City of Philip “Strongly Supports” Borehole Test in Haakon County

On Tuesday I posted state geologist Derric Iles’s letter of support for the Deep Borehole Field Test. Today I received Philip Mayor Michael Vetter’s declaration that, yes, you bet, Philip would love to see RESPEC, Battelle, and the Department of Energy drill three miles down into Haakon County bedrock to determine whether we can dispose of existing nuclear waste in really deep holes.

Philip Mayor Michael Vetter, letter to RESPEC CEO Todd Kenner, 2016.11.07.
Philip Mayor Michael Vetter, letter to RESPEC CEO Todd Kenner, 2016.11.07.

Mayor Vetter focuses on the angles of “national interest” and “learning experience” for local youth. He remarkably omits mention of the million dollars in economic activity the Borehole is supposed to generate for its host community.

137 Responses to City of Philip “Strongly Supports” Borehole Test in Haakon County

  1. Philip is one of the more progressive communities we have in the West River. When they dig The Borehole, Philip will prosper even more. The campgrounds in Philip have grown over the years and the businesses too. I expect the birth of The Borehole to really kick this economic development into a whole new level indeed. Eventually we will need to make highway 73 a four-lane, using some of that fancy wheel tax money that Haakon has. And the spoils of the economic riches that will pour in, because of The Borehole. And the tourism taxes that will be enacted to get some money from the pockets of the lookie-loos that will come to Philip.


  2. Robert McTaggart

    I think in these kind of letters you want to keep it at one page…so you try to hit a couple of key points. Sounds like developing STEM opportunities for its young citizens is important in Philip.

  3. Yeah, it’s like how tax cuts increase tax revenues.

    We should probably leave likely nuclear waste storage in South Dakota up to the Mayor of Philip. Surely, he has sufficiently looked into it.

  4. Nick Nemec

    How much education of young citizens will an industrial boring (well drilling) operation be doing?

  5. Robert, I agree that keeping these letters under one page is probably standard practice. But I was able to tick off all three benefits in one paragraph. Heck, I can do it in one sentence: “We’ll advance the national interest, teach our kids, and make some money. Yee-haw!”

    Nick, I do question the K-12 educational value of the Borehole project. There is no doubt it’s neat science and engineering—I found my talk with Dr. Stetler from Mines fascinating, and I keep writing about it—but just how well will this project integrate into the Philip School District curriculum? The kids will get one field trip out of the deal, then all head back to prep for their Common Core tests. We could have made the same argument for building the Dakota Access pipeline. Kids can learn stuff watching any construction site and talking to engineers… but that’s not why we do projects.

  6. Donald Pay

    That letter, of course, is right out of the DOE playbook. When you don’t really do basic due diligence, you come up with one-page letters with patently false claims on which to base your support. This is exactly how the DOE has said they should approach local governments: refuse to provide the real proposal, tell them whatever they want to hear, and sell it based on what they think you want to hear.

    There will be no educational benefit to this project to the K-12 students. It will be about as educational as the failed Wasta borehole.

    Anybody ever visited a drill site? Uh, not very much to see, and I suspect it’s really too dangerous to get too close unless you know what you are doing. Now, they maybe taking cores, if DOE relents and agrees to what the real scientists want, but that would be too expensive according to their testimony before the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. They will be sticking equipment down the hole, to do experiments and get data, but all that data is going to be fed to remote sites. It’s not likely that the real science will be done on-site. It will just be a few folks drop equipment down the hole, not teams of scientists camped out on site. They can feed that data to every class in the nation if they want, but, likely, it is going to be classified as not suitable for us peons.

    At best you will get some flak to visit a classroom or two, and maybe a field trip to Rapid City. Whoopty-fricken-Do.

  7. Darin Larson

    The “what ifs” of the entire borehole idea seem to make this project doomed from the start. What if ground water intrudes on the hole and it fills up or allows the contamination of ground water? What if a canister gets stuck part way down? What if underground fissures allow the leaking nuclear material to leave the borehole? What will be the effect of seismic activity?

    How do you clean up a nuclear spill 3 miles below the surface or one mile below the surface if a canister gets stuck and breaks open? If you contaminate an aquifer with radioactive material, how do you clean it up? Answer: You don’t.

  8. Darin Larson

    Yucca Mountain still seems like a more sensible nuclear waste repository to me.

  9. Liberty Dick

    Here is a thought. How about states that use nuclear energy dispose of the waste themselves in their own backyard.

  10. Robert McTaggart

    Liberty, They already are disposing of their waste in their own backyard. Even at the nuclear plants that are shut down, they store the nuclear waste at the same location.

    In essence, those shutdown sites have become temporary storage sites without any consent-based process occurring. Does their consent matter at all? If it does, and we want to store the waste somewhere else, shouldn’t the requisite research be performed?

    But let’s be clear…commercial waste is not being considered with the deep borehole disposal method. I would rather we reprocess those commercial wastes in some fashion to get rid of plutonium and uranium prior to any storage attempt. Ultimately it is the isolation of those two elements from the biosphere and from potential proliferation that is at the root of nuclear waste management today.

    I agree with Darin that one result of the deep borehole testing is that the Yucca Mountain style of storage will be pursued instead.

    Maybe someone should hire Cory as a contractor to write these one-page letters :^).

  11. Robert McTaggart

    Darin, wouldn’t oil and gas drilling need to deal with groundwater intrusion if that is the case as well? That doesn’t seem to stop those kinds of drilling operations from occurring, and they are not drilling as deep as the borehole.

  12. Robert McTaggart


    Does there need to be more K-12 education regarding nuclear science and the effects on the environment of our energy use? Apparently so, because we keep choosing to use energy without dealing with the entire fuel cycle like nuclear must do.

    K-12 education in science is important to building an educated public that will have to deal with ever more entangled energy-environment issues in the future.

  13. Robert McTaggart

    Cory and Donald, it is in the group’s interests and DOE’s interests to have a very strong public education and outreach component. Particularly because federal dollars are funding these efforts.

    So yeah, they will have staff and professors visit classrooms, but they need to do some other creative things as well.

  14. Good news from Philip! They will now have the complete archives of Chernobyl at their fingertips. Yes, in a dozen years, the area will be so contaminated that the only guys in town will be the bankers and the mayor. These will be hard to distinguish with their hazmat suits on. Let the profits roll though!

