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Battelle Promises No-Nukes Language in Borehole Application; Daugaard Sending Rep to Wednesday Meeting

A subscription to RadWaste Monitor costs $1,795 for one year, 46 issues. It is one of a number of publications ExchangeMonitor bills as a “vital source of information for Congressional staff on a variety of topics related to DOE management, the Department’s cleanup program, the National Nuclear Security Administration, radioactive waste disposal and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

One of my apparently wealthy and well-briefed readers notes that RadWaste has been covering the Deep Borehole Field Test proposed for Spink County. An article published Friday by Karl Herchenroeder says that project contractor Battelle Memorial Institute, a science and technology development company based in Ohio, will include in its variance request to Spink County “a stipulation that the boreholes will be permanently sealed when the project is completed.” This stipulation responds to concerns expressed at public meetings two weeks ago that the holes drilled for this test might be used for disposal of nuclear waste. Battelle spokesman T.R. Massey tells Herchenroeder that requiring permanent sealing of the holes adds to the assurance of “public refusal, the proximity of an aquifer, state law, the lack of federal disposal framework and siting on private land” that placing nuclear waste in Spink County “can never happen.”

Citizens don’t have to gut this month’s paycheck to read that assurance; they can attend Battelle’s next public information meeting on Wednesday, May 11, at the Spink County Fairgrounds 4-H building, same site as the previous meeting:

Deep Borehole Field Test public meeting, Spink County Fairgrounds 4-H building, Redfield, SD, May 11 6-9 p.m.
Flyer distributed by Battelle, May 2016

The cast of characters will be mostly the same, with one important exception: instead of representatives from the School Mines, this meeting will feature someone from Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office. Folks at the last meeting groused at the absence of the Governor himself from a meeting this important, feeling the written statement from the Governor read at the meeting was not enough assurance that the Governor supported the project on the condition that it not involve nuclear materials. Wednesday will give Spink County residents the chance to look someone from Pierre in the eye and hear that assurance.


  1. mike from iowa 2016-05-08 08:28

    Subscription would cost 2+ months of Social Security for me. I asked twice about security at borehole site and don’t believe it was ever answered. How do civilians with particle detectors get close enough to the site to monitor radioactivity? There would necessarily be armed guards,would there not?

  2. Lilias Jarding, Ph.D. 2016-05-08 08:33

    So they’ll seal the hole(s) (I notice they’ve become plural). But they can always drill another one. I’ve followed the nuclear industry for many years. Battelle is a long-time, huge federal nuclear contractor. Daugaard has consistently supported nuclear activities in SD. Don’t trust them any further than you can throw them.

  3. grudznick 2016-05-08 09:41

    It is very good that Mr. H can afford to subscribe to all those magazines to track some of the goings on for all of us who cannot.

    Mr. Mike, I don’t know about there in Iowa but here in South Dakota our biggest concern with The Borehole will probably be tourism. I don’t think we need young fellows trying to get their own nuclear scientist merit badges running around in the way of the real scientists, but we will have many tourists who will want to peer down into The Borehole and if we do it right we could charge a nominal fee to cover the increased wear and tear on our roads.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-05-08 09:43

    O.K., just so I’m clear: there’s no point in Battelle or DOE holding any further public meetings or issuing any further information, because we cannot take any word they utter at face value. We should just put the project to a public vote right now and be done with it. Is that the long and short of it?

  5. grudznick 2016-05-08 10:04

    I don’t think we, those of us in South Dakota, can vote on who can and cannot dig a deep hole on their own property.

  6. mike from iowa 2016-05-08 10:52

    Grudz, I believe it was Prof MacTaggart that suggested concerned citizens get to monitoring the site with particle detectors. Since science speak is way over my head,I may have mis-interpreted what he was saying. I am not college educated. The only degrees I hold are 98.6 degrees of normal body temp.

  7. grudznick 2016-05-08 12:25

    If Dr. McTaggart said people can tromp around The Borehole with Geiger detectors then it’s probably fine. I stand corrected. I do want to peer down it myself and have a look at some of the geological rocks they bring up, but seeing the Geiger counts would be interesting too. Maybe they’ll even see some of the charm quarks and things, but I doubt it because most of these tourists will not be real scientists and more of the tinfoil hat variety.

