Deep Isolation to study deep borehole disposal in Slovenia

Nuclear waste specialists Deep Isolation have announced a new contract to conduct a borehole feasibility study for ARAO, the radioactive waste management organisation of Slovenia.

deep borehole
(Credit: Jožef Stefan Institute)

The study will examine whether a deep borehole repository could dispose of spent fuel from Slovenia’s TRIGA II research reactor at the Josef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana. The 1960s-era reactor, one of 66 of its kind worldwide, produces radioactive isotopes for medical research and for training. It is scheduled to be shut down in 2043.

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“We are very interested in the potential for deep boreholes to provide a safe disposal solution for Slovenia’s spent nuclear fuel at a lower cost than in a mined repository,” said Leon Kegel, ARAO head of Planning and Development.  “We are already studying this at the Krško nuclear plant as part of a separate project with Deep Isolation and other ERDO members. The TRIGA II project gives ARAO the opportunity to evaluate the potential for Slovenia’s research reactor fuel.”

Deep Isolation said it’s deep borehole disposal (DBD) solution combines established directional drilling techniques with patented technologies and processes that can be deployed in many geologies. The study will evaluate data about the reactor’s spent fuel; provide cost estimates for a borehole in granite and shale; and provide a timeline.

Berkeley, California-based Deep Isolation, a developer of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions, has completed other feasibility studies for advanced nuclear projects, including for Electric Power Research Institute  (EPRI) in the US and Fermi Energia in Estonia.

“Research reactor fuel is an interesting market for Deep Isolation, and waste disposal is still an unsolved problem,” said Chris Parker, managing director of Deep Isolation EMEA Ltd. “More countries have research reactors than full-scale power plants. Slovenia is an early adopter in this market, and we expect that the work will show that DBD is a cost-effective solution.”