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Thermal Salt Sealing System, Phase I

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0020003
Agency Tracking Number: 245936
Amount: $196,925.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 34a
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0001941
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-07-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-03-31
Small Business Information
3824 Jet Drive, Rapid City, SD, 57703-4757
DUNS: 061530416
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Jay Nopola
 (605) 394-6551
Business Contact
 Philip Welling
Phone: (605) 394-6507
Research Institution
Long-term disposal of nuclear waste continues to be an issue of national and international importance. A 2012 Blue Ribbon Commission report to the Secretary of Energy states, .“..this nation’s failure to come to grips with the nuclear waste issue has already proved damaging and costly and it will be more damaging and more costly the longer it continues….” The proposed thermal salt sealing project provides a unique opportunity to develop a technology that can be used to isolate nuclear waste within a deep, impermeable underground salt formation. The knowledge acquired from this project has the potential to significantly contribute to the U.S. Department of Energy Used Fuel Disposition Campaign. The overall goal of this project is to design, test, and validate the thermal salt sealing system for nuclear waste disposal and conventional well plugging and abandonment. To achieve this goal, the project Work Plan will include three tasks: (1) numerical modeling of the thermal salt sealing process, (2) development and bench testing of several prototype borehole heaters, and (3) in situ field testing and post-analysis of the system within an active salt mine. As an outcome of these tasks, we expect to provide the U.S. Department of Energy and private industry with a thermal salt sealing technology that can create an impermeable and impervious barrier of native salt.The primary commercialization opportunity for our technology will likely occur through well plugging and abandonment in the salt cavern industry. Several thousand underground salt caverns have been solution-mined throughout the world. As these caverns age, they eventually reach the end of their economic life and must be plugged and abandoned to ensure human safety and avoid environmental risk. However, a suitable long-term solution does not currently exist for plugging and abandoning salt cavern wells. By developing and deploying our proposed thermal salt sealing technology, we will provide a suitable plugging-and-abandonment solution for salt cavern wells and capitalize this opportunity, while also protecting the environment and human safety.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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