US science group says it's time to start burying plutonium

May 10, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Plutonium,. Pictured against an inch and centimeter rule. Image: Wikipedia.

(Phys.org) -- As researchers the world over continue to try to find a way to meet the energy needs of an over populated planet, negative consequences for choices already made continue to pile up. Global warming that appears likely caused by the burning of fossil fuels is one, dealing with radioactive waste from nuclear power plants (and the decommissioning of atomic weapons) is another, perhaps more solvable problem. Because of that, a team of scientists from the United States has published a commentary piece in the science journal Nature, declaring that the time has come for ceasing discussions about what to do with plutonium waste and to simply find suitable places for it and bury it.

By most estimates there is currently about 500 metric tons of plutonium in the world today that needs to be disposed of in some sort of reasonable way. By reasonable, most mean in a way that doesn’t harm anyone or the environment and that can’t be accessed by those wishing to use it to make nuclear weapons. Those writing in the new commentary piece suggest that the only good option is sealing it in ceramic pucks and burying it.

Others aren’t so sure, and that’s why plutonium is currently being used to create something called Mixed Oxide nuclear fuel (MOX), an alternative fuel source that by all accounts is more costly to use than is simply using fresh alternatives, such as uranium. Still others are using plutonium as fuel for so-called fast reactors; but that doesn’t get rid of the problem, it just delays having to deal with it.

This is why the commentary group says the best solution is to simply bury the waste and be rid of it. Unfortunately, saying it needs to be done, isn’t all that new. Leaders of countries such as the US, France, Japan and others have been trying to do that for decades. The problem isn’t that people don’t understand that it needs to be done, it’s finding a place to dump the waste that people can agree on. As just one example, in the United States, a site was chosen in the Yucca Mountains; its physical characteristics and remoteness suggested it would be an ideal site. The site was approved by Congress in 2002, but opponents of the idea stalled the process and eventually persuaded President Obama to cancel the project in 2009, with the end result being, nuclear waste still temporarily stored in “secure” locations around the country. Thus, the problem isn’t that people don’t understand what needs to be done, it’s that no one wants a nuclear waste dump site anywhere near them, or even in or near areas that are considered special for one reason or another.

By publishing their opinions regarding what needs to be done, this group is hoping that sound minds will eventually prevail, and that reasonable sites will be chosen by responsible people resulting in being buried sooner, rather than later.

Explore further: Multifold challenges for districts level retrofitting

More information: Nuclear proliferation: Time to bury plutonium, Nature 485, 167–168 (10 May 2012) doi:10.1038/485167a

Related Stories

GE and Hitachi want to use nuclear waste as a fuel

Feb 18, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- One of the world's biggest providers of nuclear reactors, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (a joint venture of General Electric and Hitachi), wants to reprocess nuclear waste for use as a fuel in ...

Cambridge University puts Newton's papers online

Dec 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a project that has long been overdue, Cambridge University, thanks to a hefty gift from the Polonsky Foundation (supporter of education and arts) and a grant from Britain’s Joint ...

Plutonium in troubled reactors, spent fuel pools

Mar 18, 2011

(AP) --The fuel rods at all six reactors at the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi complex contain plutonium - better known as fuel for nuclear weapons. While plutonium is more toxic than uranium, other radioactive ...

Recommended for you

The state of shale

8 hours ago

University of Pittsburgh researchers have shared their findings from three studies related to shale gas in a recent special issue of the journal Energy Technology, edited by Götz Veser, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Che ...

Website shines light on renewable energy resources

Dec 18, 2014

A team from the University of Arizona and eight southwestern electric utility companies have built a pioneering web portal that provides insight into renewable energy sources and how they contribute to the ...

Better software cuts computer energy use

Dec 18, 2014

An EU research project is developing tools to help software engineers create energy-efficient code, which could reduce electricity consumption at data centres by up to 50% and improve battery life in smart ...

Cook farm waste into energy

Dec 17, 2014

It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense, according to preliminary research from the University of Guelph.

User comments : 70

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dnatwork
4 / 5 (4) May 10, 2012
Bury it in a subduction zone, so it will go into the mantle for a long time.
fully attached
1 / 5 (6) May 10, 2012
they would actually need to pick places where people cannot navigate and to keep the locations secret as possible.
ShotmanMaslo
2.8 / 5 (19) May 10, 2012
"Still others are using plutonium as fuel for so-called fast reactors; but that doesnt get rid of the plutonium problem, it just delays having to deal with it."

Blatantly incorrect. Fast reactors fission plutonium. They get rid of the problem forever, and produce lots of energy in the process (turn liability into an asset).
Its exactly the other way around - BURYING it doesnt get rid of the Pu problem, it just delays having to deal with it. And it makes no sense. Why bury valuable energy dense nuclear fuel that can satisfy our energy needs for centuries, without any carbon emissions?

G. Monbiot: A Waste of Waste
http://www.monbio...f-waste/

http://en.wikiped..._Reactor
Origin
1.2 / 5 (24) May 10, 2012
Plutonium is the most toxic substance on earth, by far. It is 2,000,000x more radioactive than Uranium dioxide. One pound is enough, properly distributed, to kill every man woman and child on the planet. One pound is about the size of a bloated silver dollar, U.S. Though a particle of plutonium on in-tact external human skin can do no damage because the alpha particle has a very short distance of penetration. The activity is millions of times more than you get from most other radioactive substances.

