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United Kingdom Science News Technology

UK Scientists Designing Cement To Safely Store Nuclear Waste For 100,000 Years (ibtimes.co.uk) 143

An anonymous reader writes: A team of British scientists are working on designing a form of cement which could safely withstand the harmful effects of nuclear waste for thousands of years. The team at the UK's synchrotron science facility, Diamond Light Source, said the project will be vital as Britain looks to expand on its nuclear industry.

The team believe the new material is 50% better at reducing the impact of radiation than current storage solutions. The government is set to choose a location of where to store the estimated 300,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste which is estimated to have been accumulated by the UK by 2030.

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UK Scientists Designing Cement To Safely Store Nuclear Waste For 100,000 Years

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  • Keep it close (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashping ( 2674483 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @02:05PM (#51506417)
    As long as they keep it close, because the stuff that we call "spent fuel" still has 99% of the original energy locked inside. At some point, we'll want to dig it back up and actually use it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually nuclear energy without reprocessing spent fuel; is bad proposition, because it is not sustainable.
      Assuming that we use standard uranium/plutonium pallets; we will run out of fuel in 30-50 years, if we do reprocess it will last us few million years (it is a very energy dense).
      That is why countries like France, Russia and etc; which are serious about nuclear energy do have reprocessing plants.
      The technology is there it is well understood, but there is no political will to commit to it; that is why we

      • If reprocessing extends usage of fuel depends on reactor technology.

        The current in use reactors don't burn natural uranium. So reprocessing only gets like 2%-3% of uranium back from the spent fuel. The remaining ~ 92% + ~ 4% Actinides are still: waste

        To "burn" that waste you need a different reactor technology, which no one has _installed_ yet.

        France and other countries only do reprocessing to keep the nuclear weapons programs running.

        Neither cost wise nor energy wise reprocessing makes any sense. 1/6th of

    • I can't see nuclear waste sitting around for more than a century before fusion driven recycling systems consume it all.
    • As long as they keep it close, because the stuff that we call "spent fuel" still has 99% of the original energy locked inside. At some point, we'll want to dig it back up and actually use it.

      No.

      I used to operate a reactor for Plutonium production, that fuel was dumped with of a lot of it's energy still available but it was processed the unusable waste being glassified.

      A reactor will normally burn it's fuel till all it's rods are out or close -all used up.

      Even then there's a lot of Plutonium around, it's being used to enrich Uranium for say the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants.

    • Never understood why they keep going to route of only using some of it. Why bury it. With enough in one spot someone will come up with a better use for it.
    • the stuff that we call "spent fuel" still has 99% of the original energy locked inside.

      Where the fuck did you get that figure from? Did you make it up, or did you copy it from someone who made it up?

      For a start - the 300,000 m^3 volume given means that they're talking about intermediate- and high- grade wastes, not high-grade alone.

      But even if it were high grade waste, the available energy is about 1/10th of the binding energy per nucleon. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] for an example ; you need t

  • Utter Stupidity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2016 @02:07PM (#51506425)

    Why don't these idiots use that "waste" as fuel for breeder reactors? They are throwing away 98% of their fissile material and worse, trying to make 100,000 year plans for it.

    • Re:Utter Stupidity (Score:4, Informative)

      by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @02:12PM (#51506445)

      Because: politics.

      • Is there another way to ration abundant resources?

    • Re:Utter Stupidity (Score:5, Interesting)

      by careysub ( 976506 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @03:23PM (#51506735)

      Cue the knee-jerk fuel-reprocessing-and-fast-reactor-is-the-complete-solution-to-all-nuclear-waste-problems-everywhere nutter comment.

      Pointing out the problems with this comment is a bit of a problem in itself knowing what I should start with.

      First, the 200,000 cubic meters of high-level waste already exists and is the product of the British nuclear weapons program, and possibly some of the high-level waste already created by fuel reprocessing. This stuff is a radiological and chemical witches brew that cannot be easily treated in any way. Some means of reducing this stuff to a stable state for long term storage is essential.

      Second, there are only three operating (or soon to be operating) commercial scale breeder reactors in the world, two in Russia (operating) and one in India (not yet operating). A non-existent world fleet of breeder reactors cannot solve any real existing problems. Building a world-wide industrial deployment of breeder reactors is an exercise orders of magnitude more costly than waste disposal problems.

      Third, breeder reactors do not make fission products go away. These must still be disposed of once the actinides are burned.