  15. Robert McTaggart

    No Chernobyl is possible with an operational borehole disposal facility. The waste forms under study are not fissile, so the military wastes are not capable of producing neutrons to sustain a fission reaction like a reactor could.

    You could store them down a borehole, and even if there were no shielding at all (which there would be), the radiological effects would be zero at the surface just due to the distances involved and the geometry of the borehole.

    The study is necessary to determine whether the geology, hydrology and the engineering of other barriers would inhibit the transfer of the Cesium or Strontium isotopes into a water source if they escaped the primary container underground.

  16. Yeah, not only is it possible, it will happen. You just have to ask these future glow worms if they trust the government to keep its word. While that question is asked, maybe have a group of Indians standing in the background on how that whole deal works.

  17. Robert McTaggart

    Frankly in 12 years they may be completely done and never come back. Philip would have a collection of boreholes that have been plugged up.

    What would continue after that is the expertise built from the drilling that RESPEC would have in regard to borehole disposal opportunities (or carbon capture or geothermal, etc.) around the globe.

  18. Robert McTaggart

    But let’s say your worst fears actually do happen and there is a deep borehole disposal facility built in South Dakota. That doesn’t happen unless they can show that the process is safe, which means testing in places like Philip and in progressively more complicated geologies have occurred.

    Oh no…nuclear waste would be safely kept away from the biosphere. Just a terrible outcome indeed….If they actually isolate the nuclear waste, you may not be able to complain about nuclear waste any more.

  19. Right, Trust us, of course this is the same bunch who declares that we have nothing to worry about with anything. Who is complaining about nuke waste? It should not be added to and what is existing, let it be. Why not let our new administrators in Russia put that bad boy there? They could use the rubles and we could save ourselves the rubble areas. A win win for all.

  20. Donald Pay

    Dr. McT

    Gnirk at RESPEC (not sure if he is still there) started his career doing borehole disposal tests in Sweden, I believe, so they’ve had this expertise since the 1970s. They don’t need this to learn very much as far as the science goes. The Russians have done a number of deep holes as well, so the science isn’t the big thing here. It’s all about burying waste, and to do that they have to drill super large diameter boreholes that don’t collapse, so this “test” is all about burying waste, not science.

    This ain’t some new idea. It’s always been a dream of some folks to drop all this stuff down a hole and forget about it. The Ford and Carter Administrations even contemplated making South Dakota a sacrifice area for these kinds of projects. The problem is the boreholes they can drill aren’t big enough, so they want to find out if they can drill bigger holes. Great science? Hardly. If this was a science project, DOE would have followed the recommendations of the scientists on the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. It didn’t. This is about burying radioactive waste.

  21. Roger Elgersma

    Same town where the bartender was from who threw beer on Native kids in Rapid.

  22. Exactly Mr. Pay, doc knows this as well. They could care where the thing is dug, as long as rail is close by. That is the kicker, no rail no dump. Philip did not get chosen because of its unique underground soil layers, it got chosen because the bankers there are greedy. Nothing gets done in Philip without the blessings of the bankers, simple as that.

  23. Robert McTaggart

    I thought you liked trains, Jerry?

    I agree that this isn’t the first hole that has been dug in history, but (a.) they need to drill it deeper than most, and (b.) how the nuclear waste interacts with the engineered barriers and the rock itself must be WELL understood in order to dispose of actual nuclear waste.

    At the other boreholes, they are not burying something that generates its own heat over time. They are also not burying Cesium and Strontium isotopes either, which have its own chemistries.

    But if I take what Donald says at face value, and that is not a big deal, then why not go directly to the burial phase without understanding how to drill that far or testing all of those interactions underground?

  24. Robert makes a fair point that the educational outreach can be much more than just field trips to look at the drill site. The borehole project brings a variety of experts to the area; the contractors can make time for those experts to visit local schools and present a variety of lessons, perhaps beyond the specific science and engineering of the borehole. They can talk about geology, groundwater, engineering, nuclear waste, nuclear power….

  25. And thank you, Robert, for reminding LibD that this project has nothing to do with commercial, power-generating nuclear reactors. We’re talking about disposing of military waste from the Cold War, generated in service of every American, including South Dakotans.

    Digging the hole does not create another Chernobyl. A hole with nuclear waste is very different from a poorly run Soviet nuclear reactor.

  26. Darin Larson

    Robert, I have actually wondered about how oil and gas drilling operations keep from contaminating aquifers and groundwater. It seems that fracking may be a problem.

    Here is the EPA study:

    Also, as everyone knows, the solution to pollution is dilution, but how much dilution does it take to make ingesting radioactive isotopes in water ok? Water treatment plants may not do a very good job taking fracking chemicals out of the water, but I’m guessing that removing radioactive isotopes out of contaminated water is not an easy or cheap process?

    I’m also aware that storing nuclear waste in thousands of different places where they were produced in power plants or where weapons were decommissioned is not a very good long term plan. These sites are security nightmares along with ticking time bombs for contamination.

  27. Robert McTaggart


    Those who charge you for your water bill usually generate a report on various items in your water. One of those items is radioactivity. There is always going to be a natural level of radioactivity because uranium, thorium, and the isotopes they decay into are present at trace amounts in everything.

    “EPA also issued a standard for uranium, as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Amendments of 1986. The current standards are:

    Combined radium 226/228 of 5 pCi/L;
    A gross alpha standard for all alphas of 15 pCi/L (not including radon and uranium);
    A combined standard of 4 mrem/year for beta emitters.

    The new MCL for uranium is 30 µg/L.”

    By comparison, the threshold for treating Radon in your home is roughly 4 pCi/L (picoCuries per Liter). One picoCurie is 2.2 disintegrations per minute….not that much at all. So essentially a pCi/L tells you the rate at which radioactivity occurs.

  28. Robert McTaggart

    The radioactive progeny produced by the decay of thorium or uranium also have a chemistry. So yes it is possible to try and extract those…but it is expensive to do. Dilution may be easier.

    For a while North Dakota was having a problem with filter socks from oil/gas discovery being disposed of improperly.

