Ed Schafer: Deep Borehole Project Is Safe And Has My Suppprt


As president of UND, I support the Deep Borehole Project that has been proposed for Pierce County, N.D., by the UND Energy and Environmental Research Center, Batelle Memorial Institute and Schlumberger.

I have met with EERC leadership and discussed this project, as well as reviewed the proposal prepared by the EERC, and I am convinced of two things:

  • This project is safe for the citizens of Pierce County and North Dakota.
  • We will learn a great deal about the deep substrata of our state.

The Deep Borehole Project stems from a U.S. Department of Energy request for proposals to gather engineering and scientific information to help them determine whether disposing of nuclear materials within a deep borehole has technical merit.

To be clear, there is no radioactive material involved in this project. The proposal focuses on gaining a better understanding of the feasibility of drilling a hole deep enough — 16,000 feet — to help scientists learn more about the general characteristics of these types of rocks at these deep levels. This will help researchers better understand the potential impacts of deep storage systems.

The EERC identified a site in Pierce County that would provide an excellent location to study the science and engineering in a cost-effective manner. This site provides an ideal area to look at drilling through both sedimentary material and bedrock.

At the end of the project, the borehole will be filled in with cement, permanently capped, and the site reclaimed to its original state. No residual materials of any type would be stored there after, above or below the site. The request for proposals is focused strictly on developing engineering and scientific information.

Put simply—it’s all about the science.

The project will help us gain a better understanding of the bedrock underlying this region and state. And I am confident that gaining such knowledge is in our best interests.

These rocks are currently being mined (at much shallower depths) for iron ore in Minnesota, nickel in Manitoba and gold and diamonds in Ontario. I have confidence that the EERC, being a North Dakota agency, will conduct a safe, responsible and valuable test for us.