Photo: Slovenia's TRIGA II research reactor (photo credit: Jožef Stefan Institute)US-based waste management specialist Deep Isolation has announced a new contract to conduct a borehole feasibility study for Slovenia’s Agency for Radwaste Management (ARAO).

The study will examine whether a deep borehole repository would be feasible for used 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 isotypes for medical research and for training. It is scheduled to be shut down in 2043.

“We are very interested in the potential for deep boreholes to provide a safe disposal solution for Slovenia’s used 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’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. Deep Isolation has completed other feasibility studies for advanced nuclear projects, including for EPRI (US) and Fermi Energia (Estonia). 

“Research reactors are 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.”

Deep Isolation is increasingly being considered an alternative to (or complementary with) traditional mined repositories. The company is now in conversations with multiple countries on three continents about its DBD option.

Photo: Slovenia's TRIGA II research reactor (photo credit: Jožef Stefan Institute)