DENR Advises RESPEC on Environmental Requirements for Deep Borehole Field Test

On October 18, 2016, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued its requirements for the Deep Borehole Field Test. DENR prepared these requirements based on information from Rapid City engineering and consulting firm RESPEC, which worked with Battelle and the School of Mines on the failed effort to bring the Borehole research project to Spink County last spring. That team is now working on a bid for the nuclear-waste-disposal research project near Philip in Haakon County.

If the U.S. Department of Energy and Haakon County say drill, here’s what DENR will require of the drillers:

  • Water Rights: The borehole isn’t a well, so the project won’t need to meet state well construction standards. However, DENR wants a plan for plugging the hole. If the drillers use public waters, they’ll need a temporary water right permit. No such permit is necessary if they hook up to an existing water system.
  • Minerals and Mining: The borehole isn’t exploring for minerals, so it needs no mining permit.
  • Air Quality: DENR is pretty iffy here:

    A drilling operation may need to be permitted under the air quality program if pollutants are emitted to the air. The permitting process may take 90 days or more. Examples of equipment that will be regulated in the permit are pumps, boilers, and generators. Portable generators located onsite for more than 12 consecutive months are considered stationary generators and may need to be permitted. If the facility meets EPA’s definition for a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) facility, it will need a PSD preconstruction permit. This means that the company may have to collect air quality samples for a period of time before we can begin processing their permit application [SD DENR, “Deep Borehole Research Project Requirements,” 2016.10.18].

  • Solid Waste: No permit necessary to take waste to an existing permitted landfill (nearest to Philip is Pierre). The state doesn’t regulate drill cuttings and drilling fluids dumped on site.
  • Surface Water Quality: Storm water discharge permit if disturbing one or more acres. Temporary discharge permit if drilling fluid could get into state waters.
  • Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title III (Hazardous Materials): report temporary or long-term storage of 10,000 pounds or more of OSHA hazardous substances, including drilling fluids or fuel.
  • Spills/Releases: report and clean up any hazardous substances, immediately if spill affects surface water or exceeds 25 gallons.
  • Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasure: EPA rules may cover on-site fuel storage.
  • On-Site Wastewater/Septic System: approval by DENR, installation by certified installer. If serving 20 or more people or handles wastewater “that is not consistent with domestic strengths” (i.e., not just poop!), may need EPA permit.

Most of those requirements deal with operations. Only the plugging plan under water rights deals with the borehole itself. So apparently, there’s no DENR rule against sinking a hole three miles down into the Haakon County bedrock.

84 Responses to DENR Advises RESPEC on Environmental Requirements for Deep Borehole Field Test

  1. Donald Pay

    From my past experience, this means DENR is rolling over. They are going to be placing various tracers and equipment down the hole. You could call that disposal and require permits. The laws would allow you to do that. Permitting would give citizens the right to contest the operation to put actual limits on it. For example, no radioactive material, etc. Without permitting. It’s wide open.

  2. Donald Pay

    Without access to the secret plans there is no way to determine if DENR’s interpretation is correct. They couldn’t have made these statements without the plans being submitted. They need to release those plans pronto.

  3. Horsefeathers. If nuclear waste storage is “safe” then store it under the DENR, under the Capitol Building, under the governor’s mansion, and certainly under Pierre. If its storage is good enough, safe enough for them, then it will be safe and good enough for all of us. Until then . . . challenge them at every turn.

  4. Why is safe in quotation marks, John? Or are we just going NIMBY on dakotafreepress today?

  5. Donald Pay

    Apparently DENR is basing this analysis off “verbal information provided by RESPEC.” According to Kent Woodmansey of DENR, DENR has received no permit applications, and apparently that means they have no real plans in hand to base their analysis on.

    The problem with this whole process is that it is secret, underhanded and fraudulent. If DENR’s analysis, which Cory has faithfully summarized above, has been handed in to the Department of Energy in the proposal as some sort of final say, then Battelle, RESPEC, et al. has committed fraud, and is attempting to illegally profit by swindling US taxpayers. That is why this entire process should come to a complete halt .

  6. Donald Pay

    I could question DENR’s analysis regarding permitting requirements on a lot of the topics listed, just based on how this thing is being described by the Department of Energy in its promotional literature and past scientific studies. It could certainly generate a lawsuit or two, perhaps a citizen suit similar to the one TIP did to get NPDES permitting at the heap leach mines. I would caution DENR to not just hand wave this thing through. There are federal and state laws that need to be followed, and “verbal descriptions” is a pretty piss poor way of regulating. If I were at DENR I would be asking for the detailed plans pronto, and telling RESPEC to retract any part of the RFP about DENR permitting given to the Department of Energy based on “verbal information.”

  7. Robert McTaggart

    Where has anyone said that nuclear waste is part of any deep borehole drilling test? This is a non-nuclear drilling project, but the studies are needed to assess things like safety and cost-effectiveness, which should be of interest to the public.