    In essence the naturally occurring radioisotopes (NORMs) like Radium are preferentially collected by the oil/gas activity in the filter socks and other materials, so they get renamed as TENORMs. Your city or county dump has restrictions on the radioactivity that can be brought in, and instead of following those rules these socks were getting dumped illegally.

    Proper disposal of these TENORM-enriched filter socks is an expense for the oil/gas industry, so I think they ended up changing some of the rules.

  29. What would Rush Limbaugh say about this borehole? – “It’ll compete with Sanford Underground Lab with all the jobs and science that it will produce. The children of Philip will have a world class education program overnight. Oooo, and the best part, this borehole concept really sticks it to those Liberals.”

    That’s what the big pig man would say.

  30. I love trains. I also note that the trains that will carry nuke waste to Philip will go through Pierre. Daugaard will have said adios to that place so he can laugh his arse off.

    Regarding Chernobyl and not being the same. How do we know how nuke waste will react to underground pressure in the even to a seismic shift? We will never even know what they bury there. I sure do not know, but I did get a fortune cookie that said I was wise.

  31. mike from iowa

    Former Transylvania sinator Li’l Ricky Sanitorium thinks Rex Tillerson is too environmentally friendly.

  32. mike from iowa

    More educational opportunities for city kids- when razor wire is slanted out away from facility it is there to keep people out. If it is slanted towards the facility it is to keep the inmates inside.

  33. Robert McTaggart

    Jerry, that is a good point. The location of a nuclear waste repository needs to have a low probability of seismic activity. So they will not just put it anywhere.

  34. Actually, Adam, I might speculate that right now, Rush Limbaugh would say the Borehole is another example of the Obama Administration trying to screw rural folks. He won’t take the line you’re talking about until after noon on January 20.

  35. low probability and impossible probability are two different things. Murphy’s Law always rules.

    Murphy’s law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

    Favorite tee vee program for Philip will be the Simpsons episodes featuring Homer at work. Homer rules baby.
    New favorite song in Philip will be

  36. Robert McTaggart

    Yes, but a low probability doesn’t mean you don’t provide engineering to take that into account.

  37. If the people who are against The Borehole, which is not for burying nuclear waste but to advance science and learning and understanding, would raise enough money to shoot the wastes of which they are so afraid into space, perhaps at the moon, we could all rest much easier and get on with learning things.

  38. Robert McTaggart

    And if you want impossible probabilities…then good luck driving in a car or flying on a plane…or dare I say it Jerry…riding a train…with absolutely no risk.

    This is why you need a diverse workforce for nuclear. Different people with different backgrounds will look at the same problem differently…and head off potential issues before they occur.

  39. Grudz, I like the idea of sending the waste into the gas giant that is Jupiter – really seems like a winner.

    Cory, yeah, you’re right. Rush would work the topic just exactly like that. Oddly enough, that’s proven to be Trump’s style too.

  40. I would add that I have read there is no seismic activity on the moon. Plus no air or water for people to ingest the radioactiveness.

  41. I am sure that educators will be flocking to Philip to teach the young’uns about isotopes and other opes that they will show on field trips. Especially on warm winter days like this one, 25 below.

  42. Robert McTaggart

    I agree that space is big, but the expenses of launching heavy payloads into space and reducing the frequency of launch accidents as much as possible are also big.

  43. Jupiter the planet would be fine too. It is bigger and probably easier to hit, except it is farther away and would probably need to have nuclear powered rockets to get to, which would be no problem then.

  44. Robert McTaggart

    If there is a hot beef sandwich there…they will show up.

  45. The Challenger was a real challenge as well. Stuff happens and people die. The reactor at 3 mile was supposed to shut down. Stuff happens and people die. Chernobyl..on and on. We are missing an active hydrogen bomb in South Carolina. Government purchased the land they think? it may have fallen on and put a fence around it. Problem solved, we should do the same with what we now have.

  46. Robert McTaggart

    Grudznick brings up an interesting point…getting there as quickly as possible will help reduce radiation doses from space radiation. Nuclear methods of propulsion start to make sense in that regard, particularly for the outer planets and beyond.

    Nuclear propulsion makes sense for the inner planets if you re-use the spacecraft over and over again.

  47. mike from iowa

    Why not send nukular waste to the sun? Itis only a hop, skip and a jump from earth and is a reactor of its own.

  48. Robert McTaggart

    “The Challenger was a real challenge as well. Stuff happens and people die. ”

    And yet we continue to go into space. We also continue to use all forms of energy and many kinds of technology even though all of them have an environmental impact.

    That shouldn’t stop us from trying to reduce or eliminate those impacts. Test boreholes would assess the impacts that come from the drilling and their potential consequences for nuclear waste disposal.

  49. Robert McTaggart

    Mike, I talked about why the sun would be a bad idea on another thread, but I will summarize here.

    Essentially, the waste is orbiting around the sun with the earth when it is launched. Instead of going directly into the sun, you would put it into orbit around the sun…and then it comes back.

    You would have to send it out past Jupiter where its momentum along the orbital path would be reduced, and then let it fall into the sun. Getting the waste off the ground and then cancelling its orbital momentum is difficult to do even for NASA for a simple satellite.

  50. Mike, of course we all know you are from Iowa, and Dr. McTaggart’s math and concepts might be a tough nut to wrap your maw around. I also think that if we shot the waste out past Jupiter so it could slow it’s orbiting down and then have it fall back toward the sun it just might fall back onto us again. Space is big but even if you go stand your your Iowa yard and throw rocks straight up into the sky eventually one will come down and hit you in the noggin.

  51. On Russian space stuff, yes. We should send this to our brothers in Russia. They got the leader they wanted so now we should be getting some returns on their investment.

  52. Donald Pay

    I think the relevant disasters we need to consider here is the Kystym explosion of defense radioactive waste, and the recent WIPP explosion which close the DOE’s only radioactive waste dump site for defense wastes.

    I attended a talk in the mid-1970s by Zhores Medvedev, a Soviet dissident who had escaped in the 1970s. He was being attacked by nuclear scientists in both the US and the former USSR for his writings about a secret nuclear disaster that happened in the 1950s. It later turned out that Medvedev was proved correct, and, indeed, that the US knew all about it but was keeping it secret to assure US citizens didn’t turn against the nuclear-industrial complex. That’s the mentality we are dealing with in amongst “nuclear scientists.” Secrecy and subterfuge wins out every time over science and honest government.

