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Thread: the nuclear waste non-issue?

  1. #1 the nuclear waste non-issue? 
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    it seems fairly obvious to me that if we want to rid ourselves the burden of fossil fuels, then at present we have only one real option- nuclear power. i hope that one day renewable energy can power everything cleanly and efficiently, or perhaps some as yet undiscoved resource ( zero-point energy, anyone?). but our present infrastruture meshes nicely with expanded nuclear power.

    there are many benefits to updated systems, and hardly a draw back. i could go into benefits, but for now i'll focus on fission's Achilles' heel- radioactive waste. disposal underground seems too much like the cartoonish cliche of sweeping your trash under the rug. at some point these storage sights will be problematic, hopefully long from now. and sending this radiological refuse into orbit is far too tricky and expensive right?

    well, i contend that all of this messy rocketry isn't needed to dispose of nuclear waste. it is my understanding that most nuclear fuel is in the form of small pellets, stored in meters-long rods. first, coat these pellets with a durable coating, something cheap, like aluminum oxide. a very thin coating would be sufficient, aluminum oxide is quite stable, it is what sapphires are made of. seal the pellets in a sturdy container and then blast them into the sun. trust me, with the Sun's kind of girth, all the uranium in the world ten times over wouldn't even be a blip on the sun's radar.

    but how to accomplish this feat? simple. design an enormous railgun. aim. shoot. even if the delivery vehicle, which would be essentially a giant sled, were to fail, the absence of volitile propellents would allow the cargo to fall back to earth unscathed, across a fairly confined path. needless to say, nobody would want to live underneath the flight path, but clean up would be quick and straight forward. time the delivery right and the sun will gladly ingest our slop.

    that's the plan anyway. anyone got a couple of billion lying around so we can get started?

    what do you guys think?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Freshman kestasjk's Avatar
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    Propelling things into the sun takes a lot of energy, and it would be a waste of energy since it would be less safe that the methods we've got now. What's wrong with burying it?


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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    the storage sites are suseptable to decay, sabotage, or other types of damage that may release the waste into the environment.

    and i'm fairly certain that the energy needed to ramp up an electromagnetic launch system is fairly small compared to the amount of energy produced by the waste it rids us of.

    plus the launch system could also be used to launch other payloads such as spacestation components or raw materials into orbit or beyond.

    also, the out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach rubs many political and genuine environmentalists the wrong way, and these people stand in the way of new plant construction. blasting the waste away from earth might alleviate some of their concerns.
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    Forum Isotope (In)Sanity's Avatar
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    What happens if a payload fails to leave orbit ? Hmmm
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    Forum Freshman Geodesic's Avatar
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    Firstly, current railguns only fire relatively small pellets - disposing of waste at that rate is no solution at all. Secondly, the last time I looked, the highest muzzle speed for any railgun was 3km/s, which isn't enough to even get into orbit, which leads us to the final point - it takes an awful lot of energy to get something to the sun as essentially you have to counteract the Earth's velocity relative to the sun.
    In my assessment, we're at least ten years off being able to do this at all, and the wisdom in spending huge amounts of energy to remove this waste escapes me.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    i don't really understand why you guys think this will use so much energy. the amount of energy it takes to get the space shuttle into orbit is large, but compared to the output of even a single power plant is small.

    and also, escape velocity is something like mach 25 right? thats only like 3 or 4 miles a second, which is fast, but scramjets have broken mach 10 with ease and can probably go much faster. pulse detonation is even better. so why couldn't electromagnetics, which can travel at the speed of light, be able to accelerate a mass to escape velocity?
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  8. #7  
    Forum Freshman kestasjk's Avatar
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    • The reason burying *can be* dangerous is because executives want to cut corners on safety measures to increase their salary. This method of waste disposal is full of corners which could be cut back on to make a few people lots of money and a put lot of people at risk.
    • I feel much safer with the waste 5 meters below the ground in a desert that hurtling through the sky at mach 5.
    • The average nuclear plant makes about 250 tons (250,000 kilos) of waste per year. It costs *at least* $1000 per kilo launched into space.


    I look forward to your counter arguments.
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  9. #8  
    Forum Sophomore spidergoat's Avatar
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    Burying nuclear waste can be safe, provided that everyone remembers where we put it. But, since it takes 500 years, I think, to be safe, it is possible that people won't remember.