    Why would anyone want an unsafe method of storing nuclear wastes??? That is what is being promoted by avoiding these studies in their entirety.

  8. Robert McTaggart

    With regard to storing wastes near the Capitol Building, you would still need to do a full environmental assessment. If flooding were an issue (which I am guessing it would be), then siting a waste storage facility is less likely.

    Thus I don’t think it is to correct to promote an unsafe site for storage and then declare that nuclear waste storage is unsafe. I don’t have a problem about asking questions to make the responsible storage of nuclear wastes as safe as possible, or gaining the consent of the public.

    There are methods that can reduce the waste that we have produced, but they are simply more expensive today. Those include advanced reactors that have a different fuel cycle to produce less waste, and consuming the present wastes to make electricity or extract critical elements (which may require reprocessing facilities). Until those occur, the arguments will continue about how best to isolate nuclear wastes.

  9. Robert McTaggart

    “Horse Feathers” is actually a movie starring Groucho Marx, where his bit “Whatever it is, I’m against it” seems to reflect some attitudes on making nuclear waste storage safer. I posted a link earlier with regard to privatizing education, but seems appropriate here too.

    A successful test will end up making the borehole method safer, which is why some are against it.

  10. mike from iowa

    Why would anyone want an unsafe method of storing nuclear wastes???

    Sure would save someone poor little korporation a boatload of money (profits) if they were allowed to cut corners and with wingnuts in total control (I just threw up in my mouth) regulations will go flying out the windows.

    On a more humorous note, David Gergen said about Drumpf’s victory lap “I knew I didn’t like the SOB!”

  11. Robert McTaggart

    I guess the solar manufacturers would save a lot of money if they didn’t have to worry about their chemical wastes any more either.

    Nothing occurs without any waste, so in all cases (nuclear included) we should want the safest and most cost-effective methods implemented.

    From the link above: “We want to test the things that would be difficult to do,” said Kristopher Kuhlman, a hydrogeophysicist at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during the meeting. “If we want to put waste where we’ll never see it again,” he added, it should go at the bottom of a deep borehole.

  12. What’s weird, Robert, is that for a party that has, at least recently, been more pro-science, posters on this website seem remarkably anti-science when it comes to nuclear energy and toss out platitudes like EVIL CORPORATIONS and NOT IN MY BACKYARD as a substitute for reasoning. I appreciate your emphasis on discussion and substance here.

  13. Robert McTaggart

    Thanks Dicta,

    I believe that nuclear is an opportunity for Democrats to show that they are the pro-environment, pro-labor, pro-science, pro-education party, since all those things are included in making nuclear work. That doesn’t mean forgetting renewables, that means using all the tools we have available to fight climate change and boost our economy.

    That would be a change for a large portion of the Democratic party, but really doing clean energy and meaning it is a potential direction. A long time ago a good Democrat said “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”…that applies to nuclear.

  14. mike from iowa

    The only thing we have to fear is the fecking moron headed to the White House in January and his complete lack of knowledge of how government works and what is required of him to do the job he ran for but isn’t at all interested in doing.

    Imagine having a chat with Pakistan’s PM on unsecured phone w/o security on hand and without letting our close ally India know beforehand. This guy has done more damage to national security before he is sworn in than could have ever happened with a certain someone’s private server. Where is the OUTRAGE?

  15. …I guess we thought having a conversation here about bore holes and nuclear energy was a good place for it, given it’s an article about bore holes and nuclear energy. That cool with you, Mike?

  16. mike from iowa

    Gee, I don’t know. I just saw some stuff about Democrats and renewables and pro-science, pro-environment and pro-labor. That cool with you, Dicta?

  17. Donald Pay

    The history shows something quite different. There is science and there is engineering and there is industry and there is government. Understandably, nuclear power started as an offshoot of the nuclear weapons infrastructure with strong dominance by engineering, industry and government at about the same time that John Gofman, a government scientist, was developing the scientific field of health physics. The engineering/business/government cabal were really the anti-science folks, trying at every step to hinder Gofman’s research. They spent decades trying to deny his scientific findings.

  18. mike from iowa

    Speaking of that pesky nukular stuff, India and Pakistan both have nukes and they don’t much care for one another. What if the mangled apricot hellbeast set off a nukular confrontation with his stoopidity at foreign relations? Bet you won’t be worried about boreholes then, huh Sport.

