killed out before the waste is transported anywhere” the scientist said.

    Roy said that the national danger from nuclear waste is “extremely serious” and urged the federal government to build treatment plants near established nuclear waste storage areas. Other treatment plants should be constructed to kill out the radioactivity in the wastes from the nation’s weapons programs and from its educational, industrial, medical and experimental research facilities he said.

    Roy warned that waste containing plutonium 239 is “critically dangerous” because of its extremely high radioactivity and also because it is the essential ingredient in an atomic bomb.

    The treatment process not only will render plutonium 239 harmless in a remarkably short time, he said, but also will keep deactivated plutonium from ever being reprocessed to make an illegal atomic weapon.

    Roy further warned that the United States not only is exporting nuclear energy when it sells reactor technology to foreign nations, but also is sending overseas the potential for making illegal bombs out of plutonium from reprocessed nuclear wastes.

    The treatment method will guarantee to foreign countries that use nuclear fission energy that they can maintain an environment free from radioactivity, and it also could guarantee to the world that there will be no reuse of plutonium in an unauthorized weapon, he said. Careful theoretical and mathematical analysis have assured him that the nuclear waste- treatment process will function reliably and with rapidity and high efficiency, he said.

    “But the existence of this promising nuclear waste-treatment procedure should not be construed in any sense to mean that nuclear fission power reactors are safe” Roy said. The contractor who built Three Mile Island’s reactor-like those who built the other 71 reactors now operational in the United States — expected that plant to function normally for 30 years in total safety without event .But the fact is that it went out of control and nearly created a meltdown which could have destroyed a large part of the human habitat of east-central Pennsylvania,” Roy said.

    Neutralize & Eliminate Nuclear Waste For Good

    The Roy Process Brief Description
    from the web site:

    Is there a safe process to get rid of nuclear waste? One possible solution is a process invented by Dr. Radha R. Roy, former professor of Physics at Arizona State University, and designer and former director of the nuclear physics research facilities at the University of Brussels in Belgium and at Pennsylvania State University.

    Dr. Roy is an internationally known nuclear physicist, consultant, and the author of over 60 articles and several books. He is also a contributing author of many invited articles in a prestigious encyclopedia. He is cited in American Men and Women of Science, Who`s Who in America, Who`s Who in the World and the International Biographical Centre, England. He has spent 52 years in European and American universities researching and writing recognized books on nuclear physics. He has supervised many doctoral students.

    Roy invented a process for transmuting radioactive nuclear isotopes to harmless, stable isotopes. This process is viable not only for nuclear waste from reactors but also for low-level radioactive waste products.

    In 1979, Roy announced his transmutation process and received international attention. The Roy process does not require storage of radioactive materials. No new equipment is required. In fact, all of the equipment and the chemical separation processes needed are well known.

    What`s the basis for the Roy Process? If you examine radioactive elements such as strontium 90, cesium 137 and plutonium 239, you will see that they all have too many neutrons. To put it very simply, the Roy process transmutes these unstable isotopes to stable ones by knocking out the extra neutrons. When a neutron is removed, the resulting isotope has a considerably shorter half-life which then decays to a stable form in a reasonable amount of time.

    How do we knock out neutrons? By bombarding them with photons (produced as x-rays) in a high- powered electron linear accelerator. Before this process, the isotopes must be separated by a well-known chemical process.

    It is feasible that portable units could be built and transported to hazardous sites for on-site transmutation of nuclear wastes and radioactive wastes.

    To give an example, cesium 137 with a half-life of 30.17 years is transformed into cesium 136 with a half-life of 13 days. Plutonium 239 with a half-life of 24,300 years is transformed into plutonium 237 with a half-life of 45.6 days. Subsequent radioactive elements which will be produced from the decay of plutonium 237 can be treated in the same way as above until the stable element is formed.

    From the Patent application claim:

    Dr. Roy released his Roy Process to the press in 1979.
    Scientists of a large company saw the Patent application under non-disclosure agreements and said the Roy Process was “entirely feasible”.

    Dr. Roy was offered millions of dollars for the patent rights.
    NOT to develop it…but to shelve it. Dr. Roy refused. Then Ronald Reagan signed the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act which made “geologic isolation” (burial) of nuclear waste, federal policy, putting viable alternatives in scientific limbo.
    Now after wasting hundreds of billions of tax payers money on junk science, nuclear waste has leaked into our precious ground water.