    What we are teaching our children when we accept shoddy, secretive non-science, like this borehole disposal test, is NOT science. It is that government gets to lie to its citizens, put out b.s. rather than the actual proposal, gets to claim “science” when it is “disposal” that is the end-game, while bribing parents to look past the lying and the eventual danger they are putting childrens’ futures in. I don’t think we need to encourage those kinds of lessons. Those are the kind of lessons I would hope we could all dump in the shallowest borehole we can drill.

    The Kystym incident involved radioactive wastes from the Soviet nuclear defense effort. The WIPP explosion in 2014 involved wastes from the US nuclear defense effort. The causes of these two explosions involve an almost religious belief in secretive “non-science.” We shouldn’t allow any children to be corrupted by this kind of non-science. It leads to disaster.

  53. Of course Mr. Pay, doc will just poo poo them away as though they are non existent. That was the old days and here we are now with more sophisticated operations to keep track of stuff. In fact we are so good at the computer science that we just had democracy hacked by a Russia.

    In South Dakota, just be thankful you may live south of the interstate as there are no railroads until you get to Rapid City south. Philip should demand a cancer center be built there for studies of the mass amounts of radiation that will be prevalent with boondoggle.

  54. Once we get the nuclear waste up into space, we won’t need to send it to Jupiter at 100,000mph (expensive); we could just slow cheap boat the stuff to Jupiter. Just getting that ball rolling a little and weightlessness nearly takes care of the rest. Once we direct it into Jupiters gravitational pull, that gas giant will suck it right into its center and finally dispose of our problem once and for all.

    Getting it to space with 100% reliability is the challenge – but one day maybe we’ll create a 99.9% chance of doing it safely – LOL. If we can, we’ll just need to be able to navigate the vessel a little bit to avoid astroids or other hazards on the way, but gosh, our nuclear waste problems would certainly go far far away – forever.

  55. Say no in Philip – and hold out for Jupiter!

  56. Mr. jerry, you do need to remember who are the scientists here. And a gun barrel straight hole dug into the bowels of the earth, or at least scratching the endodermis, won’t hurt a soul except any microbes crushed in the process.

  57. Darin Larson

    The new SD ad campaign: You can die on Mars or live with nuclear waste in South Dakota.

  58. Dump for Trump, Welcome to South Dakota. Don’t worry about tossing your trash out the window, it is all good here. Economic Development is glowing here. The reason they call it Bad River is because we are fixin to fill it with some bad stuff.

  59. Douglas Wiken

    When this nuclear waste was sitting in nature, it was dispersed at lots of locations including several in SD. This may be crazy, but diluting this waste with sand or similar and spreading it out in deserts might be cheaper and safer than sending it directly into our aquifers or to Mars via explodable space ships.

    “Yes, but a low probability doesn’t mean you don’t provide engineering to take that into account.” The oil pipeline industry is such a good example of this.

  60. Mr. Wiken, that is interesting to think about. I am not sure if there is more radiation from the wastes than was originally buried in the cave hills in Harding county and dirt piles in Fall River county. I wonder if one the ore is processed there is more radiation and spreading that with sand and then raking it out over the badlands would be a far, far worse thing than burying it deep at the bottom of a cousin of The Borehole, dug in Pennsylvania. Did you know that there was a borehole in Pennsylvania where microbes and algae actually did crawl out of the hole and nearly attack people?

  61. With oil contamination, there are processes to deal with that, here is one

  62. I think that by simply leaving it in place Mr. Wiken, as it is right now, is probably the best. The planned storage in Philip is a fools errand that will leak into the systems of both water and air. Only time seems to quell the danger. We need to stop the madness and move away from this to safer forms of energy like solar and wind. Put those in Philip, have classes on how renewable energy will benefit the area and the planet. Education through action.

  63. Robert McTaggart

    Donald, at WIPP a drum burst because they used the wrong kind of kitty litter….which was a result of a typo. Which means it wasn’t a nuclear technology problem…it was a people problem. But it will probably cost taxpayers in the end.

  64. No matter what, there are always consequences when you deal with poison. The good folks in Hakkon County just do not know the full extent of when it happens, but happen it will. Whoever the leader of the state is at that time will then have to go and tell those people they got lied to and it was always gonna be a dump and that now, there are no resources to clean it up.

  65. Robert McTaggart


    I am still waiting for the protestors/protectors to travel to their protests with vehicles powered by the wind or the sun (or even nuclear!). Has not happened yet. Stopping oil production and distribution does not mean that one has replaced the energy necessary for transportation.

    Long-term the best way to get us off of oil is to provide a better choice. Charging up batteries would be a better use of solar and wind in my opinion, because you could do that whenever they are available (less carbon from natural gas).

    But instead we get “Please, someone shut down this terrible pipeline before I am forced to put the gasoline derived from it into my gas tank.”

  66. Yeah, while we wait on that, lets just send the trash to Japan. They dump theirs in the Pacific so why not just add a little more. The good news is that Japan has a relationship with American nukes, so we got that going for us.

    Or we could just say no. No more nukes, no more. Shut those plants down in 2 years with the Trump infrastructure plan.

  67. Robert McTaggart

    Jerry, what about the poisons generated by wind and solar power? The “fuel” is 100% clean for both, but what is necessary to collect and convert solar and wind energy into electricity is not.

  68. No comparisons. That is like comparing the Empire State Building (nukes) with a cute little Koala Bear (wind and solar). See, the Empire State Building is a big ol building in New York City, while the Koala Bear is very small. Not only is the end product great energy, the workforce that will keep it up and running is just what a green economy depends on. Eliminate nukes, there, problem solved.

  69. Now the wind is so much more efficient than it was not so long ago. The paint for the blades is made so it glides the wind with less energy than in the past. Inspection and repair are now done with drones. Nukes are like old slippers, they were once comfortable, but now, just rot and stink.

  70. mike from iowa

    You have to hand it to people who have the principles and convictions to protest in this kind of weather. It was minus 23 degrees in Obrien Co iowa this morning. Coyotes were actually pushing jackrabbits to get them jumpstarted so they could be chased.

  71. Robert McTaggart

    Shut down nukes, get ready for more coal and more natural gas to make up the difference when renewables do not meet the demand.

