Borehole Contract Forbids Nuclear Waste at Field Test Site

Intrepid Dakota Free Press correspondent Donald Pay finally got a response on his Freedom of Information Act request on the Deep Borehole Field Test. Yesterday, Department of Energy FOIA officer Clayton Ogilvie sent Pay the following four documents:

  1. DOE Contract #DE-NE0008467, awarded 2016.01.05 to Battelle Memorial Institute, valued at $35.7 million.
  2. Small Business Subcontracting Program
  3. DOE letter to Battelle, on Contract Modification 0001, 2016.04.06
  4. Contract Modification 0001, on alternative siting of Deep Borehole Field Test, 2016.04.06

Dear readers, I welcome your analysis of these documents for information that will help our Spink County neighbors decide whether they want to host the Deep Borehole Field Test.

Given that opposition to the Borehole project revolves around concerns that nuclear waste will be brought to the Spink County site, I post pages 6 and 32 of the Contract:

Deep Borehole Field Test Contract, p6
Deep Borehole Field Test Contract, p6
Deep Borehole Field Test Contract, p32
Deep Borehole Field Test Contract, p32

No radioactive waste; no nuclear material. The language is right in the contract. If the project goes ahead, the public has the language on record to hold Battelle and the Department of Energy accountable and prevent any nuclear waste from coming to the Deep Borehole Field Test site.


36 Responses to Borehole Contract Forbids Nuclear Waste at Field Test Site

  1. Robin Friday

    I suspect it wouldn’t take much to change that “no nuclear waste” feature after the fact. Why is this all up to a county commission? Don’t the citizens of SD near Spink County (or not) have anything to say about this? I say no boreholes in SD.

  2. Robert McTaggart

    If you had a contract that said “no nuclear waste”, and it turns out that they violated the terms of the contract, I suspect there would be a lawsuit.

    It doesn’t sound like any permitting info has been filed with Spink County yet. A bait and switch with Spink County and the State of South Dakota also sounds like grounds for a lawsuit.

    Once again, you can verify that no nuclear waste is being delivered to Spink County or the State of South Dakota. Establish an environmental monitoring program, use radiation detectors, check for heat signatures.

  3. Robin Friday

    Mr. McTaggart, that’s all locking the barn after the horse runs off. “Don’t worry, just fight it after the fact”. Good luck with that. No, thanks.

  4. Robin Friday

    If we don’t take nuclear waste, then we don’t need a borehole to see if it will work for nuclear waste.

  5. Robert McTaggart

    Robin,

    They would not be able to bring in any nuclear waste at all with an operational environmental monitoring program.

    We all have an interest in finding a way to safely isolate nuclear wastes….unless you are in the unsafe nuclear waste disposal camp?

    The opportunity in front of us right now to enhance our nuclear safety and security is to support the research that will study the viability of this method and ways to make it safer.

  6. Korey Jackson

    Robin, well before the storage of nuclear waste anywhere, the science and technology still need to be developed and proven.

    Developing and proving the science and technology in South Dakota should be beneficial to Spink County, South Dakota, and our nation.

  7. Robin Friday

    “Should be”? Yeah, that’s what they said about fracking. Sorry, treaties and contracts have been cast aside and buried before.
    If we don’t want nuclear waste, we don’t need a borehole.

  8. Robin Friday

    That word consequences. That’s one of the things wrong with the whole idea of nuclear energy and the unmanageable waste it produces.

  9. Donald Pay

    Cory,

    They have already modified a huge part of the contract: they moved the site from North Dakota to South Dakota. They appear ready to modify the partners involved, jettisoning the ones from North Dakota and adding South Dakota partners. They did all that without reopening the bidding process, secretly, notifying no one, asked for no input, held no hearings, just did it behind everyone’s back. You think they couldn’t do that same thing to any part of that contract, including the part about promising no nuclear waste in the study? They will do it in a heartbeat, and no one will know.

  10. That said, I’m for the project as long as they have a willing landowner.

  11. Robert McTaggart

    Would you be fine with the dispersal of radionuclides as a result of a theft and a dirty bomb, or an attack on above-ground storage facilities? The latter would impact SD agriculture directly, because people would not buy food items from areas that would be contaminated.

    We need to do the research.

  12. do it! we nede good payin jobs!