      Fourth, fuel reprocessing systems currently operating produce larger volumes of high-level waste in physical terms than they take in. This must be converted to some form that be stored long term (see point one, above).

      Fifth, spent fuel from power reactors does not contain "98% of their fissile material". Real nuclear fuel today is enriched to about 4% U-235 for loading (96% U-238), plutonium is bred and burned in place so that 5% of the actinide content is consumed, and the discharged fuel is about 0.8% U-235, 1.2% plutonium and 0.2% other actinides, for a "fissile content" of 2.2%. Reprocessing can only recover about 44% more usable energy content that the fuel already has provided. If you are thinking of the U-238, it is not fissile, but must be bred further to make it fissile. We can obtain U-238 far more cheaply and easily, if we need it, by simply converting the millions of tons of depleted uranium currently in storage into breeding fuel element.

      Sixth, reprocessing is very expensive. Make that "VERY expensive". The cost of the fissile material produced is much higher than enriching natural uranium, and every aspect of fuel fabrication and handling is much more expensive due to it being "hot" from the beginning. The value of mixed oxide fuel on the market is less than zero. Utilities must be paid a subsidy to take it for free.

      Seventh, a breeder reactor power economy cost much more than a conventional power reactor economy. As things now stand the high capital cost of conventional power reactors make them economically unattractive without some sort of construction mandate, or special economic support. A system that is much more expensive is a non-starter if the conventional power reactor problem is not solved in practice (see point two, above).

      Eighth+ (yes, I have more points), but I am tired of typing.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        >I don't like something so I will call everyone who advocates it a "nutter"
        Oh, you're one of those nutters.

      • Re:Utter Stupidity (Score:4, Interesting)

        by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@earth[ ]k.net ['lin' in gap]> on Sunday February 14, 2016 @07:07PM (#51507709)

        Let's take this point by point.

        First, the 200,000 cubic meters of high-level waste already exists and is the product of the British nuclear weapons program, and possibly some of the high-level waste already created by fuel reprocessing. This stuff is a radiological and chemical witches brew that cannot be easily treated in any way. Some means of reducing this stuff to a stable state for long term storage is essential.

        That may be true but we have ways to reduce the mass of what needs to be stored if we use some preprocessing to separate out some of the valuable materials.

        Second,...Building a world-wide industrial deployment of breeder reactors is an exercise orders of magnitude more costly than waste disposal problems.

        Breeder reactors may be an expensive and difficult task but we can make energy from the "waste" that it burns. It is quite possible that by investing billions of dollars/euros/rupees in this we could get a net gain on our investment. Basically we can make money from burning this waste.

        Third, breeder reactors do not make fission products go away. These must still be disposed of once the actinides are burned.

        Many of those fission products are very valuable. Either because they are very useful radioactive isotopes or rare minerals. Much of the rest is not in fact radioactive, a fission produces two nuclei, with only one of them radioactive. If we just separate the non-radioactive elements from the radioactive elements then we'd cut the mass needed for storage in half. Then by separating the useful isotopes from the less than useful isotopes we could cut the mass needed to store by more than half again. With smart processing we could turn 10 tons of waste we'd have to bury into 4 tons. I think that alone is worth something.

        Fourth, fuel reprocessing systems currently operating produce larger volumes of high-level waste in physical terms than they take in. This must be converted to some form that be stored long term (see point one, above).

        If that is the case then you are doing it wrong.

        Fifth, spent fuel from power reactors does not contain "98% of their fissile material". ...
        We can obtain U-238 far more cheaply and easily, if we need it, by simply converting the millions of tons of depleted uranium currently in storage into breeding fuel element.

        U-238 is only one of the many elements that can be obtained by properly processing spent fuel and other radioactive wastes. There are many other valuable elements in this radioactive wastes and if we process it out we reduce the mass of waste we need to store considerably and we can make money doing it.

        Sixth, reprocessing is very expensive. ...
        The value of mixed oxide fuel on the market is less than zero. Utilities must be paid a subsidy to take it for free.

        Again, that is because you are doing it wrong. People are experimenting with a pyro-processing system that can melt down this waste and with some very creative chemistry they can separate out all the valuable stuff from the not so valuable stuff. Basically it's heated until melting, what becomes gasses at those temperatures is collected and separated by masses and chemical properties. Gasses like iodine can be made into medicines, noble gasses collected for welding, and so forth. Noble metals tend to just sink to the bottom and can be sold for jewelery or coinage. Zirconium, hafnium, beryllium, and many other non-radioactive elements can be separated out and reused in nuclear facilities because of their unique properties when exposed to radiation.

