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Can We Dispose of Radioactive Waste in Volcanoes?
Popular Science ^ | 2/17/2010 | Bjorn Carey

Posted on 02/20/2010 11:09:33 PM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld

Dumping all our nuclear waste in a volcano does seem like a neat solution for destroying the roughly 29,000 tons of spent uranium fuel rods stockpiled around the world. But there’s a critical standard that a volcano would have to meet to properly dispose of the stuff, explains Charlotte Rowe, a volcano geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. And that standard is heat. The lava would have to not only melt the fuel rods but also strip the uranium of its radioactivity. “Unfortunately,” Rowe says, “volcanoes just aren’t very hot.”

Lava in the hottest volcanoes tops out at around 2,400F. (These tend to be shield volcanoes, so named for their relatively flat, broad profile. The Hawaiian Islands continue to be formed by this type of volcano.) It takes temperatures that are tens of thousands of degrees hotter than that to split uranium’s atomic nuclei and alter its radioactivity to make it inert, Rowe says. What you need is a thermonuclear reaction, like an atomic bomb—not a great way to dispose of nuclear waste.

Volcanoes aren’t hot enough to melt the zirconium (melting point that encases the fuel, let alone the fuel itself: The melting point of uranium oxide, the fuel used at most nuclear power plants, is ;. The liquid lava in a shield volcano pushes upward, so the rods probably wouldn’t even sink very deep, Rowe says. They wouldn’t sink at all in a stratovolcano, the most explosive type, exemplified by Washington’s Mount St. Helens. Instead, the waste would just sit on top of the volcano’s hard lava dome—at least until the pressure from upsurging magma became so great that the dome cracked and the volcano erupted. And that’s the real problem.

(Excerpt) Read more at popsci.com ...


TOPICS: Technical
KEYWORDS: lava; nuclearwaste; radiation; radioactivewaste; science; volcano; volcanoes
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1 posted on 02/20/2010 11:09:33 PM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld
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To: sonofstrangelove

Another “great idea” whose origin can probably be traced back to a bong hit.


2 posted on 02/20/2010 11:17:29 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: sonofstrangelove

The middle of the desert would seem to me a safe place to put it. What am I missing?


3 posted on 02/20/2010 11:17:38 PM PST by Perchant
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To: Perchant

You are not missing anything.


4 posted on 02/20/2010 11:18:15 PM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("I have learned to use the word "impossible" with the greatest caution."-Dr.Wernher Von Braun)
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To: sonofstrangelove

No. Volcanoes are no good. Too volatile, unpredictable.

Using concrete and steel casks, the contained radioactive waste should be lowered into a deep-sea trench along a subduction zone, preferably the Aleutian Trench, which I believe is in U.S. territorial waters. There the radioactive waste can be RECYCLED under the North American Plate.

This satisfies the three criteria for safely disposing of radioactive waste: time, distance, and shielding. It won’t reappear for millions of years and in the meantime will be underneath miles of the earth’s crust. Difficult to get much better than that.


5 posted on 02/20/2010 11:19:17 PM PST by SatinDoll (NO Foreign Nationals as our President!!)
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To: sonofstrangelove
Sent them deeper into the Earth where temperatures are in the MILLIONS, at least according to Al Bore of Gore-Bull Warming fame.

Al Gore: Earth's Interior 'Extremely Hot, Several Million Degrees'

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2009/11/18/al-gore-earths-interior-extremely-hot-several-million-degrees

It's actually several THOUSAND as any high school kid knows, or should know!

6 posted on 02/20/2010 11:19:30 PM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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sent = send


7 posted on 02/20/2010 11:20:09 PM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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To: sonofstrangelove

Poopular Science eh.

I have never heard of proposals to destroy any atomic nucleus thermally. If underground magma got hot enough to generate the plasma energies required to literally collide nuclei, life wouldn’t be able to exist on the planet. Unless you’re Al Gore in which case you can fake the millyuns of degrees involved.


8 posted on 02/20/2010 11:21:25 PM PST by HiTech RedNeck (I am in America but not of America (per bible: am in the world but not of it))
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To: sonofstrangelove; All

Store it safely until such time in the future we can dump it on Jupiter.
Trust me, Jupiter won’t mind. It could swallow our whole earth and not care one bit.


