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Thread: Send nuclear waste to the sun?

  1. #1 Send nuclear waste to the sun? 
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    Might it be possible to safely dispose of nuclear waste by sending it into the sun?

    Firstly we would need a safe way of delivering the Toxic waste into space.
    I believe that this could be achieved by building, an elevator into space using material durable enough to withstand the immense stress in getting there. This would be much safer than sending it by rocket.
    Secondly, once the cargo is delivered into space at a safe distance, it should then be attached to a rocket barge and then sent toward the sun.

    This idea i'm sure has already been concieved, but I would appreciate any opinions toward this concept; if only to humour this thought that i've had.
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    1 there is no material to build your space elivator
    2 even if you did the cost per Kg of garbage launched would be ASTRNOMICAL
    3 Bury the crap in Yucca mountain NV, it's already been built.


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  4. #3  
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    I like the idea of getting nuclear waste to the sun, but i dont know about the elevator idea. Just being realistic, I dont think in our age, we have enough technology to get something that high. Space starts around 76 miles above the surface of the earth. so. I honestly dont think its possible to keep something steady, going that high.

    I do agree with you on the idea that rockets, are not a good way to get waste out, if it were to explode and launch all the waste into our atmosphere. etc.


    Good general idea though

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    The big problem with this idea is that even once you get the waste away from the Earth, you can't just "drop" it into the Sun. Once it leaves the Earth it is still in orbit around the Sun and in an orbit that crosses the Earth's orbit. After a time you would find it right back in our lap. In order to have it actually hit the Sun, you have to shed almost all of the Earth's orbital velocity of 30 km/sec (compared to the Earth's escape velocity of 11km/sec). This means that it would rake a lot more to get it to the Sun than it took to lift it away from the Earth
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  6. #5 Re: Send nuclear waste to the sun? 
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    Yeah, as ironic as it sounds, you'd actually have to expend energy pushing it out of orbit around the sun in order to get it to fall in. We could probably do something like that, however. Or: how about this?: Lets drop it on the Moon.

    The Moon has no eco system, no atmosphere, no water ways. If you drop a bunch of waste into a crater on the Moon, it won't affect anything ever. Better yet, it might actually be of some use to us up there.


    Quote Originally Posted by quantumintel
    Might it be possible to safely dispose of nuclear waste by sending it into the sun?

    Firstly we would need a safe way of delivering the Toxic waste into space.
    I believe that this could be achieved by building, an elevator into space using material durable enough to withstand the immense stress in getting there. This would be much safer than sending it by rocket.
    Secondly, once the cargo is delivered into space at a safe distance, it should then be attached to a rocket barge and then sent toward the sun.

    This idea i'm sure has already been concieved, but I would appreciate any opinions toward this concept; if only to humour this thought that i've had.
    "Women should be obscene and not heard" Groucho Marx.
    How about instead of a space elevator, lets use nuclear powered rockets. The risks are the same sending waste up conventionally as sending it up using nuclear fuel as the motivating force. Either way, it's big mess if the thing crashes.
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    How about just educating people to the fact that burying it in Yucca mountain is perfectly safe?
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    Right on Harold, All of the launch schems are inherintly more costly and technially goofy to work. Yucca mountain is more of a political football than technical.
    Lets hope that reason prevails.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    How about just educating people to the fact that burying it in Yucca mountain is perfectly safe?
    ..... We might have better luck launching it into the Sun..... :wink:

    People seem to like believing they're in danger.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    How about just educating people to the fact that burying it in Yucca mountain is perfectly safe?
    My understanding is that the issue is transporting the stuff to the mountain. No one wants a shipment of nuclear waste going through their town.

    Of course, this issue exists regardless of how you dispose of it, unless you just bury it at the reactor site.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Numsgil
    My understanding is that the issue is transporting the stuff to the mountain. No one wants a shipment of nuclear waste going through their town.

    Of course, this issue exists regardless of how you dispose of it, unless you just bury it at the reactor site.
    Nothing ever happened with a transport of nuclear waste despite all the greenies hindering them.
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    How much has been transported vs. how much needs to be transported? When I learned about it in Highschool years ago, we had a debate in science class and I remember one of the talking points was that it would represent an unparalleled mobilization of the nuclear waste in the country.