    We have not been able to build large-scale solar and wind without building a lot of natural gas. The requisite transmission infrastructure is not there, and neither is the energy storage.

    Yeah, no environmental footprint and no poisons with batteries at all….

  72. Cold all over mfi, but the sun is shinning and the wind is blowing to generate power

  73. Robert McTaggart

    Present nuke plants work 24/7/365 delivering clean electricity. Who doesn’t need a good pair of slippers?

    Nuclear keeps on going in cold weather, when the wind is too much or too little for the turbines, or when the sun isn’t shining. And the waste is tiny compared to solar and wind, as is the land use per kilowatt-hour. Heck, you may even need nuclear to process wastes from renewables….that may be quite energy intensive.

    Wind energy will not be as efficient if the supply of rare earth metals is cut off from China. And if the wind is doesn’t blow hard enough, or is blowing too hard, the turbines do not produce energy. It doesn’t matter then how efficient the turbines are if the capacity is only 20-30%.

  74. Robert McTaggart

    “Cold all over mfi, but the sun is shinning and the wind is blowing to generate power”

    Just because they happen to produce some power, doesn’t mean that is enough for what you want to do. That morning December sun is not going to help you out much.

    The big irony of wind power is that if it is too windy, they must shut down the turbines for safety.

  75. Doc, Federal rules require nuclear plants to be shut down at least one hour before hurricane winds hit the site. So, wind turbines shutting down during extreme conditions is no different than nuclear.

    About 40 percent of the nation’s fresh water use goes toward energy generation, with nuclear energy considered a very water-intensive energy source. A researcher at the University of Washington found that nuclear and other power plants will see a drop in production due to climate change-induced drought and heat.

    Extreme Heat, Drought Show Vulnerability of Nuclear Power Plants

  76. It helps out plenty if there are enough panels. Then utilize storage for when you slippers get thin
    Forgot to mention, no need to dig a trash hole for the sunlight either. No need for a trash dump for the excess wind either.

  77. mike from iowa

    The big irony of wind power is that if it is too windy, they must shut down the turbines for safety.

    Same could be said for wingnutpols, except they need to be shut down for our sanity.

  78. Robert McTaggart

    Adam, Even NASA has difficulty getting items in some kind of stable orbit around Jupiter instead of doing a fly-by through the system, let alone sending something into the Jovian atmosphere.

    Jerry, I understand that you would like more solar and wind as a matter of principle. However, generating the amount of power when people want it, while reducing carbon, while keeping it affordable, while reducing the environmental footprint of said energy production, while satisfying local politics regarding energy infrastructure, will not be possible with a 100% all solar and all wind energy mix.

  79. Correct Adam, until they go by the wayside, nukes could import water from Flint or Corpus Christi because it is too dangerous to drink in either place.

  80. Rooftop solar and wind. Energy efficient window panes that are actually collectors. Use of indoor dryers instead of that blowtorch you toss your undies into. Me, I like those very much. In the winter they are useful wherever you put them to dry your clothes. In the warmer days, put them outside and let BOB (Bright Orange Ball) dry them. There is no lint to toss either, saves your clothes and saves you money. No nukes to poison anything with that drying process either.

  81. Mandate that all government buildings, city, state, county and federal, use their flat roofs for solar collectors. Easy beans when you think of it. Rounds took 24 million from the federal government and then used it for beer and hot dogs for his crew instead of putting into energy programs like he promised to do.

  82. Robert McTaggart

    Jerry, the sunlight and the wind are not automatically converted into electricity. All the panels use chemical processing, and turbines need to be manufactured. That’s where the waste is generated. Without recycling those go to the dump.

    Also, if you need to charge up your car with solar over the winter, you will need a lot more solar panels than you do over the summer. So you either need to pull more energy from the grid over the winter, or overbuild the number of your solar panels (good-bye greenspace). Then what do you do with all of that extra energy if the utility will not take it?

    Adam, yes, they can shut down nuclear plants in extreme weather events and start them up again. Today nuclear plants run at more than 90% capacity, which takes into account severe weather, planned maintenance, and shutdowns for fuel exchanges. Wind and solar are still at 20-30% capacity.

    You do bring up an excellent point about water use (which coal and natural gas plants must face as well). Some of the new nuclear power plant designs will be air-cooled or gas-cooled instead. Then they will not be subject to the effects of drought. Those can be sited away from earthquake and flooding zones more easily. These are the ones you want in a distributed grid model.

    Some new designs will be better suited for load-following. Today’s nuclear plants simply were not designed with that in mind, but it is possible to operate them in this fashion. European reactors do this more, but I think they still lose money. Gas plants are better at load-following…the nuclear plants just lose less money than if they didn’t do it at all.

  83. Robert McTaggart


    I will agree with you that we are not maximizing the available space that is available to us on public buildings or on top of industrial locations (even Wal-Mart) regarding solar. Greenspace shouldn’t be considered until that occurs, but buildings may have issues with placing extra electrical wiring and extra weight on top of them.

    Without energy storage we need to find uses for solar when it is available. Secondary heating or cooling, or performing industrial tasks asynchronously make sense.

  84. Donald Pay

    Dr. McT,

    Yes, exactly, my point. A multi-billion dollar WIPP closure was due to a mix up of kitty litter!!!! That ought to tell you something right there about how balanced on a knife edge these sorts of nuclear technologies are. They are inherently catastrophic and dangerous. You wouldn’t need the kitty litter if you weren’t transporting this stuff off site. The best solution for right now is to do as little as possible with it that involves any human error or any geological problems, such as the cave-ins at WIPP.

    Human error can be looked at from multiple levels. Mixing up kitty litter is level one. Thinking there wouldn’t be human error involved in moving these dangerous wastes and storing them in different environments is a higher level issue. It’s the one engineers dismiss or don’t take as seriously as they should. This stuff is far, far too dangerous to think humans error won’t cause an explosion. Moving it from where it is and concentrating it at a disposal site may be the dumbest idea anyone has come up. with

  85. Just a couple of days ago we see this for storage here in South Dakota, buh bye nukes, hello renewable

  86. Robert McTaggart

    We are not talking about fission occurring because the concentration of plutonium isotopes is too low in these materials (like a mop or dust pan used to clean up a spill). For a fission-based explosion to occur, neutrons from one plutonium atom have to be slowed down and absorbed by another plutonium isotope. Because the density is so low, other things happen to those neutrons before they reach another plutonium atom. No fission.

