Wasta Wildcat Driller Goes Bust; Bond Covers 7% of Cost to Plug Hole

Natali Ormiston and her backers in Quartz Operations thought they could find billion-year-old oil in the Precambrian bedrock below Wasta. We probably won’t find out if Ormiston was right: her drill broke, Quartz is broke, and the bond the state required Quartz to post is laughably inadequate to cover the cost of plugging the hole and protecting the punctured aquifer:

The board and its professional staff at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources knew the project was iffy.

They required the developers, led by a woman from Deadwood named Natali Ormiston, to post a bond of $130,000 for the first well.

Normally the board requires a bond of only $20,000 for an oil well.

The $130,000 is deposited in a Pierre bank. So far, DENR officials haven’t sought to cash the bond.

It’s not even close to enough money to plug the well, according to Mike Lees, an environmental scientist for DENR.

The cost would be $2 million, he said, because of the broken bit and the 150 feet of drill pipe that remain in the hole about a mile into the earth.

Lees said multidirection drilling would be needed to get around them. The concern is that one of the aquifers that has been punctured, known as the Minnelusa, could flow upward into another punctured aquifer, known as the Inyan Kara, through artesian pressure [Bob Mercer, “Failed Oil Well near Wasta May Put State in $2 Million Hole and Could Endanger Water,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.05.19].

Permit an unusual well, don’t make the drillers put up the cash to clean up any mistakes… sure! Why not? What could go wrong?

So, Board of Minerals and Environment, if Battelle and the Department of Energy ask you for a permit for the Deep Borehole Field Test, you’ll ask them what happens if their drill breaks, right? You’ll ask them if their $35.7-million drilling contract includes enough contingency funds to cross-drill and extract any broken bits and drill pipe from that skinny 8.5-inch hole, right?

83 Responses to Wasta Wildcat Driller Goes Bust; Bond Covers 7% of Cost to Plug Hole

  1. I spit out my coffee driving to soo foo awhile back as the blinking, light festooned oil rig towered above the cap-rock that sculptor lamphere immortalized on my favorite public art mural of the Cheyenne river breaks, made of leather an brass absolutely capturing the beautiful chasm.

    I see now someone has added the rig, complete w/ blinking lights, on the sculpture, unless that’s just a temperature thermostat for the bank lobby.

    seriously, did the pro’s at sdsm&t cooperate on this deep well project? I hate to be such a troll in these PC-rich days, but u can hardly open a page w/o finding fodder for bashing republicans one way or another for their failed, damaging economic development, abortion or gun loving endeavors. jmo

  2. Robert McTaggart

    Yes Cory,

    There is a lot of risk assessment built into the DOE budgets, so they should be addressing those possibilities and contingencies. They will have to get permits to do all of the work associated with the drilling.

    Of course, it would be better if you did it right the first time, and you chose a geology that would be easier to deal with (which it is in Spink County…the Black Hills are a magnificent smorgasbord of geology). It doesn’t hurt that team members for the deep borehole project have access to more expertise and support than a private drilling operation would.

  3. Paul Seamans

    You can blame the Board of Minerals for this screw-up or you can do like I do and blame the guy who appoints the board members. Gov. Daugaard is all about economic development at all costs, we’ll worry about the environment later…maybe.

  4. Robert McTaggart

    I note that most of the minerals necessary for the green revolution, be it for solar panels, batteries for energy storage, or magnets for the turbines in wind power, have to be mined at some point, or recycled from existing materials. We are not going to stop making solar panels or wind turbines because of that.

    Even the money to pay the increase in teacher salaries comes from a sales tax, and said economic activity generates an environmental impact. For example, a family drives to the Black Hills in a car and stays in a hotel. Both the car and the hotel rely upon natural resources, and the car consumes gasoline. We are not going to cancel the sales tax for teacher salaries because of that.

    The goal is to recognize the impacts and reduce them. I would ask whether the operators were liable for any environmental impact, say effects upon the aquifers, regardless of the size of the bond that was posted?

  5. bret clanton

    One hole…One hole.. you are talking about one hole CAH. Google Spyglass Exploration and see how many holes they have abandoned in Harding County.. Holes that have never been plugged or had an MIT.. DENR is a toothless wonder unless you are a private individual that wants a water well for home use then they are all over you like stink on [—-]… There isn’t enough money in the entire state budget to clean up the abandoned well sites in Harding County… bonds…. what a joke…

  6. aren’t you the republican waking up to the fact that the party you keep re-electing has no ability or concern for “those enviros”? forgive me for holding you accountable for your votes and conservative attitudes that harm the very mothers milk of our survival. when did you accept climate science, btw?

