First prototype delivered for Deep Isolation

By 29 February 2024 April 9th, 2024 Nuclear AMRC news

Deep Isolation and partners including the Nuclear AMRC have completed the manufacture of a full-size prototype canister for the safe geological disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in deep boreholes.

The corrosion-resistant canister, measuring nearly 5 metres in length and weighing over 2,000 kg, has been manufactured by the Nuclear AMRC in Rotherham, with support from Lancashire-based Graham Engineering.

US-based Deep Isolation is developing a range of technologies to safely encapsulate and dispose of radioactive spent fuel within deep borehole repositories located up to three kilometres underground.

“This has been an exciting project for us, and a great example of US-UK partnership on nuclear waste disposal,” said Chris Parker, Managing Director of Deep Isolation EMEA.  “We already had a detailed engineering design for our disposal canister that we knew would meet regulatory requirements for safe, permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel. With the support of Nuclear AMRC’s world class team, technologies, and UK partners, we now know how to refine the design to enable highly efficient manufacturing at scale.”

This important milestone was marked with a site visit to Nuclear AMRC’s facilities by Chris Parker and Matthew Ryan Tucker, the project’s monitoring officer from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, which is sponsoring this work through the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund.  The full project team met to see the completed prototype before it is shipped to the US for field testing.

Deep Isolation prototype canister with the team responsible for its production

The canister design, driven by US fuel cycle specialist NAC International Inc, has also been verified as meeting current UK regulatory requirements as part of the project.

In the next phase of the project, the canister will be subjected to field testing at the Deep Borehole Demonstration Center’s test facility.

“It is exciting to have the world’s first fully-engineered deep borehole disposal canister coming for testing,” said Ted Garrish, Executive Director of the center. “The Deep Borehole Demonstration Center is a non-profit, multinational initiative to demonstrate all aspects of this important technology for nuclear waste disposal, and I am delighted that Deep Isolation has chosen to test their canister here – and that both the UK Government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and the US Government’s Department for Energy have committed grant funding to support this vital work.”

In parallel, the University of Sheffield will validate the safety performance of the canister design through performance modelling in generic UK geologic environments.

A second prototype is planned for manufacture by early 2025, which will incorporate any design modifications derived from this testing and modelling programme, and from the Nuclear AMRC’s design-for-manufacture review to capture any improvements to the design that will make it more cost effective to produce at scale.

  • To find out more about the Nuclear AMRC’s work with Deep Isolation on design for manufacturing and prototyping, download our Q1 newsletter.