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NUCLEAR WASTE DRY STORAGE

By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph.D.

INTRODUCTION:
This web page addresses various aspects of safe dry storage of spent nuclear fuel bundles and other nuclear waste. This storage takes into consideration practical aspects of ground water, petrochemicals, rock chemistry and sulfur induced corrosion.
 

NUCLEAR WASTE:
Nuclear waste contains radio isotopes, usually as a result of neutron absorption and/or nuclear fission in or near a nuclear reactor. Radio active atomic isotopes spontaneously decay over time emitting heat and gamma radiation. The metallic nuclear waste contains metallic uranium and metallic zirconium, both of which are highly flammable.
 

SAFETY:
Radio isotopes, if absorbed by the human body, are highly toxic. Hence persons working with radio isotopes take precautions to ensure that they do not inhale, ingest or absorb through their skin any radio isotopes. Persons in the proximity of gamma ray emitting radio isotopes should also be protected by adequate gamma photon absorbing shielding.

To ensure continuance of safe nuclear waste storage dry nuclear waste should be kept in engineered containers that are stored within a remote Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) that is accessible and naturally dry. Typically suitable DGR storage vaults are formed in depleted hard rock (granite) mines that are high above the local water table and that have gravity drainage and natural ventilation and hence are naturally dry.
 

LONG TERM SAFETY CERTAINTY:
The ongoing failure of mankind to adequately address the problem of fossil carbon CO2 emissions has already initiated a process that will over the coming years almost certainly lead to an 80 m increase in sea level due to melting of polar icecaps and thermal expansion of the oceans. Glacial pressure could easily reduce the storage site elevation by more than another 100 m, the height of the Niagara escarpment. If we accept the NWMO recommendation of requiring 400 m to 500 m of top cover over the storage facility, we need a large naturally dry existing hardrock mine half way up a solid granite mountain with a present height of over 1000 m above the surrounding water table. The simple reality is that there are few sufficiently high mountains in Ontario and there is no existing major mine in Ontario that meets that specification.

The primary advantage of the Jersey-Emerald mine facility in British Columbia over other large closed mines in Canada for spent fuel storage and radioactive waste disposal is very long term certainty of naturally nearly dry conditions spanning numerous ice ages. These nearly dry conditions are key to prevention of contact of the stored radioactive waste with ground water. This author is not aware of any other large existing Canadian mine with comparable natural protection that provides comparable long term certainty regarding separation of toxic radioactive materials from ground water. The hard rock mountains in Ontario are simply not high enough to provide comparable protection from long term changes in the level of the local water table.
 

NUCLEAR WASTE DRY STORAGE:
Every nuclear waste storage container should be externally water resistant and non-combustable and should be individually remotely monitored to ensure ongoing container integrity and safe storage temperature.

The radio activity of each nuclear waste container should be periodically measured and compared to the radioactivity of an identical container holding an equal weight of natural uranium. After some time in storage, typically about 300 years, the radioactivity of a Low Level Waste (LLW) container will decay below the radio activity of natural uranium. That waste is then removed from the isolated dry storage and if the waste material is not required for other purposes can be buried in a depleted uranium mine. The DGR dry storage space and the porcelain dry storage containers can then be reused. Undecayed nuclear waste either remains in accessible isolated dry storage or is processed and recycled in accordance with the Ottensmeyer Plan to reduce its average half life.

In order to store, process and recycle CANDU fuel bundles there is an ongoing requirement for safe, secure and accessible isolated dry storage for the entire inventory of spent CANDU fuel bundles.

Similarly there is an need for segragated storage of radioactive zirconium, tritium, nickel alloys, etc.
 

FINANCIAL BENEFIT:
One of the benefits of accessible dry storage is that the radioactive materials can be reused at considerable cost saving. As shown on the following table Peter Ottensmeyer has calculated that reuse of the current inventory of low and intermediate nuclear waste should yield material cost savings of about $236.6 million.