  7. This article raises more questions than it answers. What is the concern if one artesian aquifer gets into another artesian aquifer? If water getting into other water isn’t any big deal then it seems to me that nothing has to be done – or spent. A pipe & drill bit left in the ground will eventually rust, but the amount of rust getting into the water is probably minimal compared to the amount of water and the amount of time it will take for the pipe to decay. Even in salt water metal takes decades and even centuries to decay.

    So besides being an example of bad governing – socializing the risks and privatizing the profits for LLC-shifting pirates – it may not be either an environmental or financial disaster for taxpayers and water users. It may just be a cautionary tale about why you can’t trust Republicans to look out for the public interest.

  8. the bond is about the size of it, unless a political party in office influences its law enforcement to investigate and charge and imprison for criminal liability, and then put on liens and take away driving privileges and revoke voting, but not lobbying rights, of white collar job creators.

  9. bret clanton

    leslie you very obviously don’t know me at all? do you….come to Pierre during session and we will visit…

  10. pierced aquifers poison uncontaminated water forever.

  11. No Leslie. You haven’t established that either aquifer was contaminated. Uncontaminated water does not poison other uncontaminated water.

  12. bret, apologies. I look forward some day. I recall u as a nw rancher with strong anti-democratic words, here. I could be wrong. it could be another brett, or bart! I hope I am wrong for we need every democratic ally we can get to move the state in a wholesome direction.

    otherwise you are likely just another republican shill.

  13. rohr. there is an entire library on the need to seal wells. our entire state well program is based on this fundamental, historical, scientific fact. go read ARSD for a few days. there was a little spill in the gulf recently caused by the industry’s reluctance to spend a few more bucks on spacers in casing for ultimate concrete sealing.

    I can’t think of anything more dangerous, except ignorance of climate science. and the second amendment gone bonkers.

  14. bret clanton

    The R and the D are wings on the same bird leslie no name… It is you and your fellow nameless commenters who need to broaden your horizons…

  15. [—]

    u don’t need to kno my name to win a controversy. born in the badlands, conceived in k.c. wyo. if u don’t understand privacy yet u just haven’t been hurt bad enough, yet. it is the danger of our hi-tech times, for all of us unfortunately. it is somewhat foolish to use your full name on an unregulated blog. I would advise you not to. of course I suspect you vote contrary to your interests too, like all but the 1% republicans. of course you may be indian land wealthy like so many west river ranchers.

    blog name…that is a non-issue, too, thoroughly rebutted here many, many times as a republican tactic to shame a democrat. don’t be naive.

    so have you written here before insulting democrats? I think we bumped heads over political values before. I was now trying to open a door, but if u are a shill, then accept it.

    I salute your work w/ paul against the pipeline. influence daugaard to end SD racist policies against Indians at Pe’ Sla and Black Elk wilderness. “get to fightin’ Ike [Clanton], or get away”. wyatt earp, tombstone:)

  16. oh, “R and the D are wings on the same bird ” is a complete cop-out. commit yourself to something bigger than a Canadian company interfering w/ 3 miles of your ranch. eminent domain is a big bad bugaboo that’ll eat your lunch. every time. foreign or not good of the Indians to bail you out, eh?

    daugaard’s number is http://sd.gov/governor/contactheader.aspx

    perhaps I am wrong.

  17. mike from iowa

    bret-I’ve expanded my horizon clear into corrupt from top to bottom South Dakota. O am interested in Wisconsin and Alaska as they are red states with crooks running/ruining the joints for average people-just like your state.

    Wisconsin has only needed five short years to wreak as much or more damage as nutjobs have done in forty years in Dakota.

  18. Paul Seamans

    Regarding cross contamination between aquifers. The Dewey-Burdock in situ uranium mining proposal wants a permit to inject their used water back into the ground as a means of disposal. They claim that there is no chance of cross movement of water between aquifers. At the NRC hearings experts have said otherwise.

    Suppose Powertech/Arzaga is wrong. Suppose the uranium infused water does move to another aquifer. Then this unplugged borehole at Waste would be a conduit for further contamination. Waste’s name was derived from the springs at Wasta. Mni waste, Lakota for good water. Will Wasta eventually need to change its name because of things like this failed oil well?

  19. Bill Dithmer

    It looks like one aquifer has a higher mineral content then the one above it, and thats the water they are worried about migrating.

    I have to think that we wouldnt even be having this discussion unless the problem already exists. No cross contamination, plug the hole in a conventional way, who knows what to do if it has already happened.

    I’d sure like to see the pictues when they ran the camera down that hole.

    The Blindman

  20. bret clanton

    I have achieved nirvana… I go on PP’s blog and the right attacks me and I come on here and the left attacks me.. stay classy leslie and mfi….

  21. mike from iowa

    Nope-no attacks in my post,Bret.