    What they are really interested in is driving down the probability of inhalation due to an unanticipated release via a drum burst.

    Would a human-related accident related to the disposal of solar panel processing chemicals down the drain be excused…or would they try to find out what happened, initiate changes, and reduce the chances of that happening again? I suspect that you will still want to use more solar regardless and focus on improving things.

  87. Good news doc! Simple stuff to recycle solar panels, who knew?

  88. Robert McTaggart

    They would be doing feasibility studies. Uh-oh…be careful…they will be doing research into energy…can’t have any of that going on! Certainly worth looking at given availability of transmission lines, hydropower, wind/solar.

    Pumped storage has been around for a long time, but you don’t see that in bulk anywhere. If it needs large amounts of land to be flooded, you will end up having biological matter decay, which means methane is released, which means it has a carbon footprint.

    There are other issues which one either addresses or lives with. You lose energy in the process of storing, and lose energy in the process of delivering stored energy. This means overbuilding capacity, which costs money. The speed that it delivers stored energy may not necessarily match the demand in a timely fashion…still means burning natural gas.

  89. The same chemicals used in solar panels are being used for the electronics we hammer away on to make comments on this blog site. These are the same ones that we use each day for other means of electronic uses. Is the silicon based ingredients toxic, of course, but they can be broken down in a short timely manner. Nukes, like not. These bad boys take hundreds of years and even after that, you can still pop corn with it.

    Recycle of wind chargers, why? In the event they fail, which has happened, you simply load it up and take it the scrap dealer right along with your pop cans. You get some walking around money and all is good. You do not need to dig a deep trash hole and dump it into.

  90. It is storage doc, and it is in the light of day. You don’t need a big ol trash hole to dump it into. It is the yin and yang of how things work to make energy while storing it. Problem solved, no nukes. The decay is what fertilizer will become. No more need to jack nitrogen into the ground when you can overlay with decay. Rhymes too. Organic farming could be a very strong industry for the byproduct of river water.

  91. Robert McTaggart

    The page is simple, but the processing required to extract those critical elements is not. How much does it cost? That would seem a critical factor in the continued growth of solar.

    Good news…recycling of nuclear wastes is being done right now…just not in the United States.

  92. Robert McTaggart

    The half-life of Cadmium is….well…infinite. Similar toxic elements in the solar panels or wind turbines do not decay away like radioactive isotopes do. Their chemical effects remain forever.

    They do end up in the dump, and otherwise they are stored on the surface….not deep underground away from the biosphere. Hmmm…any impact on clean water if the back end of the solar panel cycle isn’t taken care of?

  93. Mr. jerry, I do not believe wind turbine blades are made of pop cans or metal. I think they are made from plastic and fiber and string that burns up oil to make and then cannot be recycled.

  94. Doc, that’s ok. It’s just that your consistent claim that, “present nuke plants work 24/7/365 delivering clean electricity” is/was/will always be bunk.

  95. mike from iowa

    Doc- you don’t know everything. I’m surprised. I emailed a brother in NC to tell what he was missing for sub zero weather and he said they were sitting in the shade, it was 75 and he was sweating. It ain’t cold everywhere. :)

  96. Thanks doc for the recycling link, proves that the trash hole in Philip is not necessary.

  97. Windchargers are lasting much longer than before! Who knew that they would improve so much.

  98. Dr. McTaggart points out some people make park benches from old wind turbine blades. But you can’t melt them down with pop cans or cash them in for your Jaycee club project. You can plant them to create a stockade-like fortress to keep out zombies, or invading government jack-booters, if you want to build your fortress down in Custer County with the Mennonites.

  99. Park benches are pretty important Mr. Grudznick. If you can make a park bench from old wind turbine blades then we have accomplished much. This all goes to keep proving that the trash holes being proposed are just a dump. Simple as that. Lone Tree is back with the same old plan we have seen before. Kind of like Freddie, you simply cannot kill it until all the sequels are complete.

  100. Mr. jerry, probably few appreciate park benches more than I.

  101. Alas, the main problem with park benches now is that there are no more squirrels, that is bad. They are moving to Washington to be with the big nut that will rule, if confirmed. A lot of acorns will be left on the ground Mr. Grudznick, that is also bad.

  102. Robert McTaggart


    The point about 24/7/365 is that nuclear plants can operate when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. There are also regulations that nuclear follows to shutdown and inspect the plant for issues. So any shutdown, scheduled for exchange of fuel or not, ends up improving plant performance due to the maintenance, upgrades, and safety inspections.

    To say that the sun and the wind magically are converted into electricity, or that solar and wind do not have recycling issues or maintenance issues, is incorrect.

    Jerry, the borehole testing being proposed is for the military wastes, which cannot be reprocessed like commercial fuel. You could probably find other uses of the material, such as food irradiation, but there are no facilities today that re-purpose military wastes for industrial use…and likely direct burial would be cheaper.

    In general, I am a fan of reprocessing because it reduces the amount we need to mine while also reducing the amount of material that requires isolation, as well as the duration of said isolation from the biosphere.

  103. Porter Lansing

    Dr. McTaggart,
    Can spent military waste be reprocessed into more military armaments? Not that an old enemy from before nonproliferation is again becoming a bad citizen or anything like that. Just wondering if bombs could be made from what’s being called waste.

  104. Robert McTaggart

    The waste itself is not fissile, so it will not help anyone make a nuclear weapon. In fact, Cesium or Strontium will eat neutrons and spit out gamma rays, essentially robbing a nuclear chain reaction of the neutrons it needs to continue (you need uranium or plutonium for more neutrons to be produced than are consumed).

    Nevertheless the waste itself is radioactive. Some method of dispersal of said radioactivity would be the primary use in that case (i.e. a dirty bomb). Keeping this stuff on the surface also makes it vulnerable to dispersal by attack.

    The radioactivity does offer some self-protection….those who try to handle it improperly expose themselves to higher doses of gamma and beta radiation. In essence this is why direct burial of commercial wastes without reprocessing is favored by many anti-nuclear folks. Pure plutonium can be handled with gloves, but plutonium mixed up with everything else is self-protecting.