    I think blasting the stuff into space is a bad idea, sometimes the rockets blow up. Nuclear fission is a better idea, if we could get it to work well.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    ^please to read posts first.

    people will always line their pockets before properly lining anything else.

    i think that unranium has a half life of something like 500 years. it would be many thousands of years before a storage site would become enviromentally benign. i think that the safety of burying waste is only a perception, and once the delivery system is built, the cost of launching waste as well as other materials off planet would become relatively low.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Freshman esoterik_appeal's Avatar
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    my idea for the delivery system is a long straight rail that lets the curveture of the earth fall away from it. from the ground it would appear to curve skyward. place it in a region where the spin of the earth would aim the rail sufficiently to put a mass on target for the sun, or just into orbit.

    now, place evenly spaced powerful circular electromagnets along the length of the rail, that are connected to large capacitors.

    the sled that will carry the mass to be delivered will be charged oppositely to the leading edge of the magnet, and thus the same as the trailing edge.

    when the sled passes through a loop, it triggers the magnet which releases a massive magnetic pulse just after the sled moves through it in order to accelerate the sled forward. each ring will further accelerate the sled until it reaches escape velocity.

    if need be, the track could be enclosed and air pressure inside lowered to a near vaccuum, but hopefully this wouldn't be needed as it would increase the cost greatly.

    ambitious? yes. impossible with current technology, not at all. it will just take a country with vision, something that Americans (of which i am one) are in dire need of.
    i found my calling today. it was in my pocket.
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  12. #11  
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    just fire the rail gun from space lol
    space = little friction, the waste wud travel a long while... but hu cares if it hits other planets we are disposing of it anyways.
    worst yet most unlikely thing is that 1/2 year later
    we get an unkown flying object we fired 6 months ago haha
    really unlikely

    oh yes, to make it more efficient....
    do it when u want to send a probe out...
    it shud give a good head start becos for every action there is and equal and oppostie reaction...
    just make sure not to aim ur nuke waste railgun engine @ our home
    but then the rocket fuel has to be clean becos it defeats the air pollution purpose of nuclear power station
    and nuke waste gonna be quite heavy
    no time for lots of things
    must save time
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  13. #12  
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    The uranium atoms are already here, and some day they will each randomly encounter a slow neutron that will split the atom, creating the radioactive fission products that everyone is so afraid of. So by mining the uranium, splitting the atoms and disposing of them safely, we are actually cleaning up the environment for future generations. Well, that is a pretty silly argument, but not any sillier than the arguments I have seen against burying the waste.

    The design basis for waste disposal was 20,000 years and a court ruled that wasn't long enough. Why? What kind of society do we envision will be here in 20,000 years? Will they have reverted to the stone age and have no radiation detectors? Will they have lost any technology capable of solving any problems?
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  14. #13  
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    The idea of using electromagnetic rail guns to fire things out into space is already being used in other problems. One remedy to global waring, whether or not it is viable, was to send special movable glass panels into orbit to deflect some of the suns rays. The main point is that to deliver these into space the scientists envisioned a geothgermal power plant to soley power this facility. The question of viability aside this is a perfectly possable solution to the waste problem

    Alhough the addition of nuclear waste to a giant thermonuclear reaction that is the sun over long periods of time suggests a possable increase in cosmic radiation or an increase in flares and so more problems on earth. I dont think you should just finish your plan at then it went into the sun. I would be intersted to see what effects such actions would produce.
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    Alhough the addition of nuclear waste to a giant thermonuclear reaction that is the sun over long periods of time suggests a possable increase in cosmic radiation or an increase in flares and so more problems on earth.
    Red, this is a science forum. Your posts should really have some basis in science.
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  16. #15  
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    Yeah, if you want to keep uranium out of terrorists' hands, then mine and react it all. The waste still makes a good dirty bomb, but at least they can't make a thermonuclear explosion.

    As for rail guns, I don't think you can rail gun stuff into space. Air friction would totally burn anything to a cinder if it tried to travel at mach 25 or faster in the lower atmosphere.

    I say put a giant powerplant complex in Antarctica. Convert all the energy to Hydrogen and float it away in huge Hydrogen blimps (towed by helium blimps so nobody's life is in peril).
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  17. #16  
    Red
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Alhough the addition of nuclear waste to a giant thermonuclear reaction that is the sun over long periods of time suggests a possable increase in cosmic radiation or an increase in flares and so more problems on earth.
    Red, this is a science forum. Your posts should really have some basis in science.
    Emm so I dnt mind being proved wrong especially when it is only my speculation i am putting forward but what scientifically false statement ae you reffering to? Sun produces energy amongst others heat energy through nuclear fusion therefore thermonuclear reaction. The addition of heavier unstable nuclides into the fusion reaction could possibley cause the creation of gamma emitters or uranium which would then be induced to fission by the lone neutrons from other reactions emitting further radiation which would reacht he earth along with the cosmic radiation from the sun (although that is not its only source incase thats your problem). If this was sustained for extended periods of time with large masses of waste i would believe that the cosmic radiation from the Sun would noticably increase. Increasing the dangers of daily life and especially aeroplane travel. Flares, something the reason for is not fully known so I am putting it out their that perhaps the increase mass of these elements may induce one. Perhaps not truly correct but the bases of my perception is obviousely from a sound scientific basis.

