SIOUX FALLS (AP) Four companies will pursue the possibility of conducting a test to determine whether nuclear waste can be buried far underground , federal energy officials announced Monday, months after two prospective sites in the Dakotas were abandoned over local opposition.
The U.S. Department of Energy said the companies will explore potential sites for the test in South Dakota, Texas and New Mexico. Only one company will eventually carry out the borehole field test, which at no point will involve the use of actual nuclear waste.
California-based AECOM is exploring a field test site in Texas, while RESPEC is pursuing a site in South Dakota, where it is based. New Mexico-based TerranearPMC and Georgiabased ENERCON are looking at sites in New Mexico.
Boreholes are narrow, vertical holes that are drilled into the earth usually to determine the geological characteristics of the rock below. The proposed test is meant to assess whether nuclear waste can be stored in approximately 3-mile-deep holes.
"It is important to note there will be no nuclear waste used as part of this project nor will the site for the field test be used for future nuclear waste disposal," said Andy Griffith, deputy assistant secretary in the department's Office of Nuclear Energy. Griffith declined to name the communities where the companies are pursing the sites, but said they will be revealed in the near future.
Waste from commercial reactors in the U.S. now is stored onsite at nuclear power plants. The waste generated from defense activities is kept at a few secure locations.
The federal government for decades has researched possible sites for a permanent disposal site, including at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, but the country still lacks a repository for waste disposal .
The Department of Energy is emphasizing the absence of radioactive material in the project after communities in the Dakotas rebuffed the idea earlier this year over confusion and skepticism.