Clean, Safe Nuclear Power? Drillers Have a Role
With the green movement in this country, many people are looking for ways to create pollution-free energy to power our lives. Some ideas are good, and some are just pie-in-the-sky ideas that make people feel better but will not work in the real world. Without getting too deep into this, imagine where our power would come from on a windless night. It would come from the same power plants we use now. They would still have to be sized for peak load.
The only true carbon-free source of energy is nuclear power. Like many things, this is not understood by many people. People tend to dislike anything they don’t understand. There is resistance to nuclear power. One of the biggest issues is waste disposal. Nuclear fuel that’s exhausted its energy is still dangerous, and needs to be sequestered — basically forever.
To solve this problem, the U.S. government searched for a safe place and found one in Yucca Flats, Nevada. The geology has been stable for millions of years. It is far from population centers and would be available to all power plants. The downside became a rallying cry for some. The waste has to be transported there. Whether by truck or train, it had to go by somebody’s house. This led to massive teeth gnashing, rending of garments and lawsuits, essentially shutting down the easiest common sense solution to the problem of nuclear waste. At present, most nuclear power plants store their waste on site. This is a temporary fix at best.
Thanks to the inventiveness of drillers, and the recent advances in technology, there is a way. Most Nuclear plants sit on a pretty big chunk of land. They have room to do things. My suggestion would be to sequester the waste underground. I don’t mean just dig a hole and bury it, either. If you drill deep enough, almost anywhere, you can find a geologically stable formation. Drill down, and find that formation at each power plant, then use directional drilling technology to drill horizontally. Below groundwater, in a formation that is geologically stable, you could create a repository on site that would hold the waste from any given plant, forever. This would do away with transporting the waste across the country, and through people’s back yards. One main, vertical borehole could have many lateral bores that could be filled as time went on. It would take less room and be much safer than temporary surface storage. In the right formations, the waste would never see the surface, or endanger people again. In order to do this, an education effort would have to be made to get beyond the “I don’t understand it, so I don’t like it” mindset. Besides the technical expertise, the drilling industry should be the lead on the educational efforts. We have provided clean water and energy for all for many years. It is a way to solve a difficult problem with today’s technology. No fracking or injection would be required. Just a borehole large enough to insert successive “torpedoes” of the spent fuel, as needed, by the power plant. In case of war or natural disaster, the waste would be sequestered far from any potential interaction with mankind for millions of years.
I would like to hear any thought you may have on this. I may have missed something, but I have been studying it for some time and can’t find an unsolvable downside, other than the plant engineers will have to deal with a drill crew.
For more Wayne Nash columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/wayne.