    Please I would like to know what your problem was as after all this is a science forum,as you say, so i presume you have something else to contribute apart from patronising comments?
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  18. #17  
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    Shooting nuclear waste into space (however you want to do it) would be a great way to dispose of it, but unfortunately there's too many nuclear-phobics in the world to even bring such an idea to the drawing boards. Nuclear rockets, a brilliant and efficient idea, have been all but scrapped because people take "nuclear rocket" and turn it into "nuclear warhead." The risk of radioactive fallout being significant enough from a failed nuclear rocket launch is incredibly low, but the masses are often pathetically stupid.

    Nuclear power has its benefits but it is very inefficient. We're better off with nuclear power in the short-run, but moving as quickly as we can to better forms of atomic power, such as inertial fusion power plants, or even fission (if we can get that to work). The Z machine at Sandia has already proven the feasibility of producing energy from an inertial fusion reactor, but we just have to figure out the best method for constructing a continuous-use reactor.

    There's a lot of ways to produce a lot of electricity cheaply, but the powers-that-be are so ingrained into oil that shifting them will likely take the loss of one or more major oil markets before they advocate anything else.

    Quote Originally Posted by Red
    Alhough the addition of nuclear waste to a giant thermonuclear reaction that is the sun over long periods of time suggests a possable increase in cosmic radiation or an increase in flares and so more problems on earth. I dont think you should just finish your plan at then it went into the sun. I would be intersted to see what effects such actions would produce.
    If you took all the waste produced by the Earth since the dawn of humanity, till now, and multiplied it by a 100 times, you still wouldn't have enough stuff to even phase the Sun. It's a common misconception that if we ever start launching nuclear waste into the Sun that it'll change it or cause it to blow up or whatever. All the nuclear waste and weapons we have now, tossed into the Sun, would have the same effect on the sun as a flea sneezing on an elephant.
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  19. #18  
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    Why not just build ISA Fast reactors?
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  20. #19  
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    In England they are still periodically eeking about the Sellofield outlet pipes. Although as you have probably guessed, there has never been even 1 confirmed ill effect from their waste products.

    you cant teach rationality to the ignorant.
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    You guys
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  21. #20  
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    MRI scans almost didn't make it into hospitals because they were originally called "NMRI's" with the "N" standing for Nuclear, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

    People wouldn't participate in anything that said "Nuclear." They had to change the name to just MRI.

    People can be stupid.
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  22. #21  
    Forum Ph.D. GhostofMaxwell's Avatar
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    Yes, precisely.
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  23. #22  
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    There seem to be some misconceptions about what “burying” nuclear waste really means. I think someone mentioned burying it under 5 metres of dirt. Nothing could be further from the actual scenario. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, (which is for military waste, not power plant waste, but the same principles should apply) is an example of what an engineered solution to this potential problem might really look like.

    Salt beds (the result of the evaporation of the Permian Sea 250 million years ago) at a depth of half a mile have been mined to produce galleries of salt caverns. The waste that emits the most penetrating radiation is remotely handled and placed into boreholes in the walls, then sealed with a concrete plug. Lower level wastes can be manually handled, and are stacked on the floors of the rooms in the gallery. Over time the salt creeps and will seal itself around the canisters. The salt beds are dry, and have been geologically stable for millions of years.

    When the site is finally sealed a 30 ft high rock berm will be built on the surface, with markers with warnings in several languages as well as pictorial depictions of the dangerous nature of the buried materials. (I doubt that this marker system is useful in a 10,000 year scenario, and may be more about political correctness than practicality.)

    There is a lot of concern about transportation of waste through cities, but again this is really unfounded. The containers are tremendously tough, and can survive almost any imaginable accident. They are tracked on their journeys by satellite.

    Nothing is impossible. A future civilization might dig half a mile into the ground to see what’s there. Terrorists might hijack a shipment. You have to weight these possibilities, which are remote in my opinion, against the alternatives.
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