Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Boreholes may have other uses


February 15, 2017

Two companies want to combine forces to drill one or two boreholes three miles deep near Nara Visa to test whether boreholes might be part of the solution to the nation’s high-level nuclear waste problem.

The ultra-deep Nara Visa test holes would be an experiment to find out if they are even doable, according to Marc Eckles, the DOSECC drilling company’s project manager for the proposed deep pokes.

DOSECC would work with Enercon, the company that is seeking to win the borehole contract from the U.S. Department of Energy, which eventually must pick a method and site for safely storing nuclear waste for thousands of years.

While I’m convinced the DOE would never put nuclear waste in Nara Visa (too many people, too much water around), I still have to wonder what you can do with three-mile-deep boreholes, one of which would be just a little wider than a 45-rpm record all the way down.

It seems to me that 100 years ago, you would have heard the same question about the semiconducting properties of silicon wafers, now the basis of computers and the electronic revolution.

Here are some ideas of how a three-mile deep pinhole could be used:

Tucumcari High School is heated and cooled with a “heat pump” that relies on narrow holes a few hundred feet deep, where temperatures are constant. The heat pump only has to send a little heat in or take it back to keep things comfortable, making it energy-efficient.

Since the temperature at 3 miles down is likely to stay around 75 degrees Fahrenheit year round, the borehole could accommodate a heat pump for, say, a greenhouse.

Another possibility from Eckles himself is power generation. There are ways to generate electricity that use small temperature changes to turn liquid to gas that can run a turbine generator, then cool back to liquid in a closed cycle.

Some scientists and engineers might develop chemical processes that require constant low heat and darkness.

My intellect and imagination are limited, but wider, deeper minds can come up with greater ideas for deep, narrow boreholes.

Currently, DOSECC and Enercon plan to prepare the holes for science and education and would cooperate to assure the site would be equipped to be a “borehole observatory.”

And, who knows? If all else fails, the narrow hole could be a great place to archive a huge stack of old 45s.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: stevenmhansen@plateautel.net


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