    Dr. Roy was right. There IS only one way to totally eliminate high level nuclear waste and that is to transmute and denature it for good.

    Dennis F. Nester

    Patent Examiner Comments on the Roy Process Invention
    Re: Yucca Mt. Is Not The Answer for Nuclear Waste

    As a patent examiner, the explanation as to why the Roy process was not patented makes perfect sense and is not paranoid at all. There is no reason to get a patent unless you have the money to defend it in court. Large corporations are notorious for stealing them. Also, patent applications in 1979 were held confidential until they were issued as patents. The inventor requiring a non-disclosure agreement of a corporation to view the application is also perfectly reasonable. It is niave to believe that Reagan was not encouraged by large corporations to change the law regarding acceptable nuclear waste disposal methods to benefit them in order to squash any new method like the Roy process. These kinds of things happen all the time.

    As to the merits of the Roy process, it seems to me on it’s face to have potential to change nuclear waste into something less dangerous. I don’t know enough about nuclear physics to really give an detailed response, but I do know that nuclear accelerators do change atomic structure and that bombarding nuclear waste would certainly change it into something else.

    And a friend who is a physicist at DOE says this:
    ” I recommend that you read up on Accelerator Driven Systems and the ability of accelerator-generated neutron beams to “burn” the long-lived actinides in commercial nuclear waste. The effect is to convert, by means of neutron beams, those radioactive isotopes with half lives of 100s of thousands of years into radioisotopes with much shorter half lives that can safely be stored over time scales far less than geological ones.”

    So why don’t they take those millions to drill a look-see borehole and use them to build an accelerator to treat the wastes so we don’t have to deal with stuff on the surface after all, or plant it in the ground? In my opinion, this is where the research dollars need to go…and then they can go over to Fukushima and help them….

  197. mike from iowa

    Congress has/had a nukular proof bomb shelter under Washington DC. What a perfect spot to store this stuff and remind the idiots in Washington it is time to work together to SOLVE-not create problems.

    Speaking of divided congress,back when Tom Delay was in charge he would not speak to Dems and told lobbying groups not to hire Dems or he wouldn’t work with the lobbyists.

  198. Robert McTaggart

    Do you mean this one in West Virginia at the Greenbrier? There may also have been one or more around DC.

  199. Here is more info on the neutralization of radioactive materials from the Roy Process to understand how it works. This is an old post and one link does not work, but you can neutralize radioactive wastes in an accelerator using either photons or a neutron beam, and likely they should be researching other types of beam, now that they know the neutralization is possible after all….that patent was written but never issued, and I don’t know why…