        Reprocessing is expensive partly because we haven't figured out all the chemistry yet. It's also expensive partly because government regulations throughout the world make it expensive. The first country that creates sane regulations on the processing of nuclear

        • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

          You don't get it, reprocessing nuclear waste is horribly expensive, that's why here in Britain, even though we were charging high rates to reprocess waste we still decided to shut it down anyway.

          Nuclear using reprocessed fuel costs 30c+ per kWh as compared to 2c to 10c per kWh for coal, gas, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal etc.

          Even off-shore wind costs half of what electricity made with reprocessed fuel costs.

          • No, I do get it. The only reason nuclear reprocessing, or nuclear ANYTHING really, is expensive is because of nonsensical rules governing the handling of anything deemed "nuclear".

            If the rules were such that we treated these materials based on the real and actual hazards they pose then we'd see more nuclear power plants. That's because we'd be shutting down all the coal plants based on how much radioactive material they spread to the environment alone.

            The expense lies solely with government regulation. I

            • I don't really know why you are arguing about this bullshit eery time "nuclear" pops up on /.

              Everyone told you meanwhile that reprocessing is pointless.

              1000 tons of "spent fuel" only contains about 30 tons reusable fuel. For current reactor technologies, that is.

              Your ideas about hazards and safety are so scary that I hope that you never are responsible for anything that puts people life in danger. E.g. driving a truck or piloting a boat or air craft.

              But thank you that you are enlightening us with wisdom tha

            • No, I do get it. The only reason nuclear reprocessing, or nuclear ANYTHING really, is expensive is because of nonsensical rules governing the handling of anything deemed "nuclear".

              That's an incredibly stupid thing to say, and Slashdot is a dumber place because of it. Nuclear material is dangerous to handle, spent or not. If it weren't, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

              • Of course nuclear material is dangerous to handle, any heavy metal would. So, I suggest wearing gloves, hard hat, goggles, and steel toed boots when handling it in any significant quantity. Oh, a filter mask might be a good idea too.

                A spent fuel rod fresh from the reactor core is very radioactive, just seconds of exposure can kill you dead. After it's cooled down for a couple years in a pool it can be safely moved to a vault to cool down for a few decades or centuries. Alternatively that two or four yea

        • That may be true but we have ways to reduce the mass of what needs to be stored if we use some preprocessing to separate out some of the valuable materials.
          That would reduce the mass by less than 10%

          And: you seem not be aware that most of that mass already is reprocessed ... so actually there is not much to gain, considering that you can "buy" new reactor fuel cheaper on the market than you can get it from reprocessing your waste/spent fuel.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Basically we can make money from burning this waste.

          You can't, the cost compared to conventional nuclear and other forms of energy is too great. You won't find anyone willing to invest in your high cost energy source when there are much more competitive ideas that need funding to develop, and when disposal + making new nuclear fuel is much cheaper.

          If that is the case then you are doing it wrong.

          No, that's just how those reactors work. The containment vessel becomes high level waste itself, and the total amount of material involved vastly outweighs the amount of fuel it will process during its lifetime. Th

      • by khallow ( 566160 )
        I have to roll my eyes at this post. We can have all this trouble or we can do the "nutter" approach and recycle the valuable stuff.
    • Re:Utter Stupidity (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @03:30PM (#51506767)

      Gas and coal are cheap and the waste from burning them can be dumped into the atmosphere and nobody cares enough to stop burning them since that would increase the price of electricity and cost jobs (see "War on Coal"). Nuclear reactors, including breeders are expensive to build and everyone is petrified of spent fuel from reactors because they've been fed bullshit and crappy movies about the effects of radiation ever since 1945.

      Using up spent fuel in new-design reactors by reprocessing and other means will cost money and new uranium fuel is really cheap at the moment (current spot price for U3O8 yellowcake is $34.15 per lb) and it will remain cheap for another 50 years and more as more mining sources are developed and brought into production.

      The Russian BN-800 reactor is designed to burn spent fuel and also plutonium from decommissioned nuclear weapons but it's quite experimental and it will be a while before more reactors like it are built. The fuel for it still needs to be processed and specially fabricated, it can't just take used fuel pellets and this adds to the expected cost of operations.