  22. bret, be honest. my post followed your 10:21 “attack” post by a few minutes. then I apologized for MY rough treatment to you a few minutes later. if you are not a republican shill, what’s the problem?

    do you just get butt-hurt and spout off, or are you sincere? all you can think of is to insult me as a no-name? kind of embarrassing, huh.

    btw, a typo in my post should be: “eminent domain is a big bad bugaboo that’ll eat your lunch. every time. foreign or not.” missed a period.

    You started it with your 10:21 post:

    “DENR is a toothless wonder unless you are a private individual that wants a water well for home use then they are all over you like stink on shit…

    There isn’t enough money in the entire state budget to clean up the abandoned well sites in Harding County…

    bonds…. what a joke…”

    you got what you asked for. rough treatment given, and then you got it back. now you are crying. cowboy up.

    if u can clearly see reality, i’d meet you when we cross paths and see how else you can help.

    btw: I lived in Camp Crook before u were an inkling.

    Then u said: the “left attacks me.. stay classy leslie and mfi….”

    any other attacks?

  23. Robert McTaggart

    The transfer of material between aquifer could certainly be tested with a tracer. Environmental monitoring should be able to quantify any uranium or other products.

    However, there are also other processes that release radionuclides or other chemicals that have nothing to do with in situ extraction.


  24. Comparing this to the nuclear waste borehole development is silly. Properly placed boreholes could help solve the issue of nuclear waste disposal, and there are numerous sites in South Dakota and other states that do not intersect aquifers. This project is complete hokum. I cannot believe that this project was even approved. I am presuming this nut was looking for oil in Sioux quartzite? Really? I hope they did not issue a permit to do oil exploration into the granitic basement in the area! She is either crazy, or this was some sort of sham to begin with. Blasting a hole in the Fall River and Lakota Formations at that depth and slope could be interesting too.

  25. I would like to see the pictures also, Mr. Dithmer. To compare them to The Borehole pictures.

  26. Robert McTaggart

    I agree, looking to extract oil/gas from underground (and sometimes fracturing the surrounding rock) is indeed a bit different than trying to find a place that would not interact with aquifers and isolate material for a million years. Oil/gas drilling does not have to be straight either.

    I suspect what is really going on is that someone was trying to drink North Dakota’s milkshake.

  27. Hey, leslie, bret, let’s not spend the afternoon griping about who attacked whom. Better yet, let’s not attack each other and focus on the issues. Chill out.

  28. Drink North Dakota’s milkshake… from Wasta? They’d need a really long bendy straw. That’s probably how they broke the bit, getting past 5,000 feet and trying to turn north.

  29. Spencer, silly? We’re talking about drilling deep holes in bedrock with bits and pipe that can break. Tell me how the engineering, the equipment, and the chances of a work-stopping drill bit failure differ between these two projects.

    I’ll suggest difference #1: Battelle/DOE’s equipment could break several thousand feet further down and be even harder to retrieve.

  30. Robert McTaggart

    Yeah, they would have to be connected by a deeper system than is readily apparent. It is still amazing to consider that ND got the oil and coal while SD did not.

  31. Robert McTaggart


    Sounds like they will need to do some research to drill that deeply to avoid that happening when waste would be deposited with this methodology elsewhere. #4Science

  32. I share your concerns about the engineering concerning boreholes to dispose of waste. At least there may be potentially feasible engineering solutions. The Wasta drilling scheme may be chasing something that is geologically highly improbable (oil deposits in Precambrian quartzite or migrated oil deposits in igneous rock) or impossible (oil deposits sourced in igneous rock). One needs a sound engineering solution. The other needs a basic understanding of geology and should have never been granted a permit by a board that presumably does have this understanding. Comparing the two projects is an improper comparison.

  33. This is what happens when you listen to people outside of geology about the safety of popping holes through aquifers.

  34. Robert McTaggart

    Hmmm…there is nothing being stored in the deep borehole test, so they could test how to seal the hole if the drill got stuck. The bigger deal occurs at the actual disposal site when some waste has already been stored beneath a stuck canister.

    Another interesting science note about the project. Time runs at a different rate 3 miles down below compared with at the surface. You would need an atomic clock to see the difference, but since gravity is different, the rate of time is different due to general relativity (Einstein).

  35. Paul Seamans

    That’s funny Cory. Drill down 5000 feet and head north. “Bakken Formation oil found near Wasta, critics silenced”.

  36. And where can you find a hydrologist around here to comment on the safety?

    Ya know, that kind of expertise is also required for educated comment on the safety of popping through aquifers.

  37. Robert McTaggart

    I agree, in order to show that the deep borehole methodology is safe (or oil/gas extraction, or in situ uranium extraction, etc.), they will need hydrologists, geochemists, and engineers to design experiments and analyze the data.

    No federal or state body will consult the blog regarding safety. Maybe as a factor with regard to public support or consent, but not safety.

