Norway to demonstrate deep borehole technology

13 June 2023

Norway’s Norsk Kjernekraft has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the US-based Deep Borehole Demonstration Center to collaborate on demonstration of deep borehole disposal technology in Norway. Recently established Norsk Kjernekraft aims to construct and small modular reactors (SMRs) in Norway in support of Norway’s target of achieving net zero in 2050.

The non-profit Deep Borehole Demonstration Center was established in February in Cameron, Texas, to provide interested entities and governments worldwide with an independent organisation through which to commission projects that characterise and advance the technical readiness of deep borehole nuclear waste disposal technologies. The centre has been engaged in dialogue with a large number of interested parties and already has membership from organisations representing waste disposal interests in nine countries, from both the public and private sectors. Its mission is to advance the maturity of the safety case for deep borehole disposal and the technical readiness levels of the disposal concept, including characterisation, construction, canister handling, emplacement and retrieval. Tests have already begun in Cameron.

The centre’s Executive Director, Ted Garrish, former Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the US Department of Energy (DOE) says it is an exciting development. “At the technical level, Norway’s crystalline rock, including granite, is a very different geology to the centre’s initial shale environment in Texas – so it helps demonstrate the wide variety of rock types that offer safe and effective options for deep borehole disposal. Further, it demonstrates that Europe’s SMR industry is rightly focused on the need to engage with communities in planning for waste disposal right from the outset.”

Jonny Hesthammer, CEO of Norsk Kjernekraft, said the company is passionate about the benefits of nuclear power. “To achieve these we must show the communities we work in that there are practical solutions available to put the resulting waste safely and permanently out of contact with the biosphere. “Deep borehole disposal is a technology that offers huge potential benefits to Norway,” he added.

The centre has already started a multi-year programme of work to cumulatively deliver an end-to-end, non-radioactive demonstration of deep borehole disposal. The initial tests demonstrated the compatibility of a prototype pressurised water reactor-size waste disposal canister with standard lifting equipment for the oil and gas industry for use in deep borehole disposal operations.

Image: The deep borehole disposal technology at the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center in Cameron, Texas (courtesy of Deep Borehole Demonstration Center)

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