9 posted on 02/20/2010 11:21:55 PM PST by Names Ash Housewares
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To: SpaceBar

LOL!


10 posted on 02/20/2010 11:22:19 PM PST by NavyCanDo
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To: ETL

Actually give them to France. They’ll gladly reprocess them for their recoverable fuel content.


11 posted on 02/20/2010 11:22:46 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: SatinDoll

I’d like to see proof that stuff placed there would actually get subducted (is that a word?) before trying it with nuclear waste.

It’s possible though, that in a few more generations we may wish we hung on to the stuff.


12 posted on 02/20/2010 11:23:03 PM PST by HiTech RedNeck (I am in America but not of America (per bible: am in the world but not of it))
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To: sonofstrangelove
is this a more realistic option?

13 posted on 02/20/2010 11:24:32 PM PST by ari-freedom
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To: sonofstrangelove

Where to put nuclear waste: Try Al Gore’s big global warming butt.

I’m feeling nasty tonight. I couldn’t even lift my 4 foot long, 50+ lb. icicle that is lying in my yard, next to the other 2-1/2 ft. part of it which weighs about 40 lbs. It was about 8 ft long or more from my roof to the ground.

I like the old idea of putting spent nuclear rods and containers into a linked space-train vehicle and send it into the sun. Now, that would be real global warming.


14 posted on 02/20/2010 11:25:48 PM PST by ToTheMax
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To: sonofstrangelove

Better would be at subduction zones in deep oceans, between plates.


15 posted on 02/20/2010 11:26:12 PM PST by MHGinTN (Obots, believing they cannot be deceived, it is impossible to convince them when they are deceived.)
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To: Names Ash Housewares
until such time in the future we can dump it on Jupiter.

It would take less energy to send it the other way and let it fall into the sun.

16 posted on 02/20/2010 11:26:22 PM PST by SeeSharp
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To: sonofstrangelove

Why don’t we just reprocess the fuel into new fuel?

Oh, yeah. Politics.


17 posted on 02/20/2010 11:26:44 PM PST by MediaMole
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To: SpaceBar
Okay.. maybe not nuke rods but anything.. everything else. Essentially we could make all our waste disappear. The ultimate recycle. BTW, you are spot on.

18 posted on 02/20/2010 11:28:14 PM PST by I see my hands (_8(|)
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To: SatinDoll

Re putting radioactive waste in a deep sea trench. It won’t work. Didn’t you see the movie “The Beast from 30,000 Fathoms”? Nuclear waste made a small sea creature massive and he ate a New York Cop, a bathyscape, and destroyed a roller-coaster.

Just image 50 ft. long sea worms attacking New York City. Now, if we could get them to attack Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Hollyweird, Seattle and Portland, then I might change my mind. Sort of like the worm attack scene from “DUNE”.

Worms love liberals. Taste like chicken. An appropo analogy.


19 posted on 02/20/2010 11:30:15 PM PST by ToTheMax
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To: I see my hands

Oh, I like that idea. Go stuff some nuclear rods down Mt. Vesuvius. Can hardly wait for the show when she next flips her lid. The last picture show.


20 posted on 02/20/2010 11:31:25 PM PST by flaglady47 (Dems days are numbered; it's Tea Party Time.....)
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To: SpaceBar

Here’s another stupid question: why not shoot it off into space? Is the threat of a launch accident too great?


21 posted on 02/20/2010 11:31:43 PM PST by ChrisInAR (You gotta let it out, Captain!)
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To: SatinDoll

Do you have a background in geology? Sounds like it.


22 posted on 02/20/2010 11:33:26 PM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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To: MediaMole

Bingo. In fact the US is unique in that we don’t reprocess our spent fuel by statute. The annual amount of actual hot isotopes that can’t be used for anything would fit inside a thimble, and the great bulk of actual non-fuel rod “nuclear waste” disposed of in places like WIPP are contaminated nuclear facility clothing like smocks and gloves, and hospital radiological wastes.


23 posted on 02/20/2010 11:34:21 PM PST by SpaceBar
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To: sonofstrangelove
LFTR. Generate electricity and burn nuclear waste.
24 posted on 02/20/2010 11:35:15 PM PST by caveat emptor
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To: ChrisInAR

“Here’s another stupid question: why not shoot it off into space? Is the threat of a launch accident too great”

Some planet in a galaxy far, far, away, isn’t going to be happy with you.