 

WATER OF HYDRATION:
An issue that is not adequately appreciated by CNSC/NWMO/OPG is water of hydration in rock. Most natural rock contains the common chemical compounds calcium silicate [3(CaO)·2(SiO2)·N(H2O)] and aluminum silicate [(Al2O3).3(SiO2).N(H2O)]. The number of water molecules of hydration N in these compounds is variable and typically results in about 14% water by weight. The number N is both temperature and pressure dependent and is typically in the range 0 to 4. In natural rock at 600 m below grade where the hydraulic head is typically 1000 psi, the average value of N is larger than at grade level. If a DGR is formed 600 m below grade, the atmospheric low pressure in the DGR (~ 15 psia) will cause water of hydration to migrate from the surrounding rock into the DGR. Similarly raising the temperature of the rock around the DGR will gradually lower N in the rock. Ongoing removal of this seepage water via either pumping or via the DGR ventilation system requires a lot of energy if the DGR is below the local water table.

An isotopic analysis of the water of hydration via the O-18 to O-16 ratio can reveal the glaciation conditions on Earth at the time the rock hydrated. However, such an isotopic analysis says nothing about what happened after the rock hydrated except that the rock did not get sufficiently hot to drive out the water of hydration. For example, claims about low water circulation based on isotopic drill core analysis have little merit because young water can circulate through rock containing old water of hydration.
 

DGR LOCATION:
The DGR technical problems are vastly simplified by locating the DGR in a remote naturally dry location 300 m above the local water table, by keeping the DGR at atmospheric pressure far into the future and by taking advantage of natural ventilation such as was established in the Jersey working of the Jersey Emerald mine. The resistance to DGR damage by glaciation should be maintained by locating the DGR inside the granite core of a mountain that provides at least 400 m of overhead rock above and around the DGR.

The DGR should be usable as a default long term storage facility if future circumstances so dictate. Hence the DGR should be located in a major crack free granite mountain containing a network of gravity drained truck size tunnels and vaults which are located at least 400 m below top of mountain grade and at least 300 m above the local water table. This DGR elevation position minimizes ongoing costs by minimizing the requirement for site personnel and by eliminating any need for ongoing water pumping and by providing good natural ventilation.

Limited availability of suitable granite rock formations constrains where such DGRs can be located. Generally due to lack of ground water there are no existing permanent communities at suitable DGR locations. Hence the NWMO concept of attempting to locate a DGR within a “receptive community” is fundamentally wrong. The NWMO should be looking for a remote unpopulated location with suitable limestone on top of granite geology at sufficient elevation with respect to the local water table.

The practical methodology for choosing a DGR location is simply to make a list of geologically suitable locations in Canada that are road / rail accessible and that are sufficiently remote from existing population centers that it is financially practical for the DGR owner to purchase all of the surrounding surface and mineral rights within an 8 km (5 mile radius). It is further desirable to declare all land within a 40 km radius of the DGR to be a park to prevent new development on that land.

Where there is an existing depleted major mine in an area with suitable geology an economic way to proceed is to purchase the mine. At a major depleted mine site the required road/rail infrastructure already exists and subsurface information available about the adjacent region is typically more than two orders of magnitude greater than NWMO and OPG can economically acquire at an undeveloped site.

One of the reasons why in 2010 senior persons in the Canadian mining industry proposed use of Jersey Emerald in BC for storage of nuclear waste was certainty about the existence of high elevation high density crack free granite at that location.  Both the NWMO and OPG have thus far chosen to ignore mining industry advice.

An issue that the parties must eventually face is the unknown and potentially huge cost of finding geologically suitable DGR locations that have "receptive communities" versus the certain and modest costs of remote DGR  locations that are known to be geologically suitable and where due to lack of ground water there is not now and likely never will be a permanent community.
 

STORAGE CONTAINERS:
The nuclear waste is stored in engineered containers that are suitable for long term storage of radioactive material. Each container has an inner metal wall and an outer porcelain wall. Between the walls is a layer of low vapor pressure oil.
 

