Skip to comments.Can We Dispose of Radioactive Waste in Volcanoes?
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 theres 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 arent 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 uraniums atomic nuclei and alter its radioactivity to make it inert, Rowe says. What you need is a thermonuclear reaction, like an atomic bombnot a great way to dispose of nuclear waste.
Volcanoes arent 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 wouldnt even sink very deep, Rowe says. They wouldnt sink at all in a stratovolcano, the most explosive type, exemplified by Washingtons Mount St. Helens. Instead, the waste would just sit on top of the volcanos hard lava domeat least until the pressure from upsurging magma became so great that the dome cracked and the volcano erupted. And thats the real problem.
(Excerpt) Read more at popsci.com ...
Another “great idea” whose origin can probably be traced back to a bong hit.
The middle of the desert would seem to me a safe place to put it. What am I missing?
You are not missing anything.
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.
Al Gore: Earth's Interior 'Extremely Hot, Several Million Degrees'
It's actually several THOUSAND as any high school kid knows, or should know!
sent = send
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.
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.
Actually give them to France. They’ll gladly reprocess them for their recoverable fuel content.
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.
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.
Better would be at subduction zones in deep oceans, between plates.
It would take less energy to send it the other way and let it fall into the sun.
Why don’t we just reprocess the fuel into new fuel?
Oh, yeah. Politics.
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.
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.
Here’s another stupid question: why not shoot it off into space? Is the threat of a launch accident too great?
Do you have a background in geology? Sounds like it.
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.
“Heres 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.
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.
But some of what goes down in plate subduction comes back out in volcanoes.
Studied geology in college and worked in the nuclear power industry for eight years.
Very interesting. :)
I was a geology major. Never completed the degree however. :(
Well, we could put the waste on boxes labelled “CARE” & drop them in Terhran.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“But some of what goes down in plate subduction comes back out in volcanoes.”
Yeah, but millions of years later.
Lol! Duh! Good point! Been a very long day...not thinking too clearly right now. 3AM here.
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.
Ok...so where is the down side?
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
“Them” and “It Came From Beneath the Sea” are classics.
“...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?
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?
You are correct. The star blows up when it tries to fuse iron.
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)
Ugh! Make that: “concrete and steel casks”!
I told you I badly needed sleep! (3:25AM now!!)
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!
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