  38. Donald Pay

    Regarding the deep borehole disposal test, I can’t image why anyone would suggest going ahead with the project in such a rushed fashion. Doing so is how South Dakota generates Superfund sites. This is exactly the problem that causes independent scientists to suggest that deep borehole disposal is extremely risky. Neither SD nor the federal government have rules that govern this sort of test, and it’s clear that whatever rules were in place in South Dakota are completely inadequate. There’s no reason to rush into a test.

  39. i’m sure NDDNR and its board of minerals and water management boards were ALL OVER the science of drilling under lake sacacawea, side-ways, fracking, and otherwise getting while the getting was good in the Bakken. little state and all. at least it has some bipartisanship up there. and of course to move that oil,

    “What you have is an agency that is charged with boosting the state’s business making a recommendation on the pipeline’s route though sensitive wetlands and across pristine lakes and stream instead of the state’s environmental agency,” Smith said.

    “So it’s not surprising that the recommendation was to proceed with the Enbridge plan.” 2014 http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20140806/bakken-oil-pipeline-would-bisect-minnesota-cross-144-waterways

    and in 2016,


    Texas experienced an average of two earthquakes magnitude 3.0 or greater each year; after 2008, that number shot up to 12 per year. This coincides with an oil and gas boom sparked by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, when wastewater production jumped, too.

    Oklahoma has embraced the science and taken some bold steps…to get the seismicity under control,” he said, adding that Kansas and Ohio officials have adopted similar measures.

    In contrast, Texas officials aren’t publicly acknowledging a problem….http://insideclimatenews.org/news/17052016/oil-and-gas-production-earthquakes-texas-new-research-fracking

  40. Robert McTaggart

    The test involves no waste. They need to do the research to develop the rules and improve practices before building the actual facility.

    The sooner the research is done, the sooner these wastes can be isolated. If something happens to these wastes on the surface, aren’t we going to say “the government should have acted on this sooner”?

  41. No.

    I think we can contain and secure waste on the surface with secondary, tertiary, and so on containment vessels. If a containment vessel is leaking, put it in another containment vessel. We just have to realize how crazy toxic nuclear waste is, and steadily wean ourselves off of what we do to create it.

  42. Donald Pay

    My understanding is the Wasta drilling involved no waste either, yet there is a lot of problems occurring there.

    The idea that rules will be developed and practices improved as a result of the test is bunkum. The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board said DOE should consider this “test” as if is the real thing. The real thing would have rules and regulations that needed to be met.

    Further, in the contract DOE signed with the contractor, DOE requires the contractor to follow all applicable federal, state and local rules. All I am saying is that those rules need to be thought through before the test occurs. There are already some laws and rules that apply. Are those laws and rules adequate? The Wasta experience would suggest they aren’t.

  43. Robert McTaggart

    I think there are rules that must be followed with regard to drilling.

    What is really at issue is whether they can drill straight over 3 miles down, what the rock is like down there, and what the costs really are.

  44. I support testing. Unfortunately, we seem to be more concerned about “out of sight, out of mind” than the principles of ALARA. We could likely store nuclear waste more safely in the Hall of Records than the Spink County boreholes without major engineering interventions or introducing elevated thermal and pressure environments and burying a giant radon source.

  45. Robert McTaggart

    It is not bunkum. For example, perhaps there is a rate of drilling that they should not exceed through a given type of rock in order to avoid hydrological issues.

    It would be nice if we had access to the answers in the back of the book, but the book has not been fully written yet.

    I would tend to believe that the parties involved would like to alleviate safety concerns, or show why it is not a problem, or show how they would solve the problem.

  46. Robert McTaggart


    Putting them underground gets rid of the access to them by people and keeps it safe from any attack or natural disaster, and it also cuts down the radiation to the public down to zero.

    Crazy toxic is all the chemicals used to process solar cells. But that isn’t stopping us from making solar cells. Nor should nuclear waste stop us from generating the carbon-free electricity we will need along with renewables.

  47. Robert McTaggart

    Radon cannot physically be produced by the decay of the military wastes that the deep borehole disposal method would bury. Heavier particles decay into lighter particles, and both Cs-137 and Sr-90 are lighter than Radon.

    Undoubtedly they will detect Radon at the site, but all of it will be coming from local rock and soil. Will they detect more at the borehole than they would right now? Perhaps, since the borehole would produce a path of least resistance and Radon is a gas.

  48. Mr. Clanton is right about all of the holes drilled in Harding County. They even have a superfund site, what an honor. http://www.homefacts.com/environmentalhazards/South-Dakota/Harding-County/Buffalo/Superfund-North-Cave-Hills-Mining-Sites-Sd0012261936.html

    It has been thought by many that the reasons for the high use of thyroid medications as well as incidents of cancer itself, can be attributed to this site area of blowing nuke dust as well as the dust from the bombs tested in Nevada that have drifted to South Dakota.

    The wind is blowing as always here, put some chargers in and let’r buck.