25 posted on 02/20/2010 11:35:19 PM PST by flaglady47 (Dems days are numbered; it's Tea Party Time.....)
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To: HiTech RedNeck

Solid radioactive waste from reactors (3% enriched uranium pellets) become plutonium rich and can be processed into fuel for a second burn. There is no reason, other than Jimmy Carter made it illegal, that we can’t do that.

The resulting solid rad waste is the stuff I think should be recycled via deep-sea trenches into subduction zones.


26 posted on 02/20/2010 11:36:32 PM PST by SatinDoll (NO Foreign Nationals as our President!!)
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To: MHGinTN
Better would be at subduction zones in deep oceans, between plates.

But some of what goes down in plate subduction comes back out in volcanoes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subduction

27 posted on 02/20/2010 11:37:30 PM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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To: ETL

Studied geology in college and worked in the nuclear power industry for eight years.


28 posted on 02/20/2010 11:37:40 PM PST by SatinDoll (NO Foreign Nationals as our President!!)
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To: caveat emptor
It looks very interesting and very promising.
29 posted on 02/20/2010 11:37:57 PM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("I have learned to use the word "impossible" with the greatest caution."-Dr.Wernher Von Braun)
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To: SatinDoll

Very interesting. :)

I was a geology major. Never completed the degree however. :(


30 posted on 02/20/2010 11:39:54 PM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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To: flaglady47

Well, we could put the waste on boxes labelled “CARE” & drop them in Terhran.


31 posted on 02/20/2010 11:40:16 PM PST by ChrisInAR (You gotta let it out, Captain!)
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To: SpaceBar; MediaMole
ces like WIPP are contaminated nuclear facility clothing like smocks and gloves, and hospital radiological wastes.

There was a news item from about 15-20 years ago about a child's playground jungle gym/swing set which was associated with symptoms of radiation sickness in the children who played on and around it. It turned out that the metal swing set was radioactive. Further investigation yielded the information that the swing set had been manufactured out of recycled dental office X-ray machines.

32 posted on 02/20/2010 11:43:31 PM PST by thecodont
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To: ETL

I minered in Geology. Pun intended.

Failed Stratigraphy. I couldn’t do the math to dig a coal mine in the side of a mountain. Today I would be an environmental wacko’s hero.

Fossils Rule!


33 posted on 02/20/2010 11:50:39 PM PST by ToTheMax
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To: ChrisInAR

“Well, we could put the waste on boxes labelled “CARE” & drop them in Terhran.”

Great idea, but I’d label the boxes “CAIR”, just to confuse them.


34 posted on 02/20/2010 11:51:04 PM PST by flaglady47 (Dems days are numbered; it's Tea Party Time.....)
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To: sonofstrangelove

Build some large booster rockets, load up radioactive waste, fire out of Earth orbit in the general direction of the sun. The sun’s the biggest gravity sink within several light-years - the waste will get there sooner or later, and will fall into a thermonuclear explosion far larger than the entire Earth. Perfectly safe disposal and probably more economical than building and securing some huge underground repository.


35 posted on 02/20/2010 11:53:32 PM PST by AnotherUnixGeek
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To: HiTech RedNeck
I have never heard of proposals to destroy any atomic nucleus thermally.

We've got a strange case of synchronicity here with the thread on the Brookhaven quark plasma experiment. The temperature there, confined to a nuclear radius or so, of a fireball induced by collisions of gold nuclei, is a few trillion degrees Kelvin ... enough to "melt protons" , as noted.

You wouldn't have to melt protons to get rid of radioactive nuclei, but you would have to melt the nuclei. This would require a temperature of a few MeV, vs. the 100 MeV corresponding to the trillion degrees. So we're talking a few billion degrees Kelvin. Compare this to the mere 10 million degrees Kelvin at the center of the sun.

36 posted on 02/20/2010 11:53:52 PM PST by dr_lew
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To: ETL

“But some of what goes down in plate subduction comes back out in volcanoes.”

Yeah, but millions of years later.


37 posted on 02/20/2010 11:57:08 PM PST by SatinDoll (NO Foreign Nationals as our President!!)
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To: SatinDoll

Lol! Duh! Good point! Been a very long day...not thinking too clearly right now. 3AM here.