  13. Donald Pay

    I do want to say that Mr. Ogilvie responded extremely quickly to my latest FOIA. The frustration came from an earlier submission.

    I hate to say it, but citizens really must submit these FOIA requests about every week, maybe every day, or you are going to miss timely stuff. I feel sorry for Mr. Ogilvie, because I will be keeping him busy for a while.

  14. Robin Friday

    Thank you, Donald Pay.

  15. Robert McTaggart

    Mr. Pay,

    Something similar occurs with searches for positions at universities. If the first choice declines, you do not pursue a brand new search automatically. You consider the other applicants that satisfy your guidelines. If there are no more qualified candidates, then you declare a failed search and do it over.

    Robin,

    Nuclear waste is smaller than any other wastes produced by our consumption of energy. It just happens to be more radioactive than the other wastes, which are in fact radioactive due to NORMs.

    The problem is not nuclear waste, it is the absence of our political will to pay for what needs to be done with wastes from all energy sources, nuclear included. In my opinion, the wastes produced by renewables are largely ignored in the whole discussion. There is a reason you see wonderful paintings about Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and nobody celebrates the work necessary in the kitchen after the meal has been eaten.

  16. mike from iowa

    Professor- you are hitting around the edges of one of our greatest challenges and that is getting wingnut pols out of the way of oversight responsibilities. No one would or should be happy with a dirty bomb of stolen nuke shit,but wingnuts will always argue oversight and regulations cost too much.

  17. Donald Pay

    I read paragraph C.4. in its entirity, and find that there are several ways this “test” could lead to a disposal facility. First, DOE reserves the right to negotiate a new deal following the 10 year “test” for continued testing or “improvement of the property….” “Improvement” is undefined, so it could lead to a test with radioactive waste or to an actual radioactive waste disposal facility.

    Second, the DOE can release the site to a contractor, who could continue to “research and development.” Again, this does not preclude the contractor from disposing radioactive waste.

  18. Robin Friday

    Yes, well that’s what they said at Hanford along the Columbia River in Washington state. And they said “no problem” at Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima too. Now, I’m not saying this borehole would be Chernobyl or Fukushima. Except that there’s no way to clean up nuclear waste. So even a little bit is forever toxic to the earth and its organisms including us. So burying it like at Hanford doesn’t make the land and the river any safer. You can’t clean it up. If we don’t want the waste, we don’t need the borehole.

  19. The only dangers with The Borehole are that Leo’s Cafe can’t keep up with the food required by all the tourists to the area to peer into the recesses of Spink County, and that somebody might fall in. And I am pretty sure they will put up a safety fence. Unless you’re in the camp that fears mutant microbes crawling back up from The Borehole. If so then that’s definitely your bigger danger. And you should wear one of those Japanese sneeze/smog masks.

  20. Mr. Pay, you are planning to harass a government official and waste his time, keeping him from doing what my tax dollars are paying him to do? You are causing bigger government, sir.

  21. Donald Pay

    No, Grudz, Mr. Ogilvie’s job is to respond to the public’s requests for information. There are some things about government I like, and public information officers are one. Sometimes they are a pain in the ass, but usually they try to help citizens through the maze of federal documents. DOE can charge me, although I did ask for a fee waiver for the contract, etc. I said I would distribute it to the public, providing a public service to the government. I handed it off to Cory. I figured he would publish it. I’ll find out if they charged me when they send the paper copies. Mr. Ogilvie is there for you, too, Grudz, if you want to dig deeper into the issue. You seem to be just skimming the surface of this issue. They have a handy dandy little tool to use to make it easier to submit an FOIA request via their website. I prefer to use email.

  22. now there’s a good description of grudz: “handy dandy little tool ” :)

    if it wasn’t for Mr. Pay we’d not be having this long involved important conversation, to the pleasure of gov. daugaard. why do you suppose daugaard is so willing to sell off our environment for the likely financial fortune of a few republicans in SD?

  23. I shall give Mr. Ogilvie a ring and see what he has to say. If he truly enjoys having that sort of fun I would like some pictures from the planning of The Borehole for a poster I intend to have some agents sell from roadside stands along highway 212.

  24. sure you will

  25. MR Pay interested in your paragraph C4 ….. 605.598.4441

  26. mike from iowa

    Grudz-snap a pic of the lege. What’s the difference between bore holes boreholes?