    Note I'm just playing devil's advocate. I don't have any particularly strong feelings one way or another.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bender
    Nothing ever happened with a transport of nuclear waste despite all the greenies hindering them.
    You mean greenies like John McCain: "I would never allow nuclear waste to be transported through Arizona."

    (not exact quote, but paraphrased.)
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    How does the fuel get to the reactors to begin with, Scotty just beams it over?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janus
    The big problem with this idea is that even once you get the waste away from the Earth, you can't just "drop" it into the Sun. Once it leaves the Earth it is still in orbit around the Sun and in an orbit that crosses the Earth's orbit. After a time you would find it right back in our lap. In order to have it actually hit the Sun, you have to shed almost all of the Earth's orbital velocity of 30 km/sec (compared to the Earth's escape velocity of 11km/sec). This means that it would rake a lot more to get it to the Sun than it took to lift it away from the Earth
    Yeah, it would actually take a lot less energy (or velocity change, or however you want to measure it) to send something out of the solar system at above the sun's escape velocity than it would take to send something toward the sun.

    But as others have said, the best option is obviously to bury it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fizzlooney
    How does the fuel get to the reactors to begin with, Scotty just beams it over?
    It's much less mass and volume to bring it to the plant. Using the fuel irradiates lots of other things beyond just the fuel, and all of these also need to be disposed of and are part of the umbrella term "nuclear waste".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Numsgil
    It's much less mass and volume to bring it to the plant. Using the fuel irradiates lots of other things beyond just the fuel, and all of these also need to be disposed of and are part of the umbrella term "nuclear waste".
    That's very low radioactive waste which is barely harmful. They can store it in my garden shed if they put a mm of lead around it.

    Hospitals produce a lot more of that stuff than nuclear plants.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by fizzlooney
    How does the fuel get to the reactors to begin with, Scotty just beams it over?
    The really nasty stuff in reactor waste is the lanthanides and actinides that are produced as nuclear decay when the reactor fuel is fissioned. Those aren't present when the nuclear fuel is originally sent to the plant.

    Of course, the sane thing to do would be to separate the really bad stuff (lanthanides and actinides) from the much, much less hazardous stuff in the waste and treat them differently when you dispose of them. But no one does that in the USA or Russia, because it would be expensive. So instead they just bury all of it.

    So far as I know, France and Japan are the only ones who actually process their waste like that.
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    Unfortunately anything nuke in the US transcends reason and common sense. It's a political football.

    In the distant future sending stuff into orbit might be workable but it certainly isnít now. For the space elevator ides to work, even if we had one, youíd still have to transport the waste it to the base of the elevator which would probably be in some marginally unstable equatorial nation. You still have to launch it from the top, and our rockets arenít too reliable as of yet, nor are they arenít very green as they put their own chemicals into the atmosphere.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by fizzlooney
    How does the fuel get to the reactors to begin with, Scotty just beams it over?
    The fuel isn't dangerous. Uranium will maybe give you cancer you if you work with it for like a year or something.

    The products of the reaction are what get really dangerous. You split those Uranium atoms apart, and they don't always split exactly down the middle. You get a reasonably wide range of elements from the reaction. Then on top of that, the reaction is really hot, so they mix in some dangerous ways to form stuff that's pretty poisonous, even if it weren't radio active.
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    Yes, it's the fission products that are dangerous. But I think the fears of anything having to do with radioactivity are greatly exaggerated, possibly from people watching too many Grade B Japanese horror films.

    The EPA has declared that the repository has to be designed for a million years. In reality, the waste will be decayed to about the same toxicity of uranium ore after about 10,000 years. Is it dangerous for a million years? I guess you could say that, but then so is the ore it was made from.

    People dream up all kinds of nightmare scenarios about transporting the waste. Those casks are designed to withstand the impact of a freight train. No, you can't have a 100% guarantee. There's also no guarantee you won't be run over by a bus. You probably drive past trucks loaded with hazardous material every day. Nobody stays up nights worryiing about that stuff.