STORAGE CONTAINER PLACEMENT AND RETRIEVAL:
Each storage container has a unique number. Nuclear waste storage containers are placed in position and later retrieved using a remotely operated or autonomous vehicle. This vehicle is similar to a heavy duty fork lift. The vehicle has an on-board gyrocompass that computes true north and true horizontal and that continuously outputs pitch, roll and yaw angles. There is a wheel with a pulse generator that outputs a pulses in proportion to distance travelled. That distance in combination with the pitch, roll and yaw angles permits calculation of the (x, y, z) position with respect to the last known (x, y, z) position at a mile post. Mile posts with accurately known (x, y, z) positions must be pre-installed using laser survey techniques. Each mile post has a RF ID tag with a unique number. The vehicle has a RF ID tag reader and contains a lookup table which gives the true (x, y, z) position for each RF ID tag number. The vehicle's calculated (x, y, z) position is automatically corrected at each RF ID tag location.

The vehicle must stop frequently to accurately redetermine true north. The local latitude must be entered to determine pitch with respect to horizontal.

The vehicle requires ultrasonic sensors to determine its position with respect to nearby walls and posts.
 

STORAGE CONTAINER MOUNTING:
1. Within the storage facility each porcelain nuclear waste outer container is stabilized by being set on a flat surface. The container may be surrounded by low density rolled lava gravel that allows air to circulate past the containers, keeps external forces evenly distributed and prevents the containers falling over or being damaged during a violent earthquake.

2. The nuclear waste containers are stored in a DGR that will gravity drain if seepage or an extraordinary event causes water to enter the DGR.

3. If the nuclear waste contains excess fissionable material the surrounding lava gravel can have an additive that is solid, insoluble in water and has a high neutron absorption cross section.

4. If a porcelain container fails most of the contained oil will be drain downwards and be trapped in the floor level silica sand. The resulting oil/sand mixture will form an asphalt like material that, if the inner metal container also fails, will resist radioactive material transport.

5. Over a long period of time the oil will get thicker trapping the stored nuclear material in place even if the inner metal container eventually fails.

6. If nuclear material in long term storage needs to be recovered the rolled lava gravel surrounding the porcelain container is removed by vacuum suction and the porcelain container is lifted out of the storage vault. Then the porcelain container is gently heated in an oxygen free gas atmosphere to reduce the viscosity of the contained oil. When the oil is warm the porcelain container lid can be lifted off and the inner metal container can be lifted out of the outer alumina porcelain container. The metal container can then be externally cleaned by immersion in a flow of organic solvent.
 

STORAGE FACILITY ROCK TYPE:
1. The only place where man made sedimentary rock structures have lasted over 5000 years is in North Africa where the climate is very dry. There is nowhere in Canada where we can reasonably forecast such prolonged climatic dryness. However, as long as the fuel bundles are emitting heat a properly designed storage system will remain naturally dry and igneous rock will not convert to sedimentary rock.

2. In the presence of water and carbon dioxide sedimentary rock corrodes at about 100 microns per year according to the equation:
CaCO3 + H2O + CO2 = Ca(HCO3)2
because Ca(HCO3)2 is water soluble.

3. Igneous (granite) rock structures have survived over 5000 years in a damp climate (eg Stonehenge in England). However, large granite structures were difficult to form until after the invention of dynamite;

4. When damp and in the presence of carbon dioxide exposed igneous rock containing calcium silicate (CaSiO3) at normal temperatures decays to sedimentary rock (CaCO3 + SiO2) at less than 1.0 micron / year according to the weathering equation:
CaSiO3 + CO2 + H2O = CaCO3 + SiO2 + H2O
In this reaction sequence granite very slowly converts to limestone which then becomes water soluble. This reaction proceeds forwards extremely slowly at temperatures < 20 degrees C but moves rapidly backwards at volcanic temperatures.

5. As long as granite is kept dry the weathering reaction cannot proceed and for practical purposes the granite lasts forever. Thus to realize structural stability over the very long term structural granite should be high above the local water table.