  27. Robert McTaggart

    I’d like to thank Mr. Pay for his work in getting those documents. Thankless jobs need to be thanked sometimes :^).

    Robin: With regard to your comment about not being able to treat nuclear waste, I would say that is not completely accurate. There are options available, but we have more or less kicked the can down the road instead of implementing any of them.

    In commercial spent nuclear fuel there is some U-235, but a lot more U-238 and Pu-239 that could be converted into fuel for power plants. The end result is that roughly 90% of the energy available in nuclear fuel still remains in the waste. I say “energy” here, because if the reactor is ~33% efficient, then we would get 0.33 * 90%=30% more electricity out of the waste, but the rest could be dedicated to process heat for industry. New reactors (if our politics allow them to be built) could get that efficiency up to 50%.

    The combination of better reactors and reprocessing would significantly reduce the amount of wastes that we have to deal with (which are already smaller than any other energy source), as well as the amount of mining necessary. While the cost is large enough to consider the once-through cycle today, we haven’t bothered to finish that cycle by isolating said wastes.

    Retrievability for any waste disposal method is important, because new technologies may arise to better treat the wastes. Thus any once-through wastes that are buried could be recycled at a later date if we get the costs down. But it is important to secure them and isolate them better in the near term regardless.

  28. I wholeheartedly support Mr. Pay’s efforts to keep Mr. Ogilvie busy. He’s just asking Mr. Ogilvie to do the job we pay him to do.

  29. barry freed

    Mr. Taggart said: ” In my opinion, the wastes produced by renewables are largely ignored in the whole discussion.”

    Citations, sir, once again, Citations for your claims.

  30. Robert McTaggart

    Sir, you may call me Dr. McTaggart, or Robert, or Rob, but not Mr. Taggart. I don’t mind that you have a different opinion than I do, but I don’t refer to you as Larry Reed ;^).

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/11/141111-solar-panel-manufacturing-sustainability-ranking/

    My point is that if you think that the wind and sun are free, you are ignoring the costs of converting the wind and sun into energy, the environmental effects of building that infrastructure and mining the critical elements, as well as the costs of throwing away solar cells that have lost their efficiency or throwing away hard-to-recycle composite turbine blades that have broken.

    Nuclear has to account for all of the costs of the fuel cycle. Up until recently, they charged an amount for the storage of nuclear waste due to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. But I think the industry won a lawsuit to stop adding that surcharge when the U.S. did not hold up their end of the bargain to build a waste repository.

    Not sure if solar and wind charge an end-of-cycle fee for recycling or disposal.

  31. Robert McTaggart

    Here is another link for you on the challenges of using solar power for everything, particularly in a world challenged by drought due to global warming.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-are-turning-to-solar-power-to-turn-saltwater-into-drinkable-water-2016-5

    “Desalination plants need to run 24 hours a day, requiring expensive battery packs to supplement solar power when the sun’s not shining.”

    If only we had another energy source that ran best when delivering power 24-7, while emitting no carbon?

  32. Hello Dr., it is me again. I read your latest link and think that you should as well. There is actually nothing that does not emit carbon including you and I. The thing that is fascinating to me is that all you need is money to make it all work, from your link “Thanks to increased efficiency and the falling price of solar power, costs are expected to fall rapidly: from more than $50 per 1,000 gallons today, in the Middle East, to half of that by midcentury. But that’s still likely too much to make solar-powered desalination economically viable without government subsidies, even in places such as the Middle East that are optimal for solar power.”

    Me, I would rather see money spent rather than than be spent glow.

  33. Regarding the National Geographic (great mag, I used to really like it when I was a kid, because of all the pictures) Here is an excerpt from your link “The SVTC relies on companies’ self-reported data for its scorecard, which looks at such things as emissions, chemical toxicity, water use, and recycling. The coalition says the market share of companies willing or able to share details about their operations is declining. It praises the third- and fourth-ranked companies, Yingli and SolarWorld respectively, for responding to the survey every year and for showing a continued commitment to sustainability.”

    What is telling about all of this is that the industry requires regulation. As noted, the two Chinese firms show what the desired outcomes can be with their reporting. How about that?