    “Is there a safe process to get rid of nuclear waste? Maybe! One possible solution is a process invented by Dr. Radha R. Roy, former professor of Physics at Arizona State University, and designer and former director of the nuclear physics research facilities at the University of Brussels in Belgium and at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Roy is an internationally known nuclear physicist, consultant, and the author of over 60 articles and several books. He is also a contributing author of many invited articles in a prestigious encyclopedia. He is cited in American Men and Women of Science, Who`s Who in America, Who`s Who in the World and the International Biographical Centre, England. He has spent 52 years in European and American universities researching and writing recognized books on nuclear physics. He has supervised many doctoral students. Roy invented a process for transmuting radioactive nuclear isotopes to harmless, stable isotopes. This process is viable not only for nuclear waste from reactors but also for low-level radioactive waste products. In 1979, Roy announced his transmutation process and received international attention. The Roy process does not require storage of radioactive materials. No new equipment is required. In fact, all of the equipment and the chemical separation processes needed are well known. What`s the basis for the Roy Process? If you examine radioactive elements such as strontium 90, cesium 137 and plutonium 239, you will see that they all have too many neutrons. To put it very simply, the Roy process transmutes these unstable isotopes to stable ones by knocking out the extra neutrons. When a neutron is removed, the resulting isotope has a considerably shorter half-life which then decays to a stable form in a reasonable amount of time. How do we knock out neutrons? By bombarding them with photons (produced as x-rays) in a high- powered electron linear accelerator. Before this process, the isotopes must be separated by a well-known chemical process. It is feasible that portable units could be built and transported to hazardous sites for on-site transmutation of nuclear wastes and radioactive wastes. To give an example, cesium 137 with a half-life of 30.17 years is transformed into cesium 136 with a half-life of 13 days. Plutonium 239 with a half-life of 24,300 years is transformed into plutonium 237 with a half-life of 45.6 days. Subsequent radioactive elements which will be produced from the decay of plutonium 237 can be treated in the same way as above until the stable element is formed. The Roy Process could be developed in three distinct phases, according to Roy. Phase I consists of a theoretical feasibility study of the process to obtain needed parameters for the construction of a prototype machine. Phase II will involve the construction of a prototype machine and supporting facilities for demonstrating the process. Phase Ill will consist of the construction of large scale commercial plants based on the data obtained from Phase II. Cost estimates for Phase I and II are in the neighborhood of $10 million. For Phase Ill, Roy estimates a cost of $70 million. Says Roy, `It will be interesting to do a cost analysis of eliminating nuclear waste by using my process and by burying it for 240,000 years – ten ha if-lives of plutonium – under strict scientific control. There is also an ethical question: can we really burden the thousands of generations yet to come with problems which we have created? There is no God among human beings who can guarantee how the geological structure of waste burial regions will change even after ten thousand years, not to mention 240,000 years.” If you are interested in finding out more about this process, please contact Dennis Nester, Roy`s agent, whose address is listed below. A final note To those who say that a process for transforming nuclear wastes is an invitation to keep making them, I ask, when we find a cure for cancer, shall we say it`s okay to continue to eat, drink and breathe carcinogens? “There is no way one can change nuclear structure other than by nuclear reaction. Burial of nuclear waste is not a solution.” Radha Roy, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus “Do not be surprised if you learn that the nuclear industry makes billions of dollars by being a part of government`s policy of burial of nuclear wastes. It is not in their financial interest to try any other process. They are not idealists. Radha R. Roy, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus The below includes the Patent application claim…..describing other uses for the Roy Process transmutation method Dennis F. Nester 4510 E. Willow Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85032 USA


  200. Linsey, I suspect the reason is that the “Roy Process” is hokum. But Dr. McTaggart, would you care to weigh in on transmutation in a can?

  201. mike from iowa

    That might be the one, Prof.

    As far as the deep borehole project, I suspect it will come under National Security aegis and be closed to the public with armed guards,etc. Probably be tough for any civilians to monitor for radiation leaks or much of anything else. I could be wrong.

  202. Robert McTaggart


    Yes, transmutation could reduce the amount of radioactivity and its duration. I think there are issues with both cost and effectiveness, and it may be better implemented with advanced reactor systems.

    For example, do the neutrons effect just the isotopes you want, or others you do not want to change? It would be desirable to remove the isotopes once they have been converted so that they don’t get hit again.

    To put you to sleep at any time:

  203. Robert McTaggart

    In a nutshell transmutation needs some more work. But it is one of the techniques available to cut down the duration of the radioactivity and the amount of the heat load.


    Nobody is going to tell me about security plans. But for Spink County I don’t think it would be any different for any other drilling operation in the state.

    If radioactivity is being released from a future site that is accepting nuclear waste, some of it could be dispersed by air. Air monitoring systems could surround the site and would capture some of it.

  204. Robert McTaggart

    Hmmm..this Roy process is using photons instead of neutrons. I was thinking more of neutrons initially with transmutation.

    Something similar happens in a process called “photon activation analysis”. Photons kick out a neutron or a proton from the nucleus (usually stable), which makes it unstable. Later it emits a characteristic gamma ray or something else to become more stable. Detectors allow us to assign the energy of the gamma ray to the isotope in the sample.

    Because we are now getting into quantum mechanics inside the nucleus, probability comes into play. There are many other possible nuclear reactions that could occur besides photon activation…the photon could simply bounce off the nucleus, for example. So it is not 100% efficient. And you may still activate other things you do not want to.

    For a deep borehole disposal facility assay of an environmental sample, you could use Neutron Activation Analysis or Photon Activation Analysis to determine the isotopic content. An accuracy of parts per million, parts per billion, or parts per trillion is possible depending on the element.

  205. Wow! in Jerry’s link: “A recent report from ICF International found that U.S. generators stand to lose as much as $2 billion in revenue by 2019 as solar generation grows and demand for conventionally generated power declines.”