38 posted on 02/21/2010 12:03:12 AM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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To: SatinDoll

We have the ability to dig holes that are miles and miles deep, not only that we have many abandoned mines which are empty and pose no threat to any water table. throw the waste down there and fill it up with concrete and dirt.


39 posted on 02/21/2010 12:06:50 AM PST by LukeL (Yasser Arafat: "I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize")
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To: ToTheMax

Ok...so where is the down side?


40 posted on 02/21/2010 12:07:46 AM PST by ntmxx (I am not so sure about this misdirection!)
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To: sonofstrangelove

I actually had this thought years ago but I never thought it was viable. One big explosion and a 25,000 year half life would spread it all over the world. So then I thought, how about an undersea volcanoe. But about that time I saw a couple of movies, like those things that got all radioactive and moved inland down in California, and Gorgo, and It Came From Beneath the Sea, and Them, and the one with the giant crab.

So I dismissed the idea, and ate a few bags of Cheetos instead.

parsy, who remembers that for some strange reason


41 posted on 02/21/2010 12:08:59 AM PST by parsifal (Abatis: Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside)
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To: parsifal

“Them” and “It Came From Beneath the Sea” are classics.


42 posted on 02/21/2010 12:11:46 AM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("I have learned to use the word "impossible" with the greatest caution."-Dr.Wernher Von Braun)
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To: sonofstrangelove
This has gotta be a joke, cuz not even solar core temperatures would destroy radioactive heavy nuclei. Elements heavier than iron are created by supernova temperatures.
43 posted on 02/21/2010 12:12:07 AM PST by Solitar ("My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them." -- Barry Goldwater)
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To: LukeL

“...we have many abandoned mines which are empty and pose no threat to any water table. throw the waste down there and fill it up with concrete and dirt.”

Sure that would work. But the problem exists that this radwaste has a half-life of hundreds of thousands of years. There has never been a civilization that lasted that long and the whereabouts of dangerous waste is likely to be forgotten.

It makes more sense to place the radwaste somewhere man is not going to have access in the next half-million years. Do you savvy?


44 posted on 02/21/2010 12:13:11 AM PST by SatinDoll (NO Foreign Nationals as our President!!)
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To: SatinDoll

You know what threw me off was the visualization of the nuke material being carried down with the subducting plate. For some reason, I assumed that is how you meant the material would be safely buried. Of course that would also take a very very long time. So what you are saying then is that it’s simply very deep water at subduction trenches, and that the material would stay at those depths?


45 posted on 02/21/2010 12:13:32 AM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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To: Solitar

You are correct. The star blows up when it tries to fuse iron.


46 posted on 02/21/2010 12:15:08 AM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld ("I have learned to use the word "impossible" with the greatest caution."-Dr.Wernher Von Braun)
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To: SatinDoll

Sorry, never mind. I read what you wrote above and understand (’concrete casks and steel’, until it takes the trip downward millions of years later)


47 posted on 02/21/2010 12:20:09 AM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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Ugh! Make that: “concrete and steel casks”!

I told you I badly needed sleep! (3:25AM now!!)

:)


48 posted on 02/21/2010 12:24:33 AM PST by ETL (ALL (most?) of the Obama-commie connections at my FR Home page: http://www.freerepublic.com/~etl/)
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To: ETL

I had a conversation years ago with a nuclear engineer, a coworker at the facility which we both worked. I told him about my idea and he said that the casks (developed by Bechtel Engineering way back in the 1970s) would safely store the waste as it was first buried by tons of sediment, then all of it would eventually be crushed molecule thin as it slid under the tectonic plate.

Keep in mind that the Aleutian Trench is thousands of feet deep and the casks would be under megatons of seawater.

This recycling happens slowly over a very long period time. The main idea is to keep it far from human contact.

I’m sure that some at this post will be saddened to know it is highly unlikely that radioactive worms or monsters will be issuing from the trench. Sorry!


49 posted on 02/21/2010 12:25:53 AM PST by SatinDoll (NO Foreign Nationals as our President!!)
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To: sonofstrangelove

Somehow, I suspect movies like that played a large part in the suppression of nuclear power plants in this country.

parsy, who says it’s all Bela Lugosi’s fault


50 posted on 02/21/2010 12:27:41 AM PST by parsifal (Abatis: Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside)
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