    The problems that seem to come from projects like the ones you are in favor of seem to lack that accountability. We see that with our current situation with the pipelines and all of the behind the scene shadow dancing from the Canadians. These firms have told the state over and over again about transparency and all of that gibberish to put that ole camel nose in the tent. Then the camel comes in and craps all over the rugs.

  34. Robert McTaggart

    Hi Jerry,

    I hope some other part of the camel does not get under the tent and something happen to those nice rugs….

    If the lower cost is driven by over-supply from Chinese manufacturers, then that low cost will not be sustainable. As we put up more solar panels we will eventually have to take down more solar panels when their efficiency drops. The costs of maintenance and transmission are still issues, as well as what one does when solar doesn’t satisfy the desired demand.

    I agree with you that there are both bad and good solar companies, so the overall accountability by the company is a factor above and beyond the technology in question.

    Is there an independent body that checks renewable companies for compliance in waste management or sustainability, or are we to rely on self-reporting? Nuclear has the NRC. If one of the Chinese solar companies dumped a bunch of toxic chemicals and did not self-report, then there would be some issues. I note that we get some of our seafood from China.

    I am not saying we shouldn’t be doing more solar, but trying to force renewables to do everything is where the cost-drivers are. You say you would spend more, but tax increases are increasingly more difficult to get passed through an elected body these days, and we have a large budget deficit to worry about.

    Would you rather have a park that children can play in, or a community solar farm that takes up that space? There is a lot of fuzzy gray area in these decisions.

  35. If the lower cost is driven by over-supply from Chinese manufacturers, then that low cost will not be sustainable. As we put up more solar panels we will eventually have to take down more solar panels when their efficiency drops. The costs of maintenance and transmission are still issues, as well as what one does when solar doesn’t satisfy the desired demand. me. You are making the assumption that we will not be able to improve the new systems. I can assure you that they have improved dramatically since first proposed and built, why would we stop improving?

    I agree with you that there are both bad and good solar companies, so the overall accountability by the company is a factor above and beyond the technology in question. me, Regulation by the government is what is needed to comply with all issues. The main one being water usage. Why would we not be able to regulate these products when we are doing it now?

    Is there an independent body that checks renewable companies for compliance in waste management or sustainability, or are we to rely on self-reporting? Nuclear has the NRC. If one of the Chinese solar companies dumped a bunch of toxic chemicals and did not self-report, then there would be some issues. I note that we get some of our seafood from China. me, As noted in your report, there are issues regarding that and could be resolved with resolve from government regulations. We get many things from China that involve our digestive systems. Fish is one, produce is another. As NOem, Thune and the little feller will not support our ranching community here, we do not have COOL, so we are probably eating an old milk cow from somewhere north of Beijing.

    I am not saying we shouldn’t be doing more solar, but trying to force renewables to do everything is where the cost-drivers are. You say you would spend more, but tax increases are increasingly more difficult to get passed through an elected body these days, and we have a large budget deficit to worry about. me, That elected body has to go, the sooner the better.

    Would you rather have a park that children can play in, or a community solar farm that takes up that space? There is a lot of fuzzy gray area in these decisions. me, I would rather have a place the children can play in that gives them a sky they can see. I think that children would breathe much better with solar power. The only fuzzy gray area in decisions are those that come from fossil fuel or nuclear thinkers. Basically what they use is what is called fuzzy math that is color neutral.

  36. Robert McTaggart

    The ones that have the highest efficiencies occur in the lab under clean room conditions…not outside with thermal cycling or exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

    Why is there a limit to the amount of energy from sunlight that solar cells will be able to produce? Some of the energy will always be converted into heat, some will pass through without freeing any electrons, and some will be reflected away. This doesn’t count any losses that inevitably occur due to transmission or storage.

    I can buy the idea of the commercial ones hitting 30% efficiency, but initially you are talking about 10-15% efficiency for widespread home use. Then as thermal cycling and UV take their toll, those efficiencies will drop over time.

    So there are constraints on your energy choices, which is why a mix of energy sources helps. First you have to produce the power that people actually use, when they want to use it. Second, the infrastructure to deliver said energy must compete for resources (water, land, etc.) with other interests. Third, it has to be affordable. Fourth, it has to emit minimal or no carbon.

    Nuclear does need to get the high costs associated with the initial construction down, but once operational they produce the most energy per acre at a minimal cost.