  105. Porter Lansing

    Thank-you, sir.

  106. Trump’s budget director wants the government to stop funding scientific research. This borehole is dead.

  107. Mr. Adam, that is an acknowledgment that The Borehole is #4Science. The libbies on this blog thing it is about burying waste. That is not science, that is just burying things. They are different.

    I hope Mr. Trump has some good scientists, maybe fellows of Dr. McTaggart and people who listen to his learned thoughts, on his team.

    Eventually, there will be a place for The Borehole. I, for one, hope it is in Haakon County, South Dakota. How sweet it would be for the town of Philip.

  108. Yeah, trust Rick Perry over a Nobel Prize winning nuclear physicist to run the DOE. If it wasn’t so rediculous, it would be a cartoon kind of funny.

    Since Philip voted for Trump, they didn’t actually want that borehole anyways.

  109. Mr. Adam, I respect Dr. McTaggart’s expertise more than most, but I do not know that he has won one of those prizes of which you type. As a nuclear physicist, he is far more expert than all the rest of us, especially if you discount me, on this blog combined. But as much as I respect his knowledge I do not think he is probably on tap to be appointed to Mr. Trump’s cabinet.

    If I am wrong, I will be happy to apologize.

  110. Donald Pay


    We’ve plowed this field before. Yes, DOE does say it is not going to dispose of wastes at the “test site.” Conservatives, generally, are a bit more skeptical about such pronouncements by a government agency.

    Historically, DOE has said a lot of things to a lot of folks that have turned out not to be true. All you have to do is ask the folks in Washington, Idaho and South Carolina how well the DOE has kept their promises regarding the waste stored in those states. It costs these states a lot of money to continually monitor and hound DOE to follow agreements that they made, and then DOE just ups and violates anything they want. It’s rather foolish to think that DOE, the agency Senator Rounds said he wanted to abolish because they are so awful, is going to act any differently toward South Dakota. Wherever, DOE goes, it lies to the people and it lies to the local government. Just do a little research.

    So, yes, this is all about them getting their foot in the door so they can dump radioactive waste. They ain’t going to admit it up front. They want some suckers to crack the door open first.

    Of course they aren’t going to dump the waste there right away. They’ve got to make sure they have paid off some folks with our tax dollars first.

  111. I believe the DOE, Mr. Pay. I do. The government is trying to help us, especially if Mr. Trump is going to name Dr. McTaggart as the head of it. Golly then we have a gravy train to infinite garlic-mashed-potato town!

  112. Robert McTaggart

    “The contract for this project specifically prohibits the storage, disposal or use of nuclear waste at the site of the deep borehole field test; and it further requires that, after the project is completed, the borehole will be permanently sealed and the land restored in accordance with state and local regulations”

    There is your commitment. If South Dakota wins this competition (1 of 4 at the moment), any future consideration of the state as a host for some type of waste repository would have to go through an entirely different process and set of approvals.

    Why is it a surprise Donald that DOE wants to do the research to safely dispose of nuclear waste…and to ultimately find a location to dispose of said waste? Imagine that…scientists and engineers and politicians and the public working together to solve problems. What a wonderful world that could be :^).

  113. Douglas Wiken

    DOE looks to SD because they think we are a bunch of hicks too ignorant and stupid to resist.

  114. Robert McTaggart

    I suppose it has nothing to do with the fact that the geology appears to fit the requirements of the test…nor that SDSMT researchers and RESPEC would be well qualified.

  115. This borehole has been chased out of a number of rural communities. One day, if they can just find an ignorant enough community, DOE could get local approval. Trouble is, on a national level, conservatives want make coal king again and drill baby drill.

    I paid too close of attention during the last Republican control of the Federal government to somehow think, today, that Global Warming will be a priority, or that science will continue to try to teach the legion of religious conservatives who think the Earth is 6,000 years old the real truth of our existence.

    Republicans aren’t about moving society forward, or elevating it. They are about harnessing the dumbassery, and short attention span, of the people in order to gain political ground.

    This borehole, along with many other proposed science projects, will be scraped so that we can afford tax cuts, for our wealthiest, to purchase another Porsche and Rolex as that and war are the only techniques Republicans ever promote to stimulate the economy.

    The absolute only comfort I take in this next administration and congress is that I am really very certain, DOE’s borehole is DOA.

  116. Robert McTaggart

    They are spending lots of money overseeing the waste they have on the surface today. Long term actually solving this problem of nuclear waste will save money. So the research is not DOA, but nobody can say yet whether the methodology will ever be used for storing actual nuclear waste.

    There seems to be a thread of belief that DOE is picking on rural communities. Please note that one of the requirements for underground waste disposal is essentially avoidance of water. Bigger communities with lots of people happen to be located near more water than more arid locations.

    I think there will be more wind, solar, and natural gas regardless of what Trump does. He may help the safe nuclear plants continue to operate longer.

    Coal for steel would benefit from infrastructure upgrades. Coal for electricity needs clean coal or advanced coal power plants to work…at least cut down the carbon by half like natural gas does.

  117. Robert McTaggart,-State-Local-Resources/Resolutions-And-Endorsements/Rick-Perry-Report-to-State-Leaders,-Texas-Commissi

    This report from Rick Perry’s office on nuclear waste in 2014 when he was Governor of Texas will have some relevance since he is being considered to lead DOE. Has some good information.

  118. Donald Pay

    Dr. McT,

    Who are parties to this contract? One would be DOE. They are well known to ignore, void and amend contracts at will. Who is the other party? It is NOT the voters of South Dakota. It is not even the Governor. It is some corporation that stands to make billions of dollars by simply agreeing to amend the contract. The contract means nothing.

  119. Robert McTaggart

    DOE was sued for not taking nuclear waste away from the utilities given that everyone paid into the fund. So there are remedies if a party does not live up to the terms of a contract.

    How is EPA, or any other federal entity, doing with their contracts? I don’t think DOE is special in this regard. All of these departments are constrained by the available federal funds…which are supplied by taxpayers and approved by politicians.

    No, you and I are not parties to this contract, but didn’t South Dakotans elect those who must approve things? Parties still have to obey state and local regulations.