  19. SCENE: mike from iowa finishes picking his nose bloody for the third time late Saturday night, early Sunday morning. He closes a tab on his Lenovo, leaving only Quora pages on HuffPo and abandoned, half-written blog posts. He feels spent but not tired. His lazy, refractory haze is short-lived, however. A craving for a Baconator Jr. overtakes him. He puts on sweatpants and an ill-fitting joke sweatshirt from Pac Sun, and ambles to the street, where he gets into his Aztec gold ’94 Camry, plotting mentally a satisfactory route to the nearest Wendy’s.

    mike from iowa arrives at Wendy’s just in time; he mulls over his order, and settles on two Baconators Jr., a Biggie order of fries, and a large cola. CASHIER, a girl of average looks but roughly three standard deviations of attractiveness above mike from iowa, forces a smile as she accepts his dirty, crumpled $20 bill. The blood rushes from mike from iowa’s nose as he attempts to get a sense of her figure as she turns away to make change. It is only moments before he receives his change, Baconators Jr., fries, and beverage. He does not acknowledge CASHIER’s thanks, nor move his gaze upward to meet her eyes.

    mike from iowa starts to drive home, shoving his greasy bounty into his greasier face, taking familiar roads, leaving only a stray fry or two upon his arrival back home. He throws the empty bag into the back seat of the Camry, where it lands upon literally dozens of other such empty bags. Incredible how the mind works, he thinks to himself, having imagined sufficient scenes starring himself and the cashier to fill a feature-length film. He sits in the Camry for a few more moments, debasing his hand through his sweatpants’ pocket, when an idea strikes: CASHIER, he calculates, would have no reason to believe he is not a successful democratic politician. His turgid optimism takes over. He starts the V4 engine with hardened resolve to fulfill his directorial vision.

    Not more than a few blocks down the road, however, mike from iowa realizes that his cinematic dream setting of a transitional traditional-modern bedroom with floral patterns and bold finished oak is not yet a reality. His mind flashes to his own room in the actual world: a vision of crusty socks, microwave dinner packaging, and empty soda cans. His trusty Camry will have to do. He looks in the rear-view mirror and sees the piles and piles of empty bags and recognizes immediately the existential threat they pose to the eroticism of the moment-to-be. Near-panicked, he pulls over to the side of the road, and frantically throws empty bags to the curb one after another, like a fat raccoon in the darkness. A minivan drives by in the night but continues to an unknown destination.

    In a light sweat and moderately winded, mike from iowa returns to the driver’s seat and continues to Wendy’s. The Camry is a roomy vehicle for its class, he notes to himself. He practices his lines, which hinge mostly on observational comments regarding the patented technology of fast food restaurants and clumsy transitions to mentioning his position of power, slipping in a mention of his astronomical per diem for part time political office. He pulls up to the menu board, but it has gone dark. He waits to be greeted for a full three minutes, his perspiration changing in character from exerted to nervous. But it is for naught.

    mike from iowa pulls into a parking space, thinking to wait for CASHIER and proposition her then and there. Ten minutes pass, then thirty. He sees movement at the door in the corner of his eye, jumps up in his seat, and turns to look. There, leaving the building, is CASHIER, but not alone: she is accompanied by CO-WORKER, a lanky goateed thirtysomething with gauged ears. They see mike from iowa in the front seat of the Camry. CASHIER recognizes him clearly as he is at Wendy’s virtually every night. mike from iowa frantically starts the car and peels out of the lot, distraught. He arrives home and slinks into the back seat to reevaluate his evening routine. The smell of weeks of Baconators Jr. in the air, which he does not recognize at this point due to conditioning, sends him home to slumber in shame.

    As he sits outside his home on his umami covered chair, mike from iowa suddenly becomes cognizant of the scent of the Baconators Jr. and shifts his weight in his own garbage in a strange mix of defeat and steely resolve to do better. He waits some minutes. He then exits the car, walks back to his bedroom and returns to his computer, determined not to let his night’s creative energy go to waste. He navigates in his browser to http://www.dakotafreepress. He moves his pointer over the “post comment” button, hesitating only ever so slightly before clicking with the force of a man who knows his will. He starts typing in an effort to memorialize his material indefinitely, agonizing over every word in his notes. They are his masterpiece. They are the opening verbal gambits in a future night of passion.

    Have a good weekend, Mike

  20. Robert McTaggart

    Donald, I teach health physics. The bottom line is that at very large doses, it is clear that there is a linear relationship between the radiation dose received, and the causation of cancers or other diseases. Reducing your time around sources, increasing your distance when not using them, and providing shielding when necessary are all important measures to follow.

    At lower doses, the relationship is consistent with a couple of different models, and we need better statistical power to really tell the difference. But we apply the linear model because it is simple and in many ways is the conservative approach.

    The leading contender is likely the threshold model…that radiation has no effect until a threshold dose is received….which is not that different from the biological response to many chemicals. If true, that would reduce the costs of nuclear, which is why some do not want to know if it is true. So much for science.

  21. mike from iowa

    Dicta takes a dump and sits in it. The end. Isn’t this fun and instructive?

  22. Robert McTaggart

    Can’t we all just get along?

