Reducing the risk and liability of growing nuclear waste inventories

At hundreds of sites and locations around the world, radioactive used nuclear fuel is sitting in temporary dry casks and pools, according to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA). Although a pencil-eraser-sized pellet of nuclear fuel produces as much energy as 2,000 pounds of coal, there are no permanent repositories for retrievable underground storage or final disposal anywhere in the world.

Today, there is an alternative solution being developed for disposal of used nuclear fuel rods from commercial power plants, as well as defense-related high-level waste. Bechtel is working with Deep Isolation, Inc. to accelerate the deployment of their innovative and patented technology to safely isolate used nuclear fuel rods and high-level radioactive waste in deep geologic boreholes. 

Using technology developed in the oil and gas industry, it’s now possible to drill down thousands of feet, and then slowly turn the borehole to horizontal so that canisters can be lowered into the hole and safely sealed deep underground, below any water table.

Bechtel was the first major industry player that understood the significance of what Deep Isolation is doing. They appreciate the importance of innovation and urgency in solving the nuclear waste problem. - Elizabeth Muller, CEO of Deep Isolation

Solution Life Cycle


1. Foundation Study

This complete report delivers an IAEA-compliant evidential base with a fully costed business case. We conduct a comprehensive feasibility assessment that includes:

  • Initial analysis to investigate suitable locations
  • A delivery roadmap that considers regulatory requirements
  • A map of the stakeholder environment

2. Operational Readiness Program

This stage demonstrates a working solution with community engagement, site characterization, and a test drillhole. Cold operations review for fuel transfer, placement, retrievability and safety procedures can also be completed with our technology partners and local providers.

3. Disposal 

As the final step, the deep drillhole repository is operationalized including fuel assembly transfer into custom-fit canisters, and emplacement. This includes:

  • Regulatory compliance
  • Continued stakeholder engagement
  • Repository monitoring
  • Material handling activities
  • Retrieval procedures 

As part of the Deep Isolation team, Bechtel will provide project management, business, and engineering capability for company’s sales in U.S. and other country markets, including those with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Deep Isolation will provide options to support Bechtel’s cleanup work at federal government sites around the country.

Bechtel’s history of full-lifecycle services to the nuclear industry dates to the 1950s. We designed, built, or provided services to nearly 80 percent of U.S. nuclear power plants. At the back end of the lifecycle, we led the scientific characterization, engineering, and licensing efforts for the U.S. Department of Energy’s national repository program at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. In addition, Bechtel completed the engineering and design of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico – the nation’s only operating disposal facility for defense-generated transuranic waste.


Why Deep Isolation?

Read more on Deep Isolation