    Is it safer to have the waste stored at over 100 nuclear plants around the country? Put it in the ground and be done with it.

    As far as the rocket idea is concerned, you would have to transport the waste to your rocket launch site, too.
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    Sending the spent nuclear fuel into space it wasteful.

    About 95% of the spent fuel is unburned Uranium, and another 3% are transuranic elements likes Plutonium, Americium, Radium, etc. Both Uranium and these transuranics can be put back into a nuclear reactor and used as nuclear fuel. Current reactors are not optimised to burn transuranics but there is no reason that new reactors can not be designed to do so.

    Most of the remaining 2~3% of the spent fuel is stable or has very short half lives (1~2 years or less). The notable exceptions are Cs-137, Sr-90, and Tc-99. We can destroy Tc-99 in accelerators, which leaves Cs-137 and Sr-90. There's not a lot we can do with these two isotopes but they have make up a tiny fraction of the spent fuel, and have half lives of ~30 years.

    The real question is where do we store the waste until we start reprocessing and recycling. For this Yucca mountain is not ideal. We would be burring the waste only to dig it 20~30 years latter. Actually storing the waste on-site where it is created has proven to work well. We have been doing this for 50+ years without incident. The problem is the storage facilities at each of the plants were designed assuming the government would carry through on its promise, and have a centralised repository up and running by now. But we don't, and these facilities are filling up rapidly.

    Then we need a small facility to store the left over Cs and Sr. But the design requirements of such a facility are easier to meet. The facility would only have house a tiny fraction of the current waste, and would only have to do so for 200~300 years. After that the waste would have decayed away to stable isotopes and would no longer pose a threat.

    -Sorry for the essay.
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    I'm thinking we probably won't bother ourselves to reprocess until the cost of digging up more uranium outweighs the cost of reprocessing the old. Sounds like there's a big advantage to waiting, too, if the waste gets slightly less dangerous to handle after 30 years.


    One concern I hear a lot of whining about is the possibility of a terrorist group acquiring the waste. Either by waylaying a truck, or stealing it from a reprocessing plant, it seems providing security sufficient to put the public at ease will be an issue.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I'm thinking we probably won't bother ourselves to reprocess until the cost of digging up more uranium outweighs the cost of reprocessing the old. Sounds like there's a big advantage to waiting, too, if the waste gets slightly less dangerous to handle after 30 years.


    One concern I hear a lot of whining about is the possibility of a terrorist group acquiring the waste. Either by waylaying a truck, or stealing it from a reprocessing plant, it seems providing security sufficient to put the public at ease will be an issue.
    I agree with both points. I believe that safety and security of spent fuel has to be the top priority. And I have no problem with going the extra mile (within reason) beyond what is needed if it helps reassure the public that it is safe.
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  25. #24 witty remarks 
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    I'm up at midnight and I need to make jokes about this:

    Why not dump the waste into a volcano?
    Why not let humans eat the waste and turn into superheroes?
    Why not liquidize the waste and put it in a hippie begone solution?
    Why can't we just flush the waste down the toilet?

    Jokes end Here

    Guys! Radioactive waste isn't that dangerous!

    We'll make fusion work by the time the elevator is built.

    Breeder Reactors are possible, the problem is their feasibility.

    The energy to transport the waste to the sun would be more than what the materials that became the waste produced

    Dude, nice idea though. I find it really annoying when people disprove what I say also.
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  26. #25 Re: witty remarks 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duelix
    I'm up at midnight and I need to make jokes about this:

    Why not dump the waste into a volcano?
    Why not let humans eat the waste and turn into superheroes?
    Why not liquidize the waste and put it in a hippie begone solution?
    Why can't we just flush the waste down the toilet?


    .
    Best solution I heard along those lines:

    Make money out of it.

    People wouldn't tend to hoard it, thus keeping it in circulation making for a healthy economy.
    The radiation would kill all those nasty germs people pass along with the exchange of money.

    It would add new meaning to the phrase: "money burning a hole in your pocket"
    "Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feelings for the strength of their argument.
    The heated mind resents the chill touch & relentless scrutiny of logic"-W.E. Gladstone


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  27. #26 Re: witty remarks 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janus
    Make money out of it.