    The number of deaths and fatal cancers predicted for three mile island and chernobyl have not come to fruition….so there may be cause for examining the LNT…or at least how the data was collected and the theory applied.

  23. Porter Lansing

    The state damn well better regulate drill cuttings and drilling fluids dumped on site. It’ll be tens of thousands of gallons of highly polluted liquids. It’s going to take a good sized pond to catch all the baroid mud and guts from a well that deep. When I was roughnecking in WYO we left some mighty polluted patches of ground that will never be salvaged. I suppose there’s no regs because there’s no oil in SD.

  24. Dicta: if it’s good for my back yard, then it’s good for your backyard, and for Pierre’s backyard.
    Pony up.

  25. Our state has legally, and formally, chosen to not regulate mining or any other holes in its ground.

    A borehole like this goes way short of moving toward solving the most imminent problems ahead of us. It entails significant local risk, and little reward.

    Liberals dont have to compromise on nuclear; conservatives need to compromise on renewables. Let us not ever get that mixed up.

  26. leo van de vate

    The deep borehole option is the less bad solution. There is not an ideal one. Most bad of all is Let it stay at the surface. Leo van de Vate From the Netherlands

  27. I doubt if the Haakon state’s attorney is up to speed on all this, rumor has it it she told the commissioners to stay “neutral” well she better get her books out on this one instead of drinking the kool aid and eating Wilson cookies …… meeting Tuesday at Phillip at 1300

  28. mike from iowa

    Can’t we all just get along?

    Doc, do you remember what happened to Rodney King? Has it not gotten much worse for Blacks since then?

  29. Donald Pay

    Here’s the deal, Adam. If the state wants to regulate, they can find a way to regulate. The state’s environmental laws are as strict or as flexible as Daugaard demands. The fact that DENR is really backing way off tells me Denny “Corrupt” Daugaard has his slimy paws all over this. He’s rolled over, and with a wink and a nod told Haakon County commissioners to let DENR handle this. That means no regulation at all, basically. He’s tell South Dakota citizens to enjoy the raping they are in for. This is even worse behavior than the sewage ash scam, because at least there was a permit in place. Now it’s up to citizens to stop it.

    Now that can happen any number of ways, but don’t expect any help from the corrupt officials in Pierre.

  30. Donald Pay

    Here’s the deal, Adam. If the state wants to regulate, they can find a way to regulate. The state’s environmental laws are as strict or as flexible as Daugaard demands. The fact that DENR is really backing way off tells me Denny “Corrupt” Daugaard has his slimy paws all over this. He’s rolled over, and with a wink and a nod told Haakon County commissioners to let DENR handle this. That means no regulation at all, basically. He’s telling South Dakota citizens to enjoy the raping they are in for. This is even worse behavior than the sewage ash scam, because at least there was a permit in place. Now it’s up to citizens to stop it.

    Now that can happen any number of ways, but don’t expect any help from the corrupt officials in Pierre.

  31. Robert McTaggart

    What has happened since the Rodney King incident is the exponential growth of the internet, cable TV, and access to video and social media. So we are definitely more aware of problems in our society. I can’t say that we have figured out a way to truly solve said societal problems…that will require sustained effort from everyone.

  32. Robert McTaggart

    Deep borehole disposal will isolate wastes further from the public than any other proposed method of waste isolation. Anything else will be closer to the surface. The alternatives to deep boreholes have lots of unresolved issues and unexplored costs.

    1. Leaving the wastes on the surface means spending lots of money on security and maintaining or upgrading aging facilities or building new ones, when that money could be spent on other things.

    2. Breaking down Strontium and Cesium could conceivably be done by exposing them to particles from accelerators or to neutrons from a reactor to transform them into less radioactive or stable nuclides…that application would have to be designed from scratch.

    3. Launching the waste into space is truly expensive and risks dispersing radionuclides into the environment due to a launch accident.

    4. Storage in a permanent underground facility similar in nature to Yucca Mountain could work, but if Yucca Mountain is not possible an entirely new facility would be necessary.

  33. Robert McTaggart

    Hi Donald,

    To be accurate we are speculating on DOE selecting South Dakota as a proposed site. I would stipulate that such a selection would not be surprising however.

    The regulations proposed fit the nature of the exploratory drilling of a non-nuclear nature. If they were to propose the actual disposal of nuclear wastes (namely the Cesium and Strontium I mention above), then the regulatory response would be different.

    If you shut down the proposal through regulatory fiat before it has even been officially made to a community (or approved by DOE even), what does that say about the need to ascertain the public’s consent first?