6. Granite has proven to be far better than limestone in terms of long term structural stability. Approximately 1000 years ago the Normans invaded southern England and built various castles with igneous rock. Southern England has a damp climate similar to Canada. However, many of these castles remain standing today, and material erosion has not been a significant problem. A much bigger problem has been local people raiding the castle structures for shaped stone for use in construction of personal residences.

7. Not all granite is the same. The differences are principally in the rate of cooling during formation. If one visits the volcanic lava flows on the island of Hawaii one sees low density granite. The reason for this low density is that magma when it comes out of the Earth releases gas bubbles. If the magma is exposed to the atmosphere it cools relatively quickly trapping the gas bubbles, and the result is low density granite. If on the other hand the magma cools much more slowly the gas bubbles float up to the top of the magma and the underlying granite is much denser. That is what I will term typical granite.

8. A problem with typical granite is that it cools from the outside inwards. During solidification the outer surface of the granite shrinks. The resulting thermal stresses crack the granite. Such granite is usually structurally stable but it is not water tight.

9. The rock desired for a DGR is crack free high density granite. Such granite typically occurs in circumstances where there is an overburden of about 200 m of limestone on top of a volcano that never erupted. Such a geological formation exists in the Columbia (Selkirk) Mountains in British Columbia. In those circumstances the magma takes many thousands of years to cool. As a result of extremely slow cooling all the contained gas floats to the top and escapes leaving the granite very dense and very hard and because there was no thermal stress the granite is crack free. Generally to realize the required slow cooling this granite must be above the local water table so that ground water does not accelerate the cooling rate.

10. Another aspect of this extremely slow cooling is that minerals with a lower density than the bulk silicates tend to density separate and float to the top of the magma. Hence at locations where there is such high density crack free granite there is rich mineralization at the junction between the limestone overburden and the granite. On top of the granite mass the mineralization is almost horizontal. At the edges of the granite mass this mineralization is steep to being almost vertical.

11. Thus in terms of finding a good accessible DGR location one is looking for a well up of granite that is at least 800 m higher than the surrounding land and that has about a 200 m of additional limestone over burden. From an economic perspective it is helpful if the mining industry has already discovered this high density granite mass, because then the mining industry will likely have already invested the hundreds of millions of dollars required to establish the size and dimensions of the granite mass, to obtain road and utility access and to tunnel through the limestone over burden. In this case the mining industry is motivated by removal of the mineral rich material which tends to concentrate at the granite - limestone interface.

12. Thus for a good DGR we are looking for a mountain with a high density granite core and about 200 m of limestone over burden. At such a mountain there is no ground water, and hence there is no permanent community. Hence the whole NWMO methodology of looking for a "receptive community" is wrong because at a suitable DGR site there will be no permanent community due to lack of ground water.

13. One of the problems of mining at a location that is suitable for a DGR is lack of water. Mines need water to suppress silica dust for worker safety. Hence at such locations mine tunnels are angled downwards into the mountain so that water pumped into the mine naturally collects in sumps where it is easily captured for recycling. If the water is not recycled pumping replacement water up over a km in elevation is an extremely expensive operation. In this respect there are huge advantages in making use of an existing depleted mine as a DGR instead of trying to form a totally new DGR. The CNSC/NWMO/OPG have failed to appreciate these cost and health issues.

14. This sloped mine design also allows a simple test as to whether the rock is crack free. If one closes all overhead holes and fills up the mine with water and then comes back 20 years later and the water level has not significantly changed, then there is certainty that the rock is crack free. Typically the internal differential water head at the water table is over 300 m (over 450 psi) so if there is a crack anywhere water will find its way out.

15. Room and pillar hard rock mining operations in crack free igneous rock mountain cores sometimes result in truck size tunnels and underground vaults that are dry and that naturally drain without mechanical pumping. Such dry tunnels and vaults are suitable for storage of spent CANDU fuel bundles and other nuclear waste in dry storage containers. Around a developed mine site the subsurface geology is well understood and there are basic support services such as an access road, railway bed, electricity, natural gas, potable water, etc.
 

