Estonia's Geology Holds Promise for Nuclear Waste Disposal

Estonia's Geology Holds Promise for Nuclear Waste Disposal

PR Newswire

LONDON, Feb. 1, 2021

LONDON, Feb. 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A Deep Isolation study for advanced reactor deployment company Fermi Energia discusses the potential suitability of areas in Estonia for siting a deep horizontal borehole nuclear waste repository. This preliminary study found no fundamental geologic limitations to disposing of nuclear waste in Estonia and that a range of locations have the potential to comply with IAEA Safety Regulations.

The study, a qualitative geological assessment of Estonia's crystalline basement rock, evaluates potential risk factors in Estonia's 15 counties.

With Estonia aiming to reduce carbon emissions 70 percent by 2030, advanced nuclear power generation from small modular reactors could contribute to its clean energy goals. Yet the issue of spent nuclear fuel disposal could pose an obstacle.

"If we are to be successful in our efforts to see Estonia become the first European Union country to deploy an SMR in the 2030s, we must take responsibility now in planning for spent fuel disposal," said Kalev Kallemets, Fermi Energia CEO. "This study indicates that a deep borehole disposal repository could meet all prerequisites and be safe, cost-effective, easily deployed and scalable."

Deep Isolation recently partnered with the Electric Power Research Institute on a study showing that siting a deep borehole repository alongside a hypothetical advanced reactor in the U.S. could be safe and cost-effective. Fermi Energia is the first EU company to contract with Deep Isolation on a geologic study.

"As Estonia considers the role that advanced nuclear power generation can play in delivering a low-carbon future, citizens and policymakers can feel confident there is a safe and affordable way to dispose of spent nuclear fuel," said Chris Parker, Managing Director, Deep Isolation EMEA Limited. "This is a significant step forward in confirming that regions across Estonia, in particular along the northern coast near a potential SMR site, could potentially safely host a borehole repository."

Countries such as Finland, Sweden and France are building mined repositories, but deep horizontal boreholes in Estonia would isolate the waste much deeper — 1,500 meters vs. about 500 meters — and would be about a quarter of the cost, according to research by Deep Isolation in collaboration with U.S. advanced nuclear companies and EPRI.  Deep boreholes are more quickly deployed, given that drilling takes just weeks, while mining can take decades. And they're likely safer because there's no long-distance waste transportation nor workers underground.

Kari Hulac


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