  34. Donald Pay

    Dr. McTaggart:

    Well, golly gee. And deep borehole disposal has many unresolved issues and unexplored costs, so that leaves us exactly where? We stupidly are generating more of these wastes while being about in the same place we were in 1983. Deep borehole disposal can’t handle most of the wastes we have anyway, so it’s just another cost on top of a cost we’ll have to have. Why double the cost? Well, Moniz wants a quick and dirty answer to some of the defense wastes that he’s stored without consent in states like Idaho, Washington and New Mexico. There have be lawsuits over this and tanks are leaking at Hanford. The nuclear “scientists” have failed, repeatedly year after year. They have zero credibility. Why would we even trust a thing that they have to say?

    I’ve been involved in this issue since the early 1970s. Back then there was a credible scientific effort to solve this issue. It was open and honest. I could get all the information by signing up. They sent me packets of information and studies every week. Before they came to any state, they asked permission, and it was OK then, because we hadn’t been lied to yet.

    RESPEC was one of the consulting firms. They did a lot of work on salt disposal sites. I got many of their studies just for asking. Now they operate in secret. You can’t get a goddam thing from DOE. Nothing about this proposal, anyway, and RESPEC seems not to want us to know any specifics.

    The problem is, Dr. McTaggart, we’ve been lied to for too long by the nuclear “scientists” and the politicians who roll over for the nuclear industry.

    We’ve had all these discussions in South Dakota long ago. We, the people, decided we wanted control over the issue. We didn’t want to let politicians have total control, so we passed an initiative. It worked for several years to keep Chem-Nuclear out, in spite of years of conniving by Governor Janklow. Then the Legislature repealed our initiative in a stealthy way. Lies, corruption all associated with the nuclear industry.

    Daugaard said we’d have a vote. That was three years ago. No bill from Daugaard to make that vote happen. More lies. More secrecy. More corruption. First, with shale. Then with deep boreholes. Over and over and over.

    This isn’t the way science is supposed to work.

    Yes, we have to deal with the issue of radioactive waste. But, please, get the crooks, the self-dealing, the secrecy, the lies and corruption out of the way, first. Until that is done, the answer is NO.

  35. Robert McTaggart

    The reason that the waste hasn’t been disposed of since 1983 is not because of technical issues, it has been because of social issues. Scientifically Yucca Mountain is about the best location for it, but the public response was not fully accounted for in those early attempts.

    I agree that deep borehole disposal is not ready to store these military wastes today, but you are making my point. The research needs to be done to fully explore the method before using it with actual nuclear waste. Physical drilling needs to take place to sort out all the issues….you cannot do that on a computer.

    You have convinced me that public consent is important, but shouldn’t both proponents and opponents take public consent into account? I didn’t hear any complaints about not having a vote in Spink County. Hmmm.

    This week in Switzerland the public voted to keep their nuclear plants going, instead of shutting them down quickly. Imagine that…they VOTED. They see all the coal that Germany is burning next door, and their higher energy rates. While they did not vote to build new nuclear plants, they voted to keep the carbon-free electricity going and allow time for renewables to improve. New York, Sweden, and it looks like Illinois will do the same.

  36. Robert McTaggart

    Donald, does IM 22 do anything for you with respect to the borehole?

  37. I was told by one of my district Representatives that he would not have run for the House if he had known IM 22 was going to pass. He went to one meeting in Pierre, and he is already polluted by the party! He told me the law is unconstitutional and the voters didn’t know what they were voting for! The other Rep. elected has been the Chairman of our county Planning Commission for a good number of years —– and he is a real-estate salesman! I asked him about that conflict and he said it was good to have a realtor on the Commission because he knows about property! This is the mind set we are dealing with here folks. Remember when the Legislature passed a law forbidding the DENR in SD examine or require adherence to our environmental laws for the proposed uranium mining in Edgemont —- because it would be redundant with the federal laws!

  38. Donald Pay

    Dr. McT,

    Who chose Yucca Mountain? Not the scientists. It was one of three sites being studied by scientists as a potential site. Then politics happened.

    Let’s just say this. Under President Carter there was a lot more honesty and a lot less secrecy. All the information was available. In steps Reagan, and all of a sudden information flow gets restricted. Budget cuts were one of the reasons. They couldn’t afford having we peons following what the elite were deciding. Still, some of the information kept coming out, more the result of bureaucratic inertia than anything. Then we had the whittling down of sites due to budgetary restrictions on studies, not really because the studies found one site better than another. Then it was political deals in Congress. Then it was the “screw Nevada bill” that finally selected Yucca Mountain.

    Now we have in South Dakota a governor who is a willing partner in this scam. How long has he known about the Haakon County plans and not bothered to ask his “subjects” for consent? He’s just wants to rape them before they can find out what the project really is. And all these legislators are up in arms about the Anti-Corruption Bill, but don’t bother to try to find out about, let alone stop, this plan.

    So, yeah, the Anti-Corruption bill is a place to start. Then put back the initiative, or some similar bill, that will give people back a right to vote on radioactive waste disposal proposals.