STORAGE FACILITY ELEVATION & ROCK COVER:
1. For bio-safety it is essential to prevent the stored radioactive isotopes from dissolving in ground water. Hence the storage facility should be high above the surrounding water table to ensure that the radioactive material remains dry and there must be natural gravity drainage of seepage water.

2. The storage facility must be sufficiently above the surrounding water table that no reasonably foreseeable event, including multiple ice ages, total melting of the polar ice caps or an elevation change comparable to the Niagara escarpment will lead to the nuclear waste being below the local water table. In this respect melting of the Greenland and Antarctic land borne glaciers will cause about an 80 metre increase in average sea level, with corresponding increases in interior lake and water table levels. An elevation change like the Niagara escarpment could add another 100 m. Glaciation, land slides or a volcanic eruption could further increase the altitude of the local water table. Hence the minimum elevation of the storage vaults above the local water table should be at least 300 m.

3. To allow for multiple floors of storage vaults the internal height allowance for the storge vaults should be 100 m.

4. The direct alpha, beta, gamma and neutron emission by the fuel bundles is fully absorbed by 10 metres of continuous igneous rock. However, to protect against the eventuality that not all the actinides are fissioned the storage facility should be sufficiently deep to remain undisturbed for at least 40 glaciation cycles. In this respect the concept of the storage facility being at least 400 m below grade is a good idea.

5. The storage facility design should allow for a 200 m variation in random mountain top surface elevation and 100 m for the storage facility itself.

6. Hence the storage facility should be located in a mountain that is at least:
(300 m + 100 m + 400 m + 200 m) = 1000 m higher than the surrounding water table.

7. The horizontal tunnels of the storage facility should monotonically slope to provide positive gravity drainage of water out of the storage facility.

8. The storage facility should be designed so that all drainage water from the facility flows to sumps where instrumentation can be mounted to detect any oil or dissolved radioactive material leakage from anywhere in the facility. The storage facility access tunnels and ventilation shafts should be grouted to minimize water entry and to prevent water exit via unmonitored paths.

9. If either the porcelain outer wall or the metal inner wall of a radio active material storage container fails the drop in oil level or change in oil dielectric loss tangent in the space between the container walls will reliably indicate the presence of a containment failure. The oil level and oil dielectric loss tangent are parameters that are easily remotely monitored.

10. If there is a natural ventilation blockage or an unanticipated chemical reaction within a container the increase in container temperature will indicate the location and extent of the problem. A simple reliable temperature monitoring mechanism, such as the resistance of a platinum wire, should be used to monitor the temperature of each container and alarm if the container temperature is out of normal range.

11. To minimize seepage of water into the DGR there should be no lakes, rivers, acquifers or other bodies of water on the mountain containing the DGR at a higher elevation than the DGR vaults. Any such water bodies must be reliably gravity drained.
 

STORAGE FACILITY VENTILATION:
1. The radioactive fuel bundles gradually release energy which causes local heating. Natural ventilation should be used to release this heat from the storage facility. This heat and natural ventilation will also assist in keeping the DGR dry.

2. When spent nuclear fuel bundles are first placed in dry storage, due to spontaneous nuclear decay these fuel bundles still emit significant heat. For 2,000,000 CANDU fuel bundles that have previusly been in storage on thr reactor site for more than 10 years the sensible heat that must be continuously removed is about 10 MW. This heat removal requires a natural ventilation system that takes advantage of the elevation difference between the storge vaults and the top of the mountain to establish a stack effect. The nearly horizontal truck tunnels into the storage vaults will have a continuous intake air flow due to the large natural draft.

3. Some of the nuclear decay products are radioactive inert gases that will slowly diffuse out of containment and mix with the atmosphere inside the contemplated storage facility. The steady state density of such gases in the storage vaults is a function of the rate of release of such radioactive gases and the DGR natural ventilation rate.