      Some countries such as Russia do reprocess spent fuel but that only concentrates the unusable isotopes that are actually waste and they still need to be dealt with, probably by deep geological burial. There doesn't seem to be any real problem with this idea but it gets a lot of attention from the panic merchants with the 100,000 year figure being thrown about a lot although that's quite arbitrary considering the environmental radiation sources already present around us naturally which do not emanate from the nuclear power industry.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Nuclear power is about some people getting rich. Nothing else. As soon as you accept that, it becomes obvious why stuff that is going to stay dangerous for millions of years gets thrown away.

  • Clarification (Score:5, Informative)

    by PuddleBoy ( 544111 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @02:15PM (#51506461)
    I believe what they mean is "concrete" rather than "cement".

    Cement is a powder that is one component of concrete;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cement

    Together with sand, water, and aggregate (rock) they undergo a chemical reaction (when mixed) to form concrete. Changing the quality, component ratio and admixtures of concrete can dramatically change various characteristics like strength, set time, resistance to water pressure, etc. I can remember seeing concrete that was very dark (almost black-ish) in color. I was told it contained a lot of lead for use in radioactivity shielding.

    Just sayin'
    • No, they mean cement. You add aggregate to provide structural properties and reduce the cost of the mix when used for construction. This is for waste disposal.

      • ... No, they mean cement. You add aggregate to provide structural properties and reduce the cost of the mix when used for construction. This is for waste disposal.

        FTA: "...the plan for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) where highly radioactive waste, immobilised in cement, would be interred deep underground"

        I'm pretty sure they mean concrete. Cement is a dry powder (think of those bags at the home improvement store - "Portland Cement") - it would be tough to immobilise anything in a loose powder for 10

        • Cement is also a hard product produced by mixing powdered cement with water, and allowing it to dry. This is frequently used for applying to things which need to be permanently affixed, but do not require the compressive strength of concrete. Wet cement is essentially a glue.

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @03:20PM (#51506725)
      Thanks for the concrete example. It really cemented things in my mind.
    • In the UK, concrete is frequently referred to as simply "cement", e.g. "the cement building", "it's made of cement".
  • Why 100,000 years (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sjames ( 1099 )

    The 100,000 years thing is a scam meant to make the nuclear waste problem look intractable. LONG before that, the "waste" will be no more radioactive than natural rocks laying out in the desert in the U.S.

    • by ThorGod ( 456163 )

      True, but it still won everyone over in Nevada.

    • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @03:30PM (#51506765)
      Firstly not radioactivity is equal. Alpha unless ingested is not a problem. Beta or gamma is another matter. But even then highly radioactive one are not a "problem" (e.g. half life of 100 years, by 1000 years you get less than 1/1024 of the radioactivity and the very short half lived one are even mostly gone during temporary storage). Weakly radioactive material with extremely long life are not a problem either (they don't emit much per second because long half life). The problem at worst is the one with medium half life, radioactive enough to be dangerous, beta or gamma emitter, but also around the half life you cite , and in sizeable quantity. IMHO this is anyway not a big problem, because the quantity involved are minuscule. 300000 cubic meter is barely a cube of 66 meter side. For the whole country over 15 years nearly. Let us not hide the fac that this is a problem but let us be realist and not make a mountain out of it. Basically the 100K years is not a scam. It is just a little bit exaggerated as problem & consequence. Compare to CO2 emission and radioactive emission of coal for example.
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        It *IS* a scam. It is because the 100,000 year figure is for it to show no activity at all. The fuel came from ore dug out of nature where it already showed activity. In order to be environmentally neutral, it need only decay until it radiologically resembles what came out of the ground in the first place. Then we can just throw it back into the depleted mines after we refine out the valuable metals.

        The big problem in nuclear waste for the medium term is the strontium 90, but 500 years is more than 17 half-

    • Re:Why 100,000 years (Score:5, Informative)

      by careysub ( 976506 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @03:36PM (#51506797)

      The 100,000 years thing is a scam meant to make the nuclear waste problem look intractable. LONG before that, the "waste" will be no more radioactive than natural rocks laying out in the desert in the U.S.

      Not quite. Unless the actinides have been removed by reprocessing the spent fuel does not return to the same level as ore for a few hundred thousand years [world-nuclear.org]. The period chosen: 100,000 years is about right - not quite long enough to reach that point, but pretty good. The legacy waste they are dealing with contains actinides and is a nightmare to try reprocess due to its non-standard composition.