    Drilling holes for a project like Wasta without the adequate bonding for what might go wrong is typical of the way stuff is done here. This failure is further proof that South Dakota does not need and cannot afford a borehole in Redfield. Heather Wilson and her followers need to pack their it in and move on, we cannot afford their blunders.

    BTW, I saw myself a caravan of Porsche Panamera’s with sequential license plates from Georgia, leaving that site area. So there is someone who has them money to pay for that disaster in Wasta, just need to find the deep pocket for the deep well and file a lien. At over $100,000.00 a copy, that would bring in a million just on the cars.

  49. Robert McTaggart

    I agree with Mr. Pay that DOE and Battelle should act as if they are dealing with real wastes. That would generate better estimates of costs for an operating facility, develop best practices, and grow public confidence.

    But I think we disagree on what is necessary before starting the research. Let’s follow the law, heck let’s outdo what is required by law, but let’s also make the necessary adjustments as we move forward.

  50. Mactaggart,

    Solar panels are dirty power aye?! LOL All of the academia says solar is cleaner than nuclear and coal.

    You are wrong to state that underground storage “keeps it [nuclear waste] safe from ANY natural disaster.” In fact, this borehole is to see if it could be safe. You are prematurely claiming that it is safe… And when you don’t come right and make claims like this, you imply these falsehoods with too many other statements.

  51. Robert McTaggart

    Solar takes up more land than nuclear does per kilowatt-hour, like 50 times more.


    The carbon footprint of nuclear for the entire life-cycle is about the same as wind. The entire life-cycle of solar emits more than 4 times the carbon that nuclear does per kilowatt-hour!


    Sorry to burst your bubble about solar being perfectly clean. Some of those life-cycle emissions could be reduced if the manufacturing for solar were powered by nuclear.

  52. Robert McTaggart

    I believe my quote was “any attack or natural disaster”, not “any natural disaster”.

    But you are technically correct. If we get hit by a rogue planet, deep borehole disposal is not going to work for that natural disaster.

  53. Spencer, are you arguing for the sake of arguing? Are you telling me that it would be improper for regulators (e.g., DENR, Spink County Commission) to say to Battelle, “Hey, we heard about that crazy oil well by Wasta where they broke their drill, got the bit stuck, and couldn’t plug the hole. You’re promising us you’ll plug this borehole when you’re done. How do we know you guys won’t run into the same problem?”

  54. Robert McTaggart

    There has also been some Congressional testimony and other discussions related to nuclear’s role in grid stability and actually fighting climate change in the last couple of days.


    “On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted 17-3 to approve the bipartisan “Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.” The bill would make operations and fee structures in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission more transparent, making investment in nuclear power less daunting, Crapo said.”

  55. Georgia Porsches at Wasta? Holy cow, Jerry! I seem to recall hearing something along those lines before. What’s the connection?

    The woman who founded this drilling company, Natali Ormiston, also founded something called the Black Hills Quality Building Exchange LLC in 2010. Secretary Krebs dissolved that corporation last year after five years of receiving no reports from Ormiston:


  56. I think I saw a bunch of porsches in the last few years somewhere. they said it was a national touring club I think.

  57. barry freed

    Mr. Taggart,

    Please cite:
    “Crazy toxic is all the chemicals used to process solar cells. But that isn’t stopping us from making solar cells.”

  58. Robert McTaggart

    Sorry Larry, no Mr. Taggart here.

  59. Robert McTaggart

    The reticence to deal with our military wastes via a deep borehole disposal method is symptomatic of a larger issue for the management of wastes. With regard to our consumption of energy whenever we want it, the meal has already been eaten, but nobody wants to clean up the kitchen, or pick up the tab for that matter.

    Today nuclear is front and center, but as more renewables come online, those wastes and environmental impacts will rise in importance. Nuclear and renewables are in reality complementary to each other, but we should be responsible for the wastes that they produce….particularly when we enjoy the benefits upfront.

  60. Douglas Wiken

    Who pays to support the Nuclear Energy Institute? Without an explanation of how that graph data was determined and based on, it is mostly meaningless.

  61. Robert McTaggart

    From the website: NEI has over 350 members in 17 countries. They include companies that operate nuclear power plants, plant designers, architect and engineering firms, fuel suppliers and service companies, consulting services and manufacturing companies, companies involved in nuclear medicine and nuclear industrial applications, radionuclide and radiopharmaceutical companies, universities and research laboratories, law firms, labor unions and international electric utilities.

    They simply post the final results instead of the full analysis…sorry they didn’t call you first prior to doing that ;^). A similar study was done by an engineering department in Wisconsin a while back…the results haven’t changed that much.

    Those figures do not say that we should not do solar. In fact there are many reasons, such as energy diversity and more energy with low fuel costs, why solar should be part of the mix. But if you are trying to limit the land used for energy production, as well as overall life cycle carbon emissions, nuclear should receive more consideration than it does today.