    But, I’d also warn about going ahead with this project until people know what policies the Trump administration are going to follow. The Republicans in the House of Representatives oppose consent-based siting. So, you sign up for this “test” and it could be the last choice you have.

  39. Haakon County trusts government period. Now with the Trump administration, they know full well that their interests will be respected and that there will not be any kinds of problems whatsoever. I think they probably will want to vote on this like one of those other counties just did. But all in all, this county is a real bastion of government support for decisions made.

  40. Bobby Kolbe

    What is the propose / mission of this drilling project?

    If drilling proceeds who gets the information gathered from this drilling?
    When drilling is completed will the entire drilled hole be required to be filled to ground level?

  41. Mr. Kolbe, you have not been paying much attention. It is #4Science. There are a few scientists here who have explained just about everything there is to be explained on this. It is a good thing. A good thing.

  42. Robert McTaggart

    I don’t know what other kind of study they can do at Yucca Mountain. However, one can argue whether we should be changing the fuel cycle and/or reprocessing to isolate a smaller amount of waste that is less radioactive. That would generate less heat, which allows more to be stored in the same space.

    I’m shocked that politics would play a role in both South Dakota and the U.S. Congress. If only there were an outlet, like a blog, whereby citizens could inform others of their opinions. If necessary, the people who read the blog could read other materials and listen to many other opinions to become informed.

    Heck, they could even contact their representatives if need be. And if they disagree with their representatives, they can either vote against them the next election, or run themselves. Lions, tigers, and bears…oh my.

  43. Mr. Dicta is right, he is righter than right. Mike is from Iowa.

  44. Robert McTaggart


    The drilling is essentially being done to better understand what happens to the rock after such drilling. They need to show that they can drill a very straight hole to avoid getting a waste container stuck in-between, and they must understand the hydrology to see if anything can travel from said hole over the next several decades.

    They will also have a better idea of the costs of this technique compared with other alternatives. So it is not assumed that the technique will ever be used for storage of these kinds of wastes that do not contain thorium, uranium nor plutonium. They have to prove that it can work.

    This would not be the only test…they would repeat this eventually with a more complicated geology to drill through. It is likely that the wastes will be stored somewhere closer to their current location due to transportation issues and/or consent issues.

  45. So to shut this project down some investigation will be needed. You will need to look for safety violations and injury reports and other lawsuits the firm was involved in. Compile that information together and present it to the county. My guess is if they are like most SD contractors they have a pretty bad safety record.

  46. Donald Pay

    Dr. McTaggart,

    Really, it isn’t politics. It’s corruption that tries to mask itself as politics. And your attitude is really the problem. An honest politics wouldn’t be hiding all the information until the deal is done. That’s what corruption does while calling itself “consent-based siting.”

  47. Douglas Wiken

    “If you shut down the proposal through regulatory fiat before it has even been officially made to a community (or approved by DOE even), what does that say about the need to ascertain the public’s consent first?”

    If you start a dangerous projectl through regulatory fiat and abuse before it has even been officially made to a community (or approved by DOE even), what does that say about the need to ascertain the public’s consent first?

  48. leo van de vate

    Dear Americans,
    Because there is a huge amount of mistrust in most of your comments my advise from Holland could only be: block all the possible geological disposal projects in your Dakota and elswhere and let the waste stay at the surface.
    The one and only problem is the use of nuclear energy. Look to Germany and in the near future Holland where stopping nuclear means a fruitful discussion about a one-time disposal of the waste. But in the USA thats impossible. So block everything and you will end at the surface with your waste (nothing changed) in a extremely dangerous situation. Happy Sunday

  49. Robert McTaggart


    That is certainly true, nobody would want a wind turbine placed next door without their permission, for example. But using regulatory fiat when it generates the outcome that you personally want doesn’t make it right either. That was my point. If public consent is important, then both sides need to respect it.

    We should all want more openness and transparency, but maintaining confidentiality in a federal grant submission is also important. The only way around that is let DOE select the site, and then have all the openness and transparency that the public demands in order to have an informed opinion.

    If consent-based siting is truly the best way to go, then it needs to actually work somewhere, and that will take engagement by both proponents and opponents. But don’t be surprised when siting by fiat occurs because consent could never be won.

  50. Robert McTaggart

    Hi Leo,

    Nuclear energy is not the problem. It produces less waste and has a smaller footprint than renewables do. But it has indeed been difficult from a societal perspective to deal with the wastes. We don’t appear to want to isolate the wastes from a once-through cycle, but neither do we want to change the fuel cycle to reduce the volume and radioactivity of our wastes either.

    Renewables are not the problem either. But we are not willing to change the way we use energy to align with when renewables make energy. Nor are we willing to live with how much they can actually deliver. So those are societal issues.

    To deliver energy without carbon and without nuclear we would need to solve energy storage and carbon capture, or capture solar energy from space. Those do not appear to be on the horizon any time soon (much like fusion power).