      Imagining that all waste problems are really that of disposing of nearly non-existent reprocessed fuel waste with all actinides removed is silly. They are dealing with real waste that really needs disposal, not hypothetical types of waste.

      BTW: the (quasi*) natural rocks laying out in the desert (tailings) are a significant waste problem since they have been removed from their stable geological context.

      *They have been physically and chemically altered.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Removing the actinides is the easiest part if you don't care about separating the U and Pu from them. IIRC, a CANDU reactor can use mixed actinide fuel.

        Also BTW, the natural rocks I mentioned are NATURAL ROCKS, not tailings. If I meant tailings, I'd have called them that.

    • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

      The 100,000 years thing is a scam meant to make the nuclear waste problem look intractable. LONG before that, the "waste" will be no more radioactive than natural rocks laying out in the desert in the U.S.

      The devil is in the details, depending on the type of fuel used and the components of the waste [wikipedia.org]. Some high-level materials do exhaust themselves fairly quickly but some fission products have lower-level radioactivity (but still not something you want to keep a bag of in your pocket) with half-lives in the thousands or tens of thousands of years.

      Also it's not just the radioactivity. Spent nuclear fuel is a concentrated waste product filled with heavy metals, unusual isotopes, any number of chemicals from

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        And the natural rocks in the desert contain radium and it's decay products as well as uranium. The fuel CAME from such rocks in the first place.

        The best thing for the waste is let it sit for 500 years of so, then mine it for the valuable metals it contains.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Are you serious? Maybe look up what "half-life" means? Or what that number is for some things in there _and_ what they then change into that also has a number.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Perhaps you should look up what happens when you remove the valuable actinides first.

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          Stop lying. They are no all valuable and hence do not all get removed. Also, quite a bit of nuclear waste gets stored _unprocessed_, because that is cheaper.

          • by sjames ( 1099 )

            It gets stored unprocessed for a time in any scenario in order to let the really hot short lived radioisotopes decay. It is currently being stored longer than that above ground due to cheaping out and politics blocking the proper reprocessing and final disposal.

            Take away the stupid politics and the processing would happen. And the actinides are all valuable. If nothing else, they are fuel for a CANDU reactor or similar. The big expenses happen when you insist on processing into MOX suitable for a larger ran

  • Great... lets just make it our kids and their kids problem for 5000 generations, just so we dont have to face the real responsibility/cost of dealing with our own waste right now.

    • If this concrete mixture actually does sequester the waste for 100k years, we're actually making so that no one needs to care for 5000 generations. And, as other posters have indicated, in a fraction of that time, there will be more to fear from natural rocks.

      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        I guess my question actually is do you really believe that anyone can accurately predict what concrete or anything else man-made would actually be like after 100,000 years, especially after all the unknown future external forces/effects on it.

    • Great... lets just make it our kids and their kids problem for 5000 generations

      Problem . . . ? I'd call it a legacy. In about a generation or so, we will learn how to "frack" nuclear wastes dumps for energy. I think the powers that be should sell off nuclear waste to private folks. I'd take a ton or two for safekeeping in my backyard. When I'm long gone to meet my maker, my great-great-grandchildren will be making a fortune selling the nuclear waste, which will then be raw energy.

      De Beers would like to try to convince me that I should buy diamonds for my children. Nonsense!

      • Perhaps you should read up how nuclear reactors actually work.

        When that stuff is "ripe" to be dug out you face two problems:
        a) new reactor designs might be able to use it, but need a couple of dozens of tons, not one or two
        b) the energy market will be dominated by wind and solar, no one will be going to built a 30billion nuclear plant (in our times money) that can not compete with main stream energy production

  • Impossible (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What nerve to think we can safely store something 17 times as long as the earth has been created.

    We humans really need to stop trying to play G-d.