  62. Robert McTaggart

    Here is a link to a NREL page with some similar analysis with more detail. You will see why NEI just posted the final results.


  63. Donald Pay

    We “enjoy the benefits upfront.” I’m not much in this guilt-tripping South Dakotans argument for nuclear waste disposal. South Dakota’s efforts supporting our nuclear deterrent and nuclear power were scattered all across West River and at Brandon, SD. South Dakota didn’t get much benefit, but it did get a significant problem from the nuclear industry.

    Not many citizens got to decide on whether we wanted those “benefits.” The federal government and state regulators decided those issues.

    When the Pathfinder plant near Brandon, SD, shook so hard on a test run that it had to be mothballed, nuclear power got a deserved black eye in South Dakota. This event was kept on the down low for many years, but some folks knew what happened. When the initial effort to dismantle the plant occurred, many of the workers ended up with asbestos/radiological-caused cancers. That, too, was hushed up. And, of course, South Dakota still has problems with numerous abandoned uranium mines. I’d say South Dakota has paid the dues for whatever imaginary “benefits” the nuclear enterprise supposedly delivered.

  64. Paul Seamans

    I see that the federal government will spend $89 million on the Brohm superfund site cleanup just this year alone. Is this South Dakota’s idea of economic development? Listen to these companies promises of a few jobs then let the federal government pick up the cleanup costs. Would South Dakota be less likely to issue these permits if South Dakota had to bear all of the cleanup costs?

  65. Robert McTaggart

    Don’t forget the coal that was not burned because some of our neighbors and other nations generated their electricity by nuclear. Don’t forget that nuclear uses less land per kilowatt-hour. Doesn’t it matter to SD if more natural habitat and clean air occur outside the state? I thought the biosphere was heavily interconnected.

    And yes, South Dakota receives nuclear energy from Minnesota, particularly Sioux Falls via Xcel Energy. South Dakotans benefit from receiving electricity whenever they want. The refrigerator keeps the food safe, the air conditioning works, the TV and computer are on whenever we want.

    Heck, the electricity you are using now to participate in this blog may come from nuclear energy. Try writing a blog with the power going in and out as it does in India and Africa….you will not know how good we have it until that consistent power is gone.

    I agree with you…I don’t like open pit mining or similar methods for either uranium or coal. But if you want nuclear energy, the uranium has to come from somewhere to avoid burning fossil fuels, so in situ is the other alternative today. Maybe uranium from seawater will become possible in the future. Like I said earlier, the toxic chemicals used in making solar cells are not going to keep us from producing more solar power.

    Why aren’t the opponents to in situ mining proposing to clean the recycled water on a continual basis with solar and wind to the levels they want? If solar and wind can do everything, why can it not tackle this task?

    Be careful about assigning cancers. Much of the data is based upon workers who smoked heavily or underwent many other occupational and environmental stressors, so it is often difficult to separate out the cause and effect.

    Pathfinder was not your typical light water nuclear reactor, and in fact used a design that is not applied anywhere else today. However, I don’t think the issue for that plant was nuclear as much as it was the mechanical infrastructure that generated the electricity. Likely a small modular reactor with a much more robust design would be built today if nuclear came back to Sioux Falls.

  66. Paul-that is so striking-this year EPA spends $89 MILL on bankrupt dissolved Brohm Mining Company’s abandoned reclamation and EPA Superfund cleanup above Sturgis.

    Rounds wants to eliminate EPA.

    Meanwhile his protege Duagaard refuses to expand Medicaid for 55,000 residents without health care, unless and sometime in the indeterminate future IHS makes some sort of deal with him to pay $67 MILL a year (as 30-90 people die each year for the last 4 years in SD without health care) based on his treaty interpretation.

    Rounds/Regents used EB5 as a federal slush fund. Daugaard made sure his administration obstructed investigation of the on-going fraud after Benda’s suicide. Law suits, law suits, law suits. The feds initiated revocation of EB5 from the state because of its abuse of the federal program. Up to $600 MILL is involved.

    Rounds/Daugaard’s DOE secretary abetted MCEC to fraudulently pilfer millions for years from Indian higher education after the murders/suicide of Westerhiuses. Daugaard’s investigation drags on. Hundreds of Millions of federal dollars were/are likely misspent by SDDOE. Regents assign MCEC work to BHSU. Law suits, law suits, law suits.

    Finally, Daugaard “hates that” health care dependency but as Lakota purchased sacred Black Hills land, Duagaard appealed federal BIA trust status imposed on the land, effecting $80,000 of Pennington County property tax. Daugaard ‘s administration and Pennington County also resist the Lakota application to change the name of Harney Peak in federal Black Elk Wilderness.

    This is the recent legacy of the SDGOP in power for 40 years plus. Striking!

