Deep Borehole Field Test Environmental Assessment

Philip, SD
Department of Energy

In December 2016, the Department of Energy selected RESPEC, a South Dakota-based company, as one of four companies to begin exploring the possibility of conducting a deep borehole field test (DBFT). The project research will provide first-hand knowledge on whether or not a deep borehole can be considered as a viable solution for the challenge of safe, long-term disposal and storage of radioactive material. The project will 1) evaluate methods to sample deep groundwater and test for its age and chemistry, 2) identify the location and distribution of fractures in the borehole, 3) measure flow in the borehole, and 4) evaluate drilling and engineering capabilities. RESPEC’s proposal included a drill site located on 15 acres northeast of Philip, South Dakota. In this project, the borehole would be used to sample rocks and groundwater. The proposed hole, which will be 8 inches in diameter and approximately 3 miles deep, will require 7 months of drilling and up to 2 years total, including the experiments. If the first borehole is successful, a second research borehole of 17-inch diameter may be considered to the same depth. Presently, RESPEC is involved in Phase 1 of the DBFT project which includes both community outreach and environmental assessment (EA) components. Our project approach is to obtain relevant environmental information for the site, identify potential impacts, and provide appropriate mitigation measures. The EA review includes a multi-disciplinary team to address air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geology, land use, noise, socioeconomics, and water resources.