  • Radioactive materials either are highly radioactive but decay to (relatively) safe levels quickly, or have low radioactivity but remain radioactive for a long time. A material which is highly radioactive for a long time simply can't exist. A good way to think of it is that the energy released is the degree of radioactivity (rate of release of radiation) times the duration it remains radioactive. For a given amount of energy, one trait can be high while the other low, or both moderate. But both can't be
    • "The reason our nuclear "waste" is dangerous on the order of tens of thousands of years is entirely political. "

      Actually, the danger is not in the half-life of the isotopic decay. The danger is in the biological effects. Even a single atom of radioactive material has the potential to generate a cancer. There is no lower threshold to cancer risk. Having more than one atom around only multiplies the risk as it multiplies the probability of cancer.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Radioactively material does not need to be highly radioactive in order to be extremely deadly. For example, a realistic estimate is that 1 gram of Pu is enough to kill 1 million people via lung-cancer if finely ground and administered directly. Yet on the other hand, it is difficult to measure, as even a piece of paper is enough to shield it. Incidentally, that stuff has a half-life 375.000 years. (Well, the most important isotope has.) Your argument just shows your ignorance.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hello scientists, the unsinkable Titanic would like to have a word with you

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Earth is bathed in immaculate free energy from the sun, but we're still digging SHIT out of the earth and setting it on fire, or concentrating radioactive SHIT to react with itself, and produce a tiny amount of heat, to convert a tiny amount of water to steam and produce a minuscule amount of energy, (tiny compared to the amount of energy the sun dumps upon the earth, FOR FUCKING FREE...) which then leaves basically USELESS but STILL RADIOACTIVE, DANGEROUS SHIT that we then have to LIVE ON THE SAME PLANET W

  • Australia developed a technology to manipulate radioactive waste into a ceramic where the the radioactive material is locked into the crystal lattice of the material. The advantage of this process is once you bury it, it won't leach radioactive material into your ground water supplies. TFA wasn't clear if their new fancy concrete had this property.

  • Would this contract have been awarded had Scotland voted for independence?

    Anyone want to wager this facility will be put anywhere else?

  • The coal burnt in powerplants emit lots of radio active elements in the smoke and ash. Coal ash is NOT as radioactive as nuclear waste. But there is so much of coal ash and smoke, if all the radio active elements released to the environment is counted, coal plants spew as much radio active elements as the what the nuclear plants produce

    So if we add small amounts of nuclear waste, uniformly into the furnaces of coal plants, we could uniformly spread all this radio active waste all around the world. With ju

  • Looking at the pyramids, I doubt we can ever build something that lasts for a hundred thousand years. There will always be somebody who wants to take a peek inside for one reason or another.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't know but I cant tell you the locations it wont be stored anywhere near where the politicians live.

  • The Egyptian Pyramids are about 5,000yrs old we still don't know a lot about them, even after we went in there and took almost all the items out. Imaging the mess in 10,000yrs time when mankind opens up these storage containers because they also want to know what's in them?
  • Some products are "guaranteed for life." What/whose life?

    I suppose if it lasts only 1,000 years, they'll come back in their time machine and sue the inventors.

    Just like any commercial claim, it seems prudent to read the fine print.

  • 100,000 years! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@earth[ ]k.net ['lin' in gap]> on Sunday February 14, 2016 @07:39PM (#51507881)

    If it takes 100,000 years for something to decay then it is no more radioactive than the concrete in my driveway.

    Us humans separate radioactive elements into "short", "medium", and "long" lived isotopes. We separate them like that because compared to our life span these isotopes are short, medium, or long. The short lived stuff is gone in less than a couple months. These isotopes are effectively gone even before the spent fuel leaves the nuclear power plant. Fuel rods taken from the reactor core is placed in a cooling pool for at least two years so that all of these isotopes decay away. When they come out the radiation is so strong that even seconds of exposure means death. After they come out of that pool it's just the long and medium lived products that remain. The most dangerous of them are elements like cesium and selenium which can collect in bones and irradiate people for the rest of their natural life, however shortened that might be.

    The long lived isotopes have half lives on the order of thousands of years or more. Elements with half lives this long is not any real radiation hazard since a person is more likely to die of old age before it decays. These elements should still be handled with care since they are still likely to pose hazards like heavy metal poisoning but that basically means don't eat it, breath in the dust, or handle it with bare skin.

    We don't need to bury radioactive anything for more than perhaps 300 years, and we know how to do that. We've built plenty of structures that can last that long. After 300 years all the short and medium lived products are gone, only the long lived stuff remains. At that point the waste can be handled much like we'd handle anything containing lead, mercury, or arsenic. That means rubber suits, gloves, goggles, and masks. Then we can reprocess this material to separate out what are valuable metals, fissile reactor fuel, and other elements for medical and industrial uses.

