Permanent storage in deep geological repositories is the current international standard for final disposal of nuclear waste, but in practice this solution has so far proven extremely difficult to accomplish.
The U.S. government has de-funded its deep geological repository at Yucca Mountain, and most nations have yet to begin development of similar facilities. Finland is the closest to successfully completing deep geological repository. Its Onkalo site is now in the final approval stage, and should begin accepting nuclear waste early in this decade.
Executives from U.S. startup Deep Isolation visited Taiwan last fall with an innovative solution that could serve as either interim or permanent storage. Deploying technologies developed in the oil and gas industry, it would use directional drilling approximately 1 kilometer deep and then another kilometer horizontally. The spent fuel would then be lowered down the borehole inside nickel-chromium-molybdenum alloy canisters.
Developed by University of California at Berkeley physicist Richard Muller, the solution is based on proven technologies. The canisters can even be retrieved. The company has yet to utilize the technology in an actual case, though, and Taipower may be wary of being first in the world to implement it.
In the meantime, Taiwan is continuing a search for its own site for a deep geological depository. The Atomic Energy Council hopes to have a site ready by 2055.
For now, however, the focus is on developing interim solutions for the spent fuel in the cooling pools. Both New Taipei City and Taipower are optimistic that solutions can be found.
“The election is over and the noise is quieting down, so maybe now will be a better time to solve the issue,” says Edward H.C. Chang (張學植), director of Tai-power’s Department of Nuclear Backend Management.