    People wouldn't tend to hoard it, thus keeping it in circulation making for a healthy economy.
    The radiation would kill all those nasty germs people pass along with the exchange of money.
    Some people did indeed make a lot of money selling "healthy" radioactive water, or even devices to produce it:
    http://www.orau.org/ptp/articlesstories/quackstory.htm
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    Going back to the OP and summing up what others have said the answer is this:

    The amount of energy spent on sending spent nuclear fuel to the sun would be greater than the amount of energy harnessed from that fuel.
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  29. #28  
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    Why bother sending it to the sun? Take the nuclear waste and deposit it from where it was mined where it's already a radioactive area which is cut off from the public?

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  30. #29  
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    Still the most viable solution is bury it at Yucca Mtn. putting it back in mines is not feasible!
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    Probably space propulsion technologies will improve some time in the next 50,000 years. It's not like we need to store the waste forever.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    What everyone failed to see is: every day radioactive fuel is being refined and exported from mining company by the amount of tonnes, and it don't stop even after the Fukushima disaster. It is a private industries and they always produce profit by selling radioactive fuel and they will continue to produce them every single day. My point is: if radioactive fuel demand is not sequestered (by the company that run nuclear reactor), then supplier will keep refining more and more radioactive fuel (by the number of tonnes) and it won't stop (just like other profitting company do).

    Ok, lets say the radioactive core is secured & safe in the reactor that is build.... But what is your projection about the radioactive-fuel (in tonnes) being continuously produced by mining company every day? Company that hold responsibility for the surplus nuclear fuel and nuclear waste must hold that responsibility for at least 50,000 YEARS, which sound illogical because no company lasted that long...

    Radioative waste is not total government responsibility as you imagined it, but it is a responsibility of private industries that tried to comply to government's regulation.

    EDIT: and they even transport radioactive fuel in a regular fuel trailer. You can even detect the radiation with geiger counter when you pass them by. But of course.... trailer rarely crash, and that's why radioative fuel never spill during transport.
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    just thrown it in the nearest black hole....thats what i do,works everytime
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  34. #33  
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    Quote Originally Posted by quantumintel View Post
    Might it be possible to safely dispose of nuclear waste by sending it into the sun?

    Firstly we would need a safe way of delivering the Toxic waste into space.
    I believe that this could be achieved by building, an elevator into space using material durable enough to withstand the immense stress in getting there. This would be much safer than sending it by rocket.
    Secondly, once the cargo is delivered into space at a safe distance, it should then be attached to a rocket barge and then sent toward the sun.

    This idea i'm sure has already been concieved, but I would appreciate any opinions toward this concept; if only to humour this thought that i've had.
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    Quote Originally Posted by msafwan View Post
    What everyone failed to see is: every day radioactive fuel is being refined and exported from mining company by the amount of tonnes, and it don't stop even after the Fukushima disaster. It is a private industries and they always produce profit by selling radioactive fuel and they will continue to produce them every single day. My point is: if radioactive fuel demand is not sequestered (by the company that run nuclear reactor), then supplier will keep refining more and more radioactive fuel (by the number of tonnes) and it won't stop (just like other profitting company do).
    The fuel itself is only refined up to around 5x the natural content of U235. In order to make a proper nuclear bomb, you need at least 10 times that amount of refinement (50x). A dirty bomb is certainly possible with less, though.


    Ok, lets say the radioactive core is secured & safe in the reactor that is build.... But what is your projection about the radioactive-fuel (in tonnes) being continuously produced by mining company every day? Company that hold responsibility for the surplus nuclear fuel and nuclear waste must hold that responsibility for at least 50,000 YEARS, which sound illogical because no company lasted that long...

    Radioative waste is not total government responsibility as you imagined it, but it is a responsibility of private industries that tried to comply to government's regulation.
    Probably if we allow our political process to move any further toward being dominated by lobbyists, that will end up becoming dangerous. They'll just send lobbyists to Washington with PHAT checks, and bogus studies behind them to convince lawmakers to lower the standards and save money.