    Until then, providing the energy that we want while generating no carbon can only be done with nuclear and other renewables (wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal, solar).

  51. Greetings Leo, love your country man and the way you treat your people. Here is something. The Nuclear Bomb is not the problem, it is the sudden detonation of the bomb that causes issues.

    Here in South Dakota, we have had open mines for uranium and they have caused cancer. Real simple. So it was not the mining that caused the problem, it was the uranium.

    In Philip, it will not be the nuke deposit that caused the problem, it will be the leakage that causes the problems. In Philip and Haakon County as a whole, they can simply see now we take care of issues like nuke problems in the state. Here are some,

    Yes Leo, we here in South Dakota are kind of tired of the abuse that doc so cheerfully declares there is nothing to worry about. Just a test. After the movement, then we cover up the hole and act satisfied. When a cat does that, there is still the stink though.

  52. Robert McTaggart


    Coal-burning is a great way of distributing low levels of uranium throughout the biosphere. And we (like Germany) will end up burning more fossil fuels (including coal) to make up the difference when renewables are not working if we avoid nuclear.

    Nuclear energy consumes uranium….it gets rid of it! Before you have uranium, and then afterwards you don’t! More than 90% of the energy in the original fuel still remains in spent nuclear fuel. But to get rid of most of it we need to convert U-238 to Pu-239, and then use that in a power plant.

    With regard to mining, the methodology does matter because that affects how uranium is released to the environment and how workers are exposed. Uranium dust as well as elevated Radon exposure to underground miners (particularly to those who smoked) are issues with old-fashioned uranium mining practices, which I am not in favor of. The in-situ practices take the people out of the underground or surface uranium mine.

    For some reason you think that a plugged up hole from a non-nuclear drilling test is a good vessel for future nuclear waste disposal. Please explain how that would work.

  53. mike from iowa

    Doc- there should be news trickling out of North Dakota that is not good for DAPL. I expect some korporate heads to go nukular right quick.

  54. Robert McTaggart

    If you want clean air and clean water, and reducing uranium in the environment is important, then why use energy in such a way that requires coal-burning?

    Without nuclear, we will burn more natural gas or coal to make up the difference when the renewables are not available or not enough.

  55. Robert McTaggart

    It looks like the US Army Corps of Engineers is not going to grant them the easement, so they may have to re-route.

  56. Donald Pay

    About the only thing I can agree with Dr. McTaggart on is that coal fly ash and bottom ash often contains high levels of radioactive elements. It depends, of course, on the coal deposit. How much gets distributed through the stacks depends on a lot of factors, but particularly on rules and regulations that require means to eliminate particulates and certain gases prior to it being passed out of the stack. The more pollution control required the less that goes out the stack, but the more than is contained in fly ash. How this ash is handled and disposed has a lot to do with how much radioactivity actually gets distributed in the local area.

    So, when you hear Republicans talking about reducing or eliminating regulations on coal, what will happen is that you will get to breath in more radioactive elements (and mercury, etc.) and have a greater risk of cancer and other respiratory diseases all so that the coal companies can profit off your unfortunate heath issues. Too bad for you.

  57. Robert McTaggart

    All of those naturally-occurring radioactive elements in the coal ashes are a result of the decay of uranium and thorium. But there are non-radioactive heavy metals in there that present a chemical threat (arsenic, cadmium, mercury, etc.) that you do not want in the water. The health effects of uranium I would say are more chemical in nature than radiological, because uranium is a heavy metal.

  58. Mr. Pay, I have my own ideas as well on this coal fly ash business, and have heard much about the machinations of the heinous department of resources and such, for which you must have worked in the past. But we can all agree that while I might be retired, Dr. McTaggart is a scientist and you and I are not. I think we need to give his credence just a couple of standard deviations of more legitimacy than those from you or me. Clearly, and I know this might be at the root of much of your anger, the rest of the world does.

  59. mike from iowa

    Didn’t the dumbass dubya administration change the rules on mercury so kids could enjoy sucking in way more than is actually good for them? Why is it one party in our nation is more concerned with korporate profits and has no concern at all for the health of those precious fetuses they insist be born? OMG did I wander way off topic again?

  60. Dr. McTaggart should run for office! Lands Commissioner, or maybe Utility Czar! He’d be absolutely the best, and be non-partisan, and shut all the whiners up with facts.

  61. Well doc, your the doc, so there really is not much explaining to do as you just Haakonsplained it very well. Once the hole is in place, you and yours will fill that baby up with nuke waste. The Philiponians will just have to get used to the glow that they voted in or they can tell the nukes they are not interested. There is no test hole, this is the real deal that will be filled to the max and when that one is filled to the max, what the hell, bore another and other to fill them all. At least you are being honest.