    I can remember reading as a kid about how scientists were trying to develop a "language" to communicate to future civilizations where we've stored our dangerous radioactive wastes. That way we don't contaminate future generations with all that nasty radioactive waste us evil people in the here and now are producing. Then I learned some real science from people that actually knew what they were talking about and learned that we don't need to store the waste for hundreds of thousands of years. If we store it for just a couple hundred years we can make it safe

    We already do something like this now. Forestry people with watch over a forest for forty years so that we can harvest that for wood. People will build and maintain structures that they intend to make last for centuries. Libraries and museums will keep valuable items from history for as long as we can imagine. Keeping an eye on radioactive material, for the purpose of mining it again for it's valuable elements in a century or three, seems like a trivial problem really.

    • We don't need to bury radioactive anything for more than perhaps 300 years, and we know how to do that. We've built plenty of structures that can last that long.

      We're not that good at estimating which ones will do it. Most of the structures built well enough to last for hundreds of years were built hundreds of years ago — the stuff we're building now will be reclaimed by nature in practically moments when we leave.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The most dangerous of them are elements like cesium and selenium which can collect in bones and irradiate people for the rest of their natural life, however shortened that might be.

      And that's why it needs to be stored for 100k years. If it gets into the environment and into the good chain it will get inside people, and harm them.

      That's why no-one buys cheap land around Chernobyl. Sure, if you wonder around randomly with your dosimeter it might seem fairly safe, but actually spending an extended period of time there is a bad idea.

      • Both Cesium and Strontium isotopes found in spent nuclear fuel have half lives of about 30 years or less. In 100 years you'd have 1/10th of what you started with. In another 100 years you'd have another 1/10th, and so on. In 1000 years it would be close to 1/10,000,000,000 of what you started with.

        There is no need to store this stuff for hundreds of thousands of years. Storing it for a couple hundred should be sufficient to allow the worst of the radiation to have gone away.

        I think that anyone that clai

  • For a long time (decades) I see solutions like old salt mines such as Yucca mountain or other sites for long storage being suggested, but for some time I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to just turn the waste into small chunks (glass or cement) and shoot it down a failed/deactivated offshore well.
    Those wells are very, very deep, altough they can get pretty thin at the bottom, they are quite wide for the most part and could store a great volume of material. It would shield us and most of living beings by
  • Radiation is like burning a candle. The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long. The isotopes with half the half life is twice as radioactive. Something with a half life of 100,000 years is not something that will kill you, unless you forge it into a knife and stab yourself with it.

    Just put the stuff in a vault for 100 years or so and then take it out. At that point the real danger will be from it being made of a mix of heavy metals. So wear gloves, goggles, and steel toed boots when you m

    • How blind are you, blindseer?

      Something with a half life of 100,000 years is not something that will kill you, unless you forge it into a knife and stab yourself with it.

      Now explain the difference between:
      1g of such a material on your fridge
      1kg of such a material below your bed
      1ton of such a material in your garage
      10tons of such a material in a container in front of your house

      Hint: 1000g equals 1kg, 1000kg equal one ton, so 10 tons of your favourite radioactive material is 10 million times more radioactive

      • Now explain the difference between:
        1g of such a material on your fridge

        I'd probably buy some of that phosphorescent paint, find an appropriately sized jar, and try to make a night light out of it.

        1kg of such a material below your bed

        That might be a problem for me.

        1ton of such a material in your garage

        That would suck, I'd have to park my truck on the driveway.

        10tons of such a material in a container in front of your house

        The steel container would block any alpha or beta radiation so that does not concern me. The gamma and neutron radiation would largely be blocked by the mass of the rest of the material between me and the emitting particle. Depending on the composition of the stuff in the container it is quite

        • The steel container would block any alpha or beta radiation so that does not concern me. The gamma and neutron radiation would largely be blocked by the mass of the rest of the material between me and the emitting particle. Depending on the composition of the stuff in the container it is quite likely the radiation I'd be exposed to in my house would go DOWN.

          Ah, suddenly you approve of containers. Actually, they only block a part of it. And cause bremsstrahlung and in worst case also gamma radiation. The mor

  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @11:42PM (#51508873)

    Has it suddenly become incapable of containing LLNW? Should I return my almost-antique radioluminescent bowls? And to whom should I return them?

  • I mean this is pretty much exactly the same as what was developed in 1978 at ANU and ANSTO, but never licenced for use by any of the nuclear energy using countries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
  • ....any project where my success or failure will not be determined for at least 50,000 years.

    I am absolutely certain that I could guarantee results in that timeframe.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

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