    With the rate of accelerated growth in solar, referenced in that article, conventional power sources stand to loose around – what – $4 billion by 2020? $7 billion by 2021? At what point might we have to make the dirtiest sources of power into socialized industries, like farming, as it may not be able to stand alone in the free market while we still require it to live our way of life as Americans?

  206. barry freed

    Should we use Nukes, NG, or Coal to pick up the slack of Alternative Energy off times, or…

  207. What a find Mr. freed! That is what these guys do not want you to know, that there are alternative power sources that are not multi billion dollar projects. The more you can be independent of the dangers of fossil fuels and these friggin nukes, the better. Start working like Germans on alternative sources and let these nuke plants die like Chernobyl. Spink County, just say no, your being played.

  208. Robert McTaggart

    No nuclear plant is being proposed for Spink County or South Dakota. The strongest connection to nuclear power is that the consent-based processes for storage of these military wastes may be relevant to similar activities for the disposal of commercial nuclear wastes.

    Life is a bunch of choices. Choose to do more with solar and wind, then you need to use more land. Sometimes the solar cells are on existing structures and you get a dual use, but you are not growing crops under the solar farm. Just today in the Argus Leader there was an article about the impact of wind power on eagle populations. But we often choose the immediate benefits over the long-term consequences.

    The energy source is not as concentrated for renewables, and you have to over-build in order to make up for the reduced capacity…in addition to burning more natural gas. 20-30% capacity for wind and solar, 90% for nuclear. That means the wind turbine has been built, but is not producing max power all day long like nuclear.

    The volume of waste (simply physical waste as well as chemical waste) is larger as well. The amount of nuclear waste that you would produce during a 70 year span would fill one soda can. Not a super-mega energy drink can either. Try that with any other form of power. It is a direct result of the concentrated nature of nuclear energy.

  209. Robert McTaggart

    In case you do not read the link, your equivalent coal waste over that time-frame, with all of your electricity coming from coal, would be 70 tons!

  210. Robert McTaggart

    Breaking news….the NRC has released its final supplement to the Yucca Mountain Environmental Impact Statement. They determine that all impacts on groundwater and surface groundwater discharges are “small”.

  211. Korey Jackson

    Barry Freed, Jerry,

    The German distributed systems that you provided information for are nice engineering marvels, and does work well for the Germans. Most homes are heated by hot water, and radiators and already have comparatively sophisticated engineering spaces for the necessary plumbing and the boiler – normally in the basement.
    There are a few cons when extending that concept: it does not work well for AC, and to be cost effective, the home should already have the plumbing installed. Additionally, they still are burning fossil fuels, and have a Volkswagen (or Honda) car engine in the basement which still must be safely exhausted and dump hydrocarbons into the environment. Efficiency and costs is improved since natural gas lines already exist into the home – but the natural gas is piped in from somewhere. And there is some noise and vibration.
    And, when you don’t need your home heated, where does that waste heat from distributed home electrical production go? Vented into the environment?
    How would these systems work in areas where we need home air conditioning?

    While I highly respect German engineering capabilities, claims of energy efficiency and low emissions on systems based on Volkswagen engines should be met with some skepticism.

    Regarding Dr. McTaggart’s comment about the amount of equivalent coal waste over time: note that well over 60% of today’s electricity consumption in Spink County (and Brown County) is from coal-burning power plants in North Dakota. The fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.

    And where is all that fly ash? Upwind and upriver from Spink County? Sold as concrete additives and now in regional roads, sidewalks, and home foundations? Granted, fly ash is listed as a non-hazardous waste, and is generally well-managed, but one has to wonder.

  212. Robert McTaggart

    There is also some geopolitics involved with Germany’s energy portfolio. It would not surprise me that if Russia boosts the price of natural gas that Germany consumes (or cuts it off entirely) that Germany would import some electricity from France and other nations that generate electricity from nuclear.

  213. Dr. McTaggart Have you ever heard anything about the molten salt work that was being done by Dr. Ed Teller and Dr. Ralph Moir until Teller’s death and now by Moir?

  214. Robert McTaggart


    There are many people working on molten salt reactors today, but I have not closely followed the work of Teller and Moir in this area.

    The molten salt reactor is a Generation IV kind of reactor. Maybe 2030-2050 they could be ready….depends on how bad we want to build them.

    They come up a lot in the discussion of thorium-based reactor technology, but have some potential for in situ reprocessing and designing a more efficient reactor by running at higher temperatures. Plus they may not need water as a coolant, so they could be isolated from any flooding issues.