  67. Douglas Wiken

    Data from other sources do not show nuclear power as better than wind energy for carbon production. Toss in the problems disposing of nuclear waste, and compare that with the problems of disposing of obsolete windmills, solar panels, etc. and despite the pages of verbiage of info on normalizing data from only 5 examples, I do not think the NEI info is a bit persuasive.

    I appreciate Mc Taggart providing information, but he persistently misrepresents the problem of variable wind and sun as some kind of insurmountable problem and omits mentioning use of them to produce portable fuels, etc. Discussion of nuclear power benefits without comparing Uranium systems to Thorium salt systems also distorts the information.

    Because the pool of estimates was small for thin-film technologies, statistical analysis to assess variability before and after harmonization was not conducted (and single points are shown in the figure). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power

  68. Robert McTaggart


    Not sure it is my job to come up with data that justifies your conclusions :^). People want links, so I give them links, and then they don’t like the links….so I cannot win in that regard.

    Don’t forget to “toss in the waste” from solar and wind as well. Somehow nuclear waste issues cannot be solved. But while the solar and wind waste issues work themselves out, let’s ignore the chemicals and the mining necessary to make solar panels, wind turbines, and advanced batteries. Particularly since those impacts occur somewhere else…as if we are not all part of the same biosphere.

    Despite the waste issues with renewables, we are not going to stop making solar cells, wind turbines, or advanced batteries. So arguments against doing nuclear due to waste issues simply are not as persuasive to me. All forms of energy production generate waste and an environmental impact: The amount of waste generated and the land necessary to produce the same amount of power are actually less with nuclear.

    If we can apply engineering to solve wind and solar waste issues, we can apply engineering to solve the nuclear waste issues. But a lot of the issues are more political in nature. Even wind and solar proponents object to windmills or solar farms being placed where green space or a view of the horizon existed before, particularly if it is in their town or neighborhood.

    One more link regarding how nuclear and renewables could potentially work together (shocking!).


  69. Robert McTaggart

    Until intermittency issues are solved, I agree that more effort should be put into using wind and solar in applications that do not mind the intermittency. The production of alternative fuels is one, but nuclear can also help by providing the extra electricity for charging electric cars or producing hydrogen or providing process heat for biofuels.

    Providing supplementary heating and cooling while wind or solar are available can help take less energy from the grid.

    I am not as big a fan of shipping wind energy from the midwest to the east coast since one will lose energy during the transmission, but there is a lot of effort in that regard today.

  70. Douglas Wiken

    Mc Taggart, I agree with you that shipping energy to the coasts at our environmental and social expense does not make a lot of sense for us and probably for the nation. I don’t know the percentage loses of energy per mile of modern high voltage line however. We can use the energy here and add employment and keep people here.

    I find it a bit hard to believe that the energy costs required to produce hundreds or thousands of tons of steel and concrete for current design nuclear power units can be less than the cost of producing similar amounts of energy with other system costs in total.

    I do agree that nuclear power..especially that from Thorium..is very easily better than more and more reliance on fossil fuels. But, even better would likely be a lot more attention to more efficient design of homes, heating cooling, etc. The costs of digging the hole in Spink County would probably insulate many South Dakota homes to a level which required nearly zero heating and cooling energy and costs.

  71. Donald Pay

    Just a few thoughts here about democracy and centralized versus decentralized power, and how things work in developing areas of the world.

    My daughter traveled quite extensively in Yunnan Province, China, several years ago. This is near Tibet. The nomadic peoples (Tibetan and otherwise) weren’t tied to the grid, or course, as they engaged in herding. Instead they had access to small, mobile solar units with some battery storage, which provided enough power for their needs.

    One of the benefits of being nomadic in this area, besides not being tied to the grid, was that the families could hook up radio to their solar unit and get signals from India. The kids, who didn’t speak Chinese, were learning English, world news and democratic politics from nearby India because they were nomadic and solarized.

    One of China’s recent policies in these areas is to “settle” the nomads under the guise of improving their lives. Now the former nomads have access to centralized power (coal or nuclear) through the grid and the latest Chinese TV. Radio,TV and internet originating elsewhere, and even in their own community, of course, is highly censored.

    Many think there is no other way to live than being on the grid served by a distant power source, but what if intermittency is a cost you would pay to be free of greenhouse gases, nuclear waste, your local utility bill and an intrusive government? What if the cost of wastes were factored into the cost of the electricity generated by coal and nuclear sources? Maybe decentralized solar would be a far cheaper alternative, or at least more democratic? What if intermittency could be mitigated through pumped storage or other engineered options, so that cost becomes less of a factor?

  72. Thorium power for all. It is better than socialized sun.


  73. We’re so far from Wasta, I don’t mind mentioning this fascinating bit of trivia: the Pathfinder nuclear plant was built by Allis-Chalmers, the tractor manufacturer.

