Collaboration points way to potential reductions in waste volumes

23 February 2024

Pairing a used fuel recycling facility with deep borehole disposal technology could reduce the total volume of waste requiring disposal in a deep geologic repository by greater than 90%, a study by Deep Isolation and SHINE Technologies has found.

Deep Isolation's waste repository concept leverages directional drilling to isolate used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in deep boreholes located underground in suitable rock formations (Image: Deep Isolation)

Nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions company Deep Isolation completed the study for fusion technology company SHINE Technologies, which is working on ways to recycle used nuclear fuel in facilities designed to reduce the volume of waste requiring deep geologic disposal.

The study was an initial scoping assessment of the costs of disposing the byproducts of a pilot recycling facility that would extract and enable reuse of valuable components from used nuclear fuel while separating fission products that require geologic disposal, the companies said. The goal was to assess the cost, feasibility, and fundamental characteristics of deep borehole disposal repositories for these long-lived waste forms using Deep Isolation's designs.

"This study highlights the design flexibility and advantages of deep borehole disposal in terms of modularity and potential to accept a wide range of radioactive wastes," study lead Ethan Bates, director of systems engineering for Deep Isolation, said.

Deep Isolation CEO Elizabeth Muller said the collaboration highlights the "massive potential for driving cost out of the nuclear fuel cycle" through innovation. "SHINE's pilot recycling facility will unlock new power generation out of spent nuclear fuel from traditional nuclear power plants, significantly reducing the volume of high-level waste that requires geologic disposal. And Deep Isolation’s borehole technology reduces the cost of that disposal itself," she said.

Wisconsin-based SHINE is working to deploy fusion technology through a "purpose-driven and phased approach" which includes eventually applying its technology to recycling nuclear waste. And ultimately generating power from nuclear fusion. "This study is an important step toward understanding the tremendous potential for optimisation in nuclear waste disposal volume and cost reductions, and therefore helps demonstrate important social and economic benefits from the deployment of our recycling technologies," SHINE Chief Technology Officer Ross Radel said. "It's validation that our planned approach to nuclear waste recycling is foundational to our mission of creating a safer, healthier and cleaner world."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News