    Since they would run at higher temperatures, materials need to be resistant to both high temperatures and high radiation fluxes. Plus the chemistry of the reactor materials will be different than with water. There are still engineering issues that need to be figured out.

  215. Robert McTaggart

    The significance for our discussions regarding nuclear waste management is that such reactors would reduce the volume and the heat load of its wastes compared with the once-through cycle. It would also generate a lot of beneficial process heat that could do things like separate hydrogen from water for use in fuel cells.

  216. Dr. McTaggart – Dr. Harold Hall SDSU 1948 PhD U Wisc 1953 worked with Dr. Teller on the H Bomb. Dr. H Hall’s cousin Dr. Moir started his long time work with Dr. Teller after Dr. Hall left Livermore. I thought you might appreciate the connection to SDSU.

  217. Robert McTaggart

    Wow. Yes, I do appreciate that connection :^).

    Did you take classes from George Duffey?

  218. Dr. McTaggart – I remember a Dr. Duffey when I was briefly at SDSU 1945-46, He was very young .

    A further note – I dropped out of SDSU Engineering in 1946. About 30 years later I joined Sen. John Bibby of Brookings to win a lawsuit keeping the Engineering School at SDSU!

  219. Korey Jackson

    Rod Hall, Dr. McTaggart,

    First, thank you for your successful efforts to keep the Engineering School at SDSU.

    Dr. George Duffy was my professor for my “Modern Physics” course back around 1978/79. I am left with the memory that a lot of classical Greek letters were used in a course with the word “Modern” in the title.

    Later, while I was a graduate student, I briefly met Dr. Edward Teller when he was a guest lecturer at a physics colloquium at the Naval PostGraduate School. In that lecture, Dr Teller advocated the creation of a nuclear-powered floating platform, similar to a current oil platform design, to preposition and deploy military equipment to war zones when called upon around the world.

    Today, over 25 years later, I cannot recall any discussion in Dr Teller’s lecture about drilling deep boreholes, and I definitely don’t remember any discussion about South Dakota, let alone Spink County.

  220. Robert McTaggart

    Yes, I don’t think SDSU would be the same without the College of Engineering. Fans of renewables should take heart, since a lot of SDSU engineering research deals with wind, solar, efficiency, and biofuels…as well as the power systems and thermal-fluid interactions those need.

    Duffey still comes in regularly, but he is a professor emeritus and doesn’t teach. He was on the staff for a long time in Physics. I think he met or worked with Einstein at one point.

    We still call that class Modern Physics, but at this point it is really “Neoclassical Physics” since it addresses the dominant themes of 20th century physics. Lots of new ideas in the 21st century, yet quantum mechanics and E=mc^2 are still relevant today.

  221. This blog started with a reference to former Governor Harvey Wollman. For all of you who are members of the South Dakota Retirement System, you might appreciate some history. When the law was enacted to create a committee to study SD several retirement systems, the law required the Chrm. of the Legislative Research Council, or his designee, to be a member of that committee. Sen. Wollman chose Sen. Hall to be his designee. The success of South Dakota Retirement System is historic. Those retired members and those who are members now, when they retire, will be part of the best retirement system in the nation.

    The last session of the Legislature created a new retirement system, the Daugaard mustache System will go into effect in 2017 for all new members. So for the next 60 or so years South Dakota will have two separate retirement plans. The consolidation of 40 years ago eliminated that problem only to have it rear its ugly head again in 2016. If you do not know history, you repeat it.

  222. One G. Mark Mickelson-approved CAFO will do more damage to the ecosystem of Spink County and the James River watershed than the digging of this one 16,000-foot-deep hole.

    Going 100% wind and solar (which I’d love to do) does not dispose of all the nuclear waste currently sitting in temporary storage. The fact that I can find no reference to the Roy process in any mainstream science publication rings my tin-foil-hat alarm.

    If we can’t trust DOE because of past bumbling, then whom do we put in charge of disposing of nuclear waste? Are we stuck in gridlock, with no solution possible since there are no trustworthy actors?