  74. Well said Mr. Wiken. You point out the obvious and that is a spooky thing to those who want access to the treasure. A flippin hole in the ground indeed. What a huge unneeded expense for a poor state to see. You just know we are gonna get screwed on the deal as we always do. This bunch of grifters all fit the same pattern.

  75. grudz-u mean socialism.

    would that include “subsidies” for the fossil fuel industry since the full cost of that energy source is never charged the energy companies, but is born by everyone else-like under dreaded socialism?

    From an economic perspective, carbon taxes are a type of Pigovian tax.[7] They help to address the problem of emitters of greenhouse gases not facing the full social cost of their actions. David Gordon Wilson first proposed a carbon tax in 1973.[27] wiki hahahah

    Of course, exxon and others produced science that denied global warming so we did nothing after the 1973 Oil Shortage to develop alternative energy, and then Reagan gleefully took down White House solar collectors after Pres. Carter was defeated.

    this would be the GOP in action. 43 years of it. simplified.

    e.g.- “What if the cost of wastes were factored into the cost of the electricity generated by coal and nuclear sources?” don pay

  76. Doc- u r very funny w/ “Larry” and I assume u kno “our” Larry was banned for bluntness.

    But I don’t get why u r surprised the Bakken ect. hasn’t favored BOTH Dakotas. we do live on a planet with old granite underneath new glacial wash-outs. and plate tectonics.

    what if we run into oil in spink county? :)

    btw-whaddayah think of this:

    The James River drainage basin was initiated by an immense southeast and south oriented melt water river flowing on the surface of a thick and rapidly melting North American ice sheet. The melt water river eventually sliced a huge ice-walled and bedrock-floored canyon into the thick ice sheet surface, which detached the ice sheet’s west and southwest margin. The northeast and east-facing Missouri Escarpment is what remains of the ice-walled canyon’s southwest and west wall and the west-facing Prairie Coteau Escarpment is what remains of the canyon’s east wall. The present day north-south continental divide developed when ice sheet melting progressed to the point that south-oriented melt water flood flow in the present day Red River valley was reversed to flow north and captured what had been the south-oriented flood flow in the present day Sheyenne River drainage basin. https://geomorphologyresearch.com/2011/12/27/james-river-drainage-basin-landform-origins-north-and-south-dakota-usa-overview-essay/

  77. Robert McTaggart

    Actually, the costs of nuclear wastes are embedded in the price of electricity that is paid by consumers. Emergency planning is embedded in those costs as well. The U.S. just hasn’t lived up to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in that regard. The wastes are isolated, so that the public is not exposed to any of the radionuclides, unlike coal which disperses naturally-occurring radionuclides.

    If we can finally solve our nuclear waste issues, then the monies used to isolate the wastes at the surface can be used for something else. Schools need to be as energy-efficient as possible, and they could also have some solar if not geothermal heating/cooling to reduce energy expenses. If you are really interested in boosting teacher salaries, then reducing energy costs for schools is an absolute must.

    Costs are certainly an issue with building more nuclear. Once built, the operational costs are low and the reactors can run 100 years with maintenance. That is a hot topic today given that shutting down a nuclear plant and replacing it with natural gas will generate more carbon.

    But they are not as cheap to build up front. Part of that is due to all of the concrete that is necessary for shielding given the linear, no-threshold model of radiobiology. But on the other hand all of that concrete makes them very resistant to tornadoes, missile attack, whatever. We also make it more expensive to build through licensing and regulation.

    That is why I like the small modular reactors. They will reduce those upfront costs for inclusion in a distributed energy environment, and they have some promise to follow the load better than today’s larger reactors. Which means that they can work better with renewables without needing as much natural gas. The larger reactors are going to be better around larger population centers that use more electricity 24-7.

    So you are right, if you choose to live a lifestyle that doesn’t have access to the grid, more power to you (figuratively speaking of course ;^) ).

  78. Robert McTaggart

    Also, the monies involved in the proposed research (and more money if they choose to dig other holes) is federal, not state. So you would be bringing in more money into the state for both the local community and higher ed (namely SDSMT).

    And who knows, maybe DOE would be interested in helping the local schools become more energy efficient or produce more energy than they use.

  79. Tony Petres

    The really funny thing is that SD has untapped oil resources at several levels much shallower than this 9700′ monstrosity. No need to drill that deep! And for all the doubters, understand that Wasta is pretty much on a east-west line that forms the southern boundary of the Williston Basin in SD. That’s right, the world famous Williston Basin underlies nearly all of western and central SD. I would bet there is as much undiscovered oil in SD’s “Williston Basin” counties as has been produced in Harding County from the 1954 discovery to the present. Let’s not go nuts over one well and end or greatly impede oil/gas exploration in SD. We can use the jobs and the local governments the severance tax money.