4. Ultimately the storage vaults may contain over 12,500 heat emitting containers in which case the natural ventilation system for the storage vaults must be sized to continuously remove about:
12,500 containers X 1.22 kW / container = 15.25 MW
of sensible heat. This natural ventilation system should be powered by the stack effect of the 400 m high exhaust vents. Hence the fresh intake air should enter the storage facility near the vault level which must be high above the local water table. Hence ideally the storage facility should be located inside a granite core mountain with a top which is least 800 m above the local water table.
 

STORAGE FACILITY FIRE CONTROL:
1. CANDU fuel pellets are contained in zirconium tubes. Zirconium easily burns in air. The preferred fast neutron reactor fuel primarily consists of metallic: uranium, zirconium, plutonium and sodium. These metals are all highly flammable. Sodium, if directly exposed to air, ignites spontaneously. Hence it is important to surround the fuel bundles with materials that will exclude air and otherwise prevent ignition or combustion of the flammable metals. Use of a metal container within a porcelain container minimizes the potential fire risk, especially if a porcelain container is accidentally broken.

2. A fire involving metallic uranium, zirconium, plutonium and sodium is extremely dangerous and extremely difficult to extinguish except by suffication. Hence it is essential that the nuclear fuel be stored in a closed fire proof environment, such as a hard rock mine, where a fire is relatively easy to sufficate and where the radioactive products of combustion are easily fully contained. The storage vaults should be isolated from one another by remotely controllable airtight fire doors.

3. The contemplated spent nuclear fuel bundle storage facility will likely ultimately contain at least two million spent CANDU fuel bundles. Murphy's Law dictates that in such a system anything that can go wrong sooner or later will go wrong. Hence the storage processes must tolerate occasional nuclear waste container failures and/or handling accidents without risk of a major fire or radiation hazard.
 

STORAGE FACILITY SECURITY:
1. The storage facility should be built in a seismically stable area to ensure that the fuel bundles remain accessible for thousands of years.

2. The storage facility should be located in a remote area with blockable access roads leading to the storage facility, so that in the event of a terrorist break-in the terrorists are easily detected, contained and trapped. Unauthorized entry into the storage facility should require heavy equipment so that terrorists cannot gain access to the radio active material using only air transport.

3. The storage facility should be located in a remote area with natural boundary barriers so that all the land within a 4 km (2.5 mile) radius of the facility can be purchased at a modest price and easily secured.

4. It should be possible to acquire at a modest price all the land within an 8 km (5 mile) radius of the storage facility as an exclusion zone so that future development within the 20,000 hectare area reserved for nuclear waste disposal can be reliably prevented.

5. This storage facility design concept is extremely resistant to threats such as earthquakes, floods, forest fires, conventional bomb attack, nuclear weapon attack, terrorist penetration, etc.

6. Existing CANDU spent fuel bundles contain a significant amount of Pu-239. Future CANDU spent fuel bundles may also contain a substantial amount of U-233 imbedded in thorium. The chemistry for making these materials into fission bombs is well known. Hence the spent fuel bundles need to be stored in a highly secure manner that makes obtaining these bundles by illicit means virtually impossible. A lot of public peace of mind is achieved by storing the spent fuel bundles and nuclear waste in dry storage containers placed within the center of a naturally dry solid granite mountain, with at least a 400 m thickness of protective rock in every direction. Under those circumstances, even if the storage facility was to collapse or to be the target of a direct attack, there would be no danger to the public.
 

STORAGE FACILITY PHYSICAL SUMMARY:
The radioactive material storage facility should be built inside a high mountain with a crack free igneous rock core. This mountain should be located in a remote seismically stable area where there has been extensive mining in the past so that the subsurface geology is well known and the rock stability is assured. The site should be legally protected from future development.