    Either that, or they'll finally get the government to just step in and handle it for them, much to the dismay of all of us taxpayers.
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    I think it would be easier and more practical to find a way to "recycle" nuclear waste.
    Yes it is hard, but if i had to choose between investing in a giant elevator or investing in research, I'd choose research.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wolfman View Post
    Sending the spent nuclear fuel into space it wasteful.

    About 95% of the spent fuel is unburned Uranium, and another 3% are transuranic elements likes Plutonium, Americium, Radium, etc. Both Uranium and these transuranics can be put back into a nuclear reactor and used as nuclear fuel. Current reactors are not optimised to burn transuranics but there is no reason that new reactors can not be designed to do so.

    Most of the remaining 2~3% of the spent fuel is stable or has very short half lives (1~2 years or less). The notable exceptions are Cs-137, Sr-90, and Tc-99. We can destroy Tc-99 in accelerators, which leaves Cs-137 and Sr-90. There's not a lot we can do with these two isotopes but they have make up a tiny fraction of the spent fuel, and have half lives of ~30 years.

    The real question is where do we store the waste until we start reprocessing and recycling. For this Yucca mountain is not ideal. We would be burring the waste only to dig it 20~30 years latter. Actually storing the waste on-site where it is created has proven to work well. We have been doing this for 50+ years without incident. The problem is the storage facilities at each of the plants were designed assuming the government would carry through on its promise, and have a centralised repository up and running by now. But we don't, and these facilities are filling up rapidly.

    Then we need a small facility to store the left over Cs and Sr. But the design requirements of such a facility are easier to meet. The facility would only have house a tiny fraction of the current waste, and would only have to do so for 200~300 years. After that the waste would have decayed away to stable isotopes and would no longer pose a threat.

    -Sorry for the essay.
    But Prince is LIKING the essay, dotcomrade! Adding such hazardous isotopes to the liquid fuel of thorium molten salt reactors is feasible. Neutron bombardment and beta decay would transmute them. In conventional reactors, a certain percentage of U238 is actually transmuted to Plutonium which then acts as fuel- "breeder reactors" simply optimize this phenomenon. Liquid fuel is superior for most applications and to Prince reactors are no exception.

    TVA this date voted to build another nuclear reactor, unfortunately not thorium based, but still progressive. Great thread, and space elevator is still good idea, among others of the great Tsiolkovsky.

    Konstantin Tsiolkovsky - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Just Drop it of at the Chernobyl Plant.
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    The biggest problem for nuclear waste is the ill educated public about how dangerous it really is, a good proportion of the nuclear waste is low grade waste and has the same radiactivity as low sodium salt you may find in your cupboard if your keen to keep that blood pressure down, they bulk it up with potassium chloride which contains 0.01 potassium -40 a radio active isotope a teaspoon of low sodium salt will usually give out a reading on the GM detector of about 120 CPM's which is 14 times the normal background radiation and in itself isnt an issue due to its half life been 1.28 billion yrs so having low activity, but the point im making is the mis-interpreted image the public has of radio-activity and its dangers has in its fundamental sense kept this post going for months on end and to which ive put my chalkmark on too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkwood View Post
    The biggest problem for nuclear waste is the ill educated public about how dangerous it really is, a good proportion of the nuclear waste is low grade waste
    So the ill-educated public should not be concerned about the good proportion of nuclear waste that isn't low level then?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Darkwood View Post
    The biggest problem for nuclear waste is the ill educated public about how dangerous it really is, a good proportion of the nuclear waste is low grade waste
    So the ill-educated public should not be concerned about the good proportion of nuclear waste that isn't low level then?
    My post was highlighting the basics of public knowledge regarding Radio-activity leading to unnecessary fears, protests and misleading media coverage. Yes! when you are talking about the high grade nuclear waste then this is where the public fears and concerns can be justified as your effectively leaving a dangerous legacy for many future generations no matter how safely its stored. We as a race has evolved in a world with natural background radiation with some areas having much higher natural readings than others but there has been no trends of higher cancer rates in these areas even though they are exposed to much higher backgrounds throughout their lifespan.
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    a very creative idea but rather very diffult to make it happen n even if we did suceed then the cost of garbage will be a lot more than what was used to produce the waste
    anyway a very creative idea
    -anurag
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