  120. “There seems to be a thread of belief that DOE is picking on rural communities.” Duh. They sure are not wanting to put this nuke trash dump in Manhattan. 400 canisters each filled with 365 rods of pure nuke waste, guaranteed to pollute the water and ecological systems of the area until forever ever comes.

  121. Porter Lansing

    Rick Perry had a grand idea. Dump the spent waste on the New Mexico border. He was counseled by a Texas billionaire responsible for creating several superfund sites, himself. This “evil genius” then started a company to clean up the sites he’d created, with federal funds. Then, dump the whole pile as far away from Austin, Dallas and Houston as possible. Colorado does the same thing. All our wind farms are on the Wyoming border. Our natural gas burning power plants are on the New Mexico and Nebraska borders. It’s only the feds who chose Phillip otherwise it would be on the Montana border.

  122. Robert McTaggart

    Actually, there are nuclear reactors around Manhattan. Because nobody has approved sites for temporary or permanent storage, that nuclear waste stays near Manhattan. Even if the plant is shut down, the waste remains (typically in dry storage in concrete and steel casks above ground).

    The DOE is trying to move that waste away from those locations.

  123. There already exists nuke trash holes around the world. The ones proposed for North and South Dakota, now Hakkon Country, were never meant to be test holes, they were always to be used for nuke trash. “An October 2014 US Department of Energy report said: “Preliminary evaluations of deep borehole disposal indicate a high potential for robust isolation of the waste, and the concept could offer a pathway for earlier disposal of some wastes than might be possible in a mined repository.” In January 2016 the DOE commissioned a team led by Battelle to drill a 4880-metre test borehole into crystalline basement rock in North Dakota.”

    Now they lie up and say that Philip is the finalist. Some beauty pageant when there are no other candidates.

  124. Robert McTaggart

    I think Perry in releasing that report was interested in recouping a lot of the dollars that Texas put into the Nuclear Waste Fund, which were not going anywhere due to DOE not being able to site a permanent waste repository.

    The terrain and weather around New Mexico and West Texas is very similar, so it is not surprising that candidate locations for a waste repository and for the deep borehole test study are found there.

  125. Robert McTaggart

    No Jerry, they are talking about deep borehole disposal in general…not for the sites being proposed for the test study. The technique has the promise of being safer and cheaper than the Yucca Mountain style of repository….but that has to be proven.

    Monday they said the following (which I copy from above):
    “The contract for this project specifically prohibits the storage, disposal or use of nuclear waste at the site of the deep borehole field test; and it further requires that, after the project is completed, the borehole will be permanently sealed and the land restored in accordance with state and local regulations”

  126. Robert McTaggart

    And there are 3 other candidates…I think one in Texas and two in New Mexico.

  127. Robert McTaggart

    California-based AECOM is exploring a site in Texas; Pennsylvania-based TerranearPMC a site in Otero County, N.M.; Georgia-based Enercon is looking at Nara Visa, N.M.; and South Dakota-based Respec is aiming for Haakon County, S.D. Phase 1 of the five-phase project will involve securing all necessary land use and lease agreements for the prospective sites.

  128. The DOE will soon be lead by airhead Rick Perry. If anyone thinks he is going move science along, or help the DOE in any way, they’re delusional.

    Since the only bonus of nuclear power is reduced carbon emissions, the primary selling point for nuclear power is global warming, and we just stopped believing in that as a country – as a bunch of decent people just got duped by the deplorables.

  129. Well then, as it is not imperative for this go through, why push it? Let those other places have the nuke trash hole to fill. Or, we can send it by rail and by ship to Russia for burial there. This game being played is a suckers bet as we know that they only areas that really do not matter to anyone other than the money guys. The 8 inch borehole will of course not be used, but the hole right down the line will be. See, they did not lie.

  130. Robert McTaggart


    Some Republicans care about global warming more than others. For instance, those that enjoy the outdoors like clean water, clean air, and sustainable habitat for the game that they hunt. I would not say the only benefit of nuclear power is reduced carbon emissions (and other emissions as well), but that is indeed a big one.

    Today there is a big debate about needing more jobs with higher incomes, and nuclear power supports such employment. It also supports the energy independence that Republicans desire, as well as the on-demand power that a growing economy needs.

    For agriculture, nuclear does not require the same rail infrastructure that coal does to supply its plants, and it will occupy less land per kilowatt-hour.

  131. Good luck with that, and with trivializing whether or not radiation should be reclassified as a vitamin – ya buncha losers.

  132. Robert McTaggart

    Radiation as a vitamin? Not sure what you mean.

    Potassium is a key nutrient that comes to mind, and a small percentage of natural potassium is Potassium-40, which is radioactive.

  133. You have displayed an open mind to radiation hormesis – the compleately unfounded belief that radiation could be very good for you, perhaps essential for life, much like a vitamin. In fact, we all may be deficient in radiation and could extend our lives if we just had more around us.

    Physics Health Society (and you haven’t allowed ruling you out) nuts are mostly all-in on that bizzare cultists crap. I’m surprised you don’t remember me holding you accountable for this not that long ago.

    As long as your openinminded to that garbage, I can imagine why this borehole exites you.

  134. Robert McTaggart

    The LNT model (linear, no-threshold), hormesis, and the threshold model attempt to describe the relationship between radiation dose and biological damage.

    At relatively high doses, everyone agrees that this relationship is linear. This linear model does not predict that you as an individual will get cancer. Instead it predicts a rate of cancer among a large randomized population (i.e. statistics are at play).

    At lower doses the connection to the linear model is a bit more murky. At the last health physics meeting I attended, there was actually more support for a threshold model (i.e. no damage until a certain dose level is achieved), which is what many see with other chemical toxins. Both the threshold model and hormesis model attempt to take into account the beneficial effect of biological repair mechanisms. At higher doses, even those repair functions are affected.

    Nevertheless, we conservatively apply the LNT model, which has directly led to increased costs of building nuclear facilities in the pursuit of eliminating all radiation whatsoever. There needs to be more research on what happens at low doses….you can find data that are consistent with all three models due to the poor statistics today.

  135. Robert McTaggart

    There is a fourth model called the supralinear model, which is sort of the opposite of the hormesis model. In other words, lower doses enhance the biological damage. That seems to fit the data the worst of the four, but you still need more data however.