The elevation of the storage facility should be at least 300 metres above the highest surrounding lake or river and should be at least 400 metres below grade. Hence, allowing for a surface topography variation of 200 m, the mountain containing the storage facility will likely have to be about 1000 m higher than the nearby surrounding lakes and rivers. To obtain sufficient mountain height in combination with a crack free igneous rock mountain core a storage facility in Canada will likely have to be located in a major mountain in British Columbia, western Alberta, Yukon, Labrador or eastern Quebec. At such a mountain location there is no ground water and hence there are almost no permanent residents.

Drainage tunnels should bore into the side of the mountain at a slight angle from horizontal to provide positive gravity drainage. All internal drains should flow to monitored pumped sumps with high level discharge ports. Thus the sumps provide warning of a leak of radio active material and liquid trapping for a limited period of time.

The facility should be fitted with multiple air vent shafts. Each shaft should designed to prevent entry of rain water and to allow personnel escape. The vent shafts and the truck tunnels must be sized to safely remove all the decay heat via natural ventilation.

The preliminary site selection process should include altitude determination and drill core analysis sufficient to determine site's physical suitability prior to any political discussions with area residents. It would be prudent to choose a remote area where there are no high elevation lakes or aquifers and where all the surrounding surface property within a 8 km radius can be purchased at a modest cost. Hence the surrounding security and exclusion zones would together encompass about 20,000 hectares.

For long term storage clusters of nuclear fuel bundles should be enclosed in an upright cylindrical metal container inside a porcelain container. The space between the inner and outer container walls is filled with granular Al2O3 - SiO2 to exclude both air and water. A multiplicity of such double walled containers should be placed in a vault in igneous rock. The containers should be stabilized in position with rolled lava gravel on top of dry silica sand. For highly reactive fuel bundles the lava gravel could have an insoluble additive with a high neutron absorption cross section.

The container temperature and the level and dielectric loss tangent should be passively sensed and remotely monitored.
 

JERSEY EMERALD:
From a geophysical, economic and international legal perspective Jersey Emerald is presently the best DGR location in North America. The Jersey Emerald facility as it presently exists has 5 million square feet (500,000 m^2) of available gravity drained storage space in water tight hard rock vaults 12 feet to 60 feet high. These vaults have 200 m to 600 m of overhead rock and are 300 m to 700 m above the local water table. Jersey Emerald has over 9 km of existing main access truck tunnels.

Jersey Emerald has capacity for 16 fold future expansion in high quality granite while maintaining at least 400 m of overhead rock and while keeping storage vaults 300 m above the surrounding local water table. There is a large supply of nearby limestone for chemically treating the extracted acidic rock to prevent local environmental contamination.

The physical configuration of Jersey Emerald allows both gravity drainage and natural ventilation, both of which are essential features for the contemplated nuclear waste storage facility.

Use of Jersey Emerald provides accessibility and excellent physical security while avoiding the problems in other DGRs related to water seepage, water pressure and ion diffusion.

Jersey Emerald is in a remote area with very little population. Jersey Emerald and a surrounding 20,000 hectare (50,000 acre) exclusion zone can be purchased for about $167,500,000.

The risk is failure of the NWMO and OPG to act before a foreign controlled entity gains complete title control of Jersey Emerald, its town site, its 4000 hectare security zone and its 20,000 hectare exclusion zone and then raises the purchase price 100 fold.

Jersey Emerald has favorable positioning with respect to the US border, the Columbia River, existing population centers, aboriginal land claims and local water courses which enhances its attractiveness from a political and safety perspective. Due to continuous subsurface mineral rights claims owned by Sultan Minerals Inc., Jersey Emerald can potentially be accessed from the USA without passing through space controlled by the government of British Columbia. Jersey Emerald is about 40 km from Trail, which is a major bulk toxic material processing centre.

Jersey Emerald is usable as a default Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) if future circumstances so dictate. The planned new Jersey Emerald storage vaults are in a major crack free high density granite mountain containing a large existing network of truck size tunnels located at least 400 m below grade and at least 300 m above the local water table. These tunnels and vaults gravity drain via sumps that permit easy on-going detection and capture of any radio isotope leakage from any of the nuclear waste storage containers.
 

This web page last updated March 7, 2017

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