  62. Robert McTaggart

    Jerry, how can you fill up a hole with nuclear material that has already been filled up according to DENR guidelines with non-nuclear material?

    How can you bring in nuclear material without being detected by several entities (DOE, DENR, etc.)?

    The whole purpose of the proposed method is to isolate wastes far away from everyone else. So why fill it up all the way to the surface with nuclear waste so that it was closer to people?

  63. Mr. jerry, you misunderstand The Borehole. The Borehole will be to learn about things and it will not be filled with anything except quiet mud. If you don’t like science being done in your back yard then you need to not complain about science any more.

  64. Robert McTaggart

    Waste in an actual disposal site would be 2-3 miles away from the surface, and on top of them there would be several engineered barriers (different materials, different layers) between the wastes and the surface…that is called defense-in-depth. There has never been any plan to fill up the entire hole with nuclear wastes.

  65. Porter Lansing

    Dig the hole and pray hard to Heaven that it fits the requirements. SoDak has no minerals, which has held the economy down, forever. You’ve got a precious opportunity here to become the spent mineral depository of the USA. Maybe, all of North America. This is big big money, folks. Tens of thousands of new residents with higher ed training. There are no opportunities without risk. And SoDak’s risk is low compared to the rewards.

  66. And to be clear, The Borehole, the one which will be dug in South Dakota, is not to bury wastes neck deep at all, it is just to understand what the rocks are like. The burying of wastes will occur, with materials in layers and protecting people more than they are protected today, somewhere else where The Borehole’s children are dug. Probably in Nevada or Utah.

  67. Robert McTaggart

    That is correct grudznick. To have an actual waste repository would require a more extended set of reviews and approvals.

    If another site in SD would pass the higher level of scrutiny to store actual wastes, which includes completion of all of the preliminary borehole studies….then it will be safe to consider. But that will also mean other sites will have an easier time competing to host such a facility, and it would likely still need to be approved by the public.

  68. Douglas Wiken

    Whatever, tax the daylights out of these boreholes. If they cost millions to dig, put that value on them for property tax.

  69. Robert McTaggart

    There will be sales taxes for sure. Faculty, staff, and employees need to stay somewhere, eat, shop, buy local materials and supplies, etc.

  70. mike from iowa

    Doc- Soviets discovered a trillion bucks worth of precious and rare earth metals before being dislodged from Afghanistan. US confirmed the findings. China has a thirty year lease on a copper mine near Kabul but can’t dig and build roads because it is too dangerous (violence). Afghanistan was to get hundreds of billions in royalties and are getting just over a million now. Best laid plans….

  71. Robert McTaggart

    Doesn’t sound like they are interested in making money or developing an educated workforce. The latter would mean they would have to educate women to get the job done.

    The number sounds similar to a link from jerry regarding energy resources on Indian lands that are not being developed. This one isn’t the same, but at least is similar.

  72. Robert McTaggart

    A new facility to temporarily cool Naval nuclear wastes prior to dry cask storage will be built. The plan is for these to cool for 6 years and then move elsewhere, starting in 2024 and then ending around 2060. Not a permanent facility.

    Good news for Jerry…the Navy will use trains to transport these wastes to Idaho.

  73. mike from iowa

    Prolly a good thing Indians won’t be expecting any more trouble from pesky whites, huh? Wonder if some wasicu has a list of everything Indians lay claim to by treaty rights and see if anything of value has been overlooked. Any oversights can be quickly legalized by a wingnut gubmint and scotus.

  74. mike from iowa

    Will the dry casks come from Jack Daniels?

  75. Robert McTaggart

    Sorry to disappoint you, but no.

    From the NRC web site: “The casks are typically steel cylinders that are either welded or bolted closed. The steel cylinder provides a leak-tight confinement of the spent fuel. Each cylinder is surrounded by additional steel, concrete, or other material to provide radiation shielding to workers and members of the public. Some of the cask designs can be used for both storage and transportation.”

  76. mike from iowa

    Bummer, Doc.

  77. Robert McTaggart

    I’m not sure it would taste the same if you tried to age the JD in the steel containers for a couple of years….

  78. Once again I agree with Dr. McT, I think his knowledge and tastes are similar to mine and superior to many others.

  79. Robert McTaggart

    These are the skills that any Land Commissioner needs to be successful….

  80. mike from iowa

    I must confess I have never tasted aged, young, elderly, diluted or Jack Daniels at any age. Are any of their barrels in Cooperstown? You are a funny and fun guy, Doc. Now drown Grudz.

  81. Robert McTaggart

    In theory there was an informational meeting in Philip about the borehole this afternoon…haven’t seen anything about it yet.

  82. Doc- we are concerned because state lack of regulation has given us our own acid lakes.

    If DOE, SDSM&T, DENR and Daugaard deceive about this early stage of borehole machinations, where will it end? Drive around Deadwood, Galena ect. in the hills.