  8. mike from iowa 2016-05-08 13:00

    Besides,as I pointed out to the Prof, John Public isn’t likely apt to have a particle detector at his or her disposal.

    I’d still like to know if this test will be covered under national security policies.Find the answer, Grudz and I will send you new taters when they are ready-maybe.

  9. Robert McTaggart 2016-05-08 13:22

    There is an app for that. You can turn an iPhone into a Geiger counter with an attachment (not sure if the bare iPhone would work, but it is a solid state device). You would get to estimate total radioactivity, but you wouldn’t be able to identify isotopes from that data.

    Be forewarned that you really need to understand the natural background first prior to taking any readings with anything they bring in. Your geiger counter would see stuff from the air and soil as well as cosmic rays. Any new signal from the research activities would be on top of the existing background. I think the EPA action level is something like 3 times the background…anything below that can be easily explained as a natural fluctuation (statistics happen), and would not have any health effects.

    No, you do not have to trust them, you can pursue the radiation detection and environmental monitoring independently. But if you want to do anything with the data, I would make sure whoever runs the detectors is part of an accredited body (which means they have the expertise for detection or sample prep, equipment, and the paperwork trail).

    Sodium-iodide detectors would be the most cost-effective to measure gamma radiation (particularly Cs-137) while getting some isotopic identity. You can spend as much as you want for the features you want. Otherwise you collect air, water, and soil samples and ship them to an accredited laboratory for alpha/beta/gamma content, and they will process them for a fee.

  10. Robert McTaggart 2016-05-08 13:50

    The Geiger counter is essentially a cylinder with some sort of wire in the middle of it. The wire is at a higher voltage than the outside of the cylinder. When a gamma ray (photon) or a beta ray (i.e. an electron or a positron) or an alpha particle (a bare helium nucleus) passes through the detector, it strips electrons off of the gas particles (a.k.a. it ionizes them).

    Normally if you have a bunch of positive and negative charge next to each other, they will recombine and cancel each other out. But if the voltage is right, then the lighter and more mobile negative electrons go to the wire before recombination occurs. This produces a pulse of current, which sort of looks like an upside-down bell curve on an oscilloscope. If the strength of this pulse is big enough, the Geiger counter will generate a click.

    The number of clicks will be related to the intensity of the radiation, not necessarily the energy.

  11. leslie 2016-05-08 18:34

    I thought we had a heavily funded, staffed industry watch dog in the state called DENR?

  12. Donald Pay 2016-05-08 19:51


    I agree with Lilias on this, but I’m not sure a public vote is required at this point. What we need to do is slow down the process until some of the questions and policy issues can be dealt with.

    I suggest we look to how our neighbors responded. North Dakota’s Governor suggested that the Legislature needed to weigh in in the test project prior to it going ahead, and Pierce County enacted a moratorium until its questions could be addressed. Those seem to be reasonable responses at this point.

    Much of nuclear waste disposal policy is in flux at the federal level, and waiting until there is more fully fleshed out information about how Congress and DOE are going to structure “consent-based siting” makes sense. The state also needs to get its act together. The Governor needs to follow through on his promise and suggest and put in place a mechanism to allow citizen votes on these issues. There’s also likely to be new rulemaking on deep borehole disposal regulation at EPA and NRC in the near future.

    There is no reason to rush this study. The crystalline rock formations aren’t going anywhere, and if it takes a year or two to get all the policy issues figured out, that’s time well spent.

  13. grudznick 2016-05-08 20:04

    Mr. Pay, if we waste two years filling out paperwork to dig The Borehole then some people who want to see what’s down there might not be around any longer. I think we need to start digging right now, and we need people like you to go get certified with the Geiger devices so we don’t just have bloggers in tinfoil hats running around out there trying to usurp the Environment and Natural Department actual scientists who are out there doing science and monitoring the digging. Plus, no vote. The farmer that lets them dig gets to decide all by himself.

  14. grudznick 2016-05-08 20:33

    Could it be possible The Borehole will be dug on The Harv’s farm along the James River?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-05-08 22:29

    But Donald, what’s the point of slowing down the process and dealing with questions and policy issues if we can trust nothing that we are told in response to those questions and issues? Whom will we trust to figure out all the issues?

  16. Robert McTaggart 2016-05-09 09:46

    And what if the only way to flush out all the issues with “consent-based siting” is to actually work through the process, have all parties engage, and develop those procedures?

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