    Adam asks, “What are the things we could discover, through this Redfield project, which might indicate that this borehole method of nuclear waste disposal may very well be ‘too dangerous to implement on the future?'” We could discover that our best equipment can’t drill down that far straight enough to satisfy the operational parameters. We could discover that the rock is fractured and unsuitable for containing the waste. We could discover that the shaft buckles too much to guarantee that we can get the canisters down to depth or to ensure that we can retrieve canisters that might get stuck above the disposal zone. We could discover Grudz’s amazing mystery microbes at 15,999 feet, using their acid digestive systems to etch “NO KILL I” on our test probe casings. Drilling the hole and finding it won’t work with current technology could kill the borehole proposal faster than anything else.

  223. Robert McTaggart

    Once again, if you believe that the deep borehole disposal process is bound to fail, you should approve of the research wholeheartedly, since that will come out in the light of day.

    If you want to make sure that the process is as safe as it could possibly be for the citizens of these United States who ultimately may serve as a local host for such a facility, then this research needs to be done. Sounds like a good application of the Golden Rule.

    -30F in the middle of January in South Dakota with no wind blowing, and the sun at a low angle? I doubt wind and solar will help out much there. But I will take whatever energy I can get from wind and solar…I just don’t think it will be enough on its own.

    Nevertheless I continue to agree with Cory that whatever your feelings about the future role of nuclear energy, we should all agree that the existing waste from weapons development needs to be isolated.

  224. Dr. McTaggart is once again righter than right.

  225. wow, can’t believe we are talking about teller, ‘who is known colloquially as “the father of the hydrogen bomb”‘. wiki. He was definitely a weapons designer with the highest security clearance for decades, chaperoned by highest military officers, and involved at labs like Livermore and in Australia, possibly in international collaborations.

    Nobel Prize winning physicist Isidor I. Rabi once suggested that “It would have been a better world without Teller.”[103] In addition, Teller’s false claims that Stanislaw Ulam made no significant contribution to the development of the hydrogen bomb (despite Ulam’s key insights of using compression and staging elements to generate the thermonuclear reaction) and his personal attacks on Oppenheimer caused great animosity towards Teller within the general physics community.[104]

    he purportedly directed the hire of the young man involved in back engineering the mini-reactor mentioned above, who has in some respects been discredited for his failure to maintain teller’s confidence or may have breached nat’l security.

    since I have no personal expertise in physics, I stand to be corrected if necessary.

  226. Ms. leslie, do you know who is really insaner than most? More than you? Mr. Howie, that’s who. You need to stop speaking for the devil. To hell with the devil. I want you to focus your mind here on the now. Can you do that for me?

  227. you are a troll.

  228. mike from iowa

    we should all agree that the existing waste from weapons development needs to be isolated.

    Leave that to Drumpf. Sooner or later he will insult,isolate and denigrate nukular waste just as he has done to every other person,place or thing on Earth.

  229. Robert McTaggart


    With regard to Teller, there can be large egos and competitive personalities in Physics just like in any other profession. And sometimes those egos can be pretty big! Nevertheless, most physicists know they need to work together to move things forward. In South Dakota the environment is very collaborative and supportive.

  230. Just to be clear, this borehole is not a physics project. It’s a geological exploration. People, find a geologist if you want to learn about it.

  231. Robert McTaggart

    Everything is an application of physics when you come right down to it, but I would call this a geoengineering project.

  232. Well Doc, you would say this having brought Teller into the discussion of this boring geologic question;)

  233. Robert McTaggart

    Yes, I would :^).

    But I also know the echoes of the last 100+ years of nuclear history have influenced our discussions here on this blog.

    History and science and engineering together? Sounds like a good rationale to pursue a true liberal arts education.

  234. we are getting there, aren’t we? :) thank you

  235. Periodic reminders that The Borehole is for science are needed. I hope they put signs around it. “For Science”

  236. Robert McTaggart

    You sort of need the broad base to deal with all of the nuclear issues, since it is international in nature. Besides physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and math you also need some appreciation if not comprehension of sociology, history, economics, business, political science, professional writing, foreign languages, etc.

  237. Robert McTaggart


    Sounds like a great slogan for a t-shirt. But I would do “4Science” to make it more hip.

  238. Good idea. That’s why you’re the hip scientist, Dr. McTaggart.

  239. Don’t forget the #octothorpe on that slogan, guys. That’s the new label for all hip slogans.

    Then again, our friends in Spink County might think “For Science” ought to be accompanied by a different Web tag, the little winky face. ;-)