Ive also read that a dixie-cup half-filled with Plutonium dust, in a sealed room containing 40 humans will kill all humans in that room in about 2 hours or less.
fully attached
1.5 / 5 (8) May 10, 2012
Bury it in a subduction zone, so it will go into the mantle for a long time.

what and where is the shallowest area subduction occurs?
ShotmanMaslo
3.1 / 5 (28) May 10, 2012
Plutonium is the most toxic substance on earth, by far. It is 2,000,000x more radioactive than Uranium dioxide. One pound is enough, properly distributed, to kill every man woman and child on the planet.


Incorrect. Botox or Botulinum toxin is the most toxic substance known, with a lethal dose of about 200-300 picogram of toxin per kg of bodyweight. It is the toxic compound produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.
A picogram is 10^-12 gram. The number means that that just 100 grams, properly distributed, is enough to kill all humans on Earth.

But it does not freak people as much as plutonium (even tough its far more widespread) because its not HURR DURR NUCULAR.
Education is the key people. Nuclear energy should be respected, but not irrationaly feared. There are more dangerous things.
Origin
1.3 / 5 (16) May 10, 2012
On August 1, 1944, a sealed tube containing plutonium chloride solution ejected part of its contents while being opened. [...] Don Mastick, the young chemist working with the plutonium, realized from the taste of acid in his mouth that part of the solution must have bounced off the wall into his mouth.
Heh. This version (http://nucnews.ne...2nn.htm) says they pumped Mastick's stomach, and then made him, since he was the plutonium chemist, extract the precious plutonium from his stomach contents. The Living Human Plutonium Injection Experiments http://library.la...6640.pdf
Origin
1.3 / 5 (15) May 10, 2012
Botox or Botulinum toxin is the most acutely toxic substance known, with a lethal dose of about 200-300 picogram of toxin per kg of bodyweight
In the experiments above linked the persons were killed with 5 mkg doses of Pu after few months or years. Lethal dose of botox would require 20 mkg dose.

One fact is almost certainthe patients were not told that they were being injected with plutonium. Up until the end of the war, the word plutonium was a secret. Even in the classified documents of the time, plutonium was referred to with the code words "49" and "product."
ShotmanMaslo
2.8 / 5 (20) May 10, 2012
Botox or Botulinum toxin is the most acutely toxic substance known, with a lethal dose of about 200-300 picogram of toxin per kg of bodyweight
In the experiments above linked the persons were killed with 5 mkg doses of Pu after few months or years. Lethal dose of botox would require 20 mkg dose.

One fact is almost certainthe patients were not told that they were being injected with plutonium. Up until the end of the war, the word plutonium was a secret. Even in the classified documents of the time, plutonium was referred to with the code words "49" and "product."


The LD50 of plutonium is difficult to quantify, but commonly its mentioned around 5 micrograms per Kg of bodyweight, whereas for botulotoxin its estimated in the order of 1-3 nanograms per Kg.
ShotmanMaslo
1.9 / 5 (13) May 10, 2012
I have also found sources that say its just a few hundred picograms per Kg. I guess its difficult to exactly quantify toxicity with such little amounts.
Scottingham
3.9 / 5 (7) May 10, 2012
Good job Shotman in debunking an ignorant anti-nuke troll.

What's your favorite type of fission reactor?

I'm personally getting really into the lead-cooled fast reactor types.
ryggesogn2
1.6 / 5 (17) May 10, 2012
500 metric tons, sounds like a lot.
Density of Pu is ~20 metric tons/cubic meter
So the total volume is ~25 cubic meters.
I understand it can't be put into such a volume with out dire consequence, but, perspective is sometimes useful.
ryggesogn2
1.5 / 5 (15) May 10, 2012
2,000,000x more radioactive than Uranium dioxide.

Could be but there are much more dangerous radioactive sources used every day. Cobalt 60 is a power full gamma emitter and is used to sterilize medical products.
Like U, Pu typically emits alpha particles which are easy to shield.
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (16) May 10, 2012

What's your favorite type of fission reactor?

I'm personally getting really into the lead-cooled fast reactor types.


Molten salt reactors, particularly the Liquid fluoride thorium reactor are very intriguing and promising.
http://en.wikiped..._reactor

Too bad these more exotic reactor designs were neglected since the 70s, but thats going to change now:
http://nextbigfut...uid.html

When it comes to fast reactors, I prefer the abovementioned Integral Fast Reactor. It has so strong negative temperature coefficient of reactivity that it alone is enough to stop the reactor from overheating in case of a cooling failure (passive safety), and this has been practically demonstrated in EBR-II, where all of the deliberate attempts to cause meltdown were unsuccessful.
Anorion
2.2 / 5 (10) May 10, 2012
wow shot and scott fell in love, soon they will marry and make baby reactors grraaaaattttzzz ^___^
dschlink
4.6 / 5 (9) May 10, 2012
Thorium reactors can not only burn plutonium, they can reduce most byproducts of PWR to much shorter-lived isotopes. And the fuel pellets don't have to be reprocessed first. I suspect the USA will be buying the technology from India in a decade or so.
Anorion
3.2 / 5 (6) May 10, 2012
on more serious note, building nuclear central cost literally few billions us dollars , extracting and refining fissile fuel cost huge amount of fossil fuel for mining and energy for refining and when mines are depleted that zone become disaster zone for eons
and depleted part of refined fissile matter is also problem , ok americans made bombs of it and shot it on people around world but that not really a solution...then once you burned that fissile material , there is all the nuclear trash that is radioactive forever and no one know what to do with it, and once central is too old, it costs again literally billions to dismantle it and the land it was on is unusable unless you say your ready to live there ... all that together cost so much in terms of environment and money that only reason that it is affordable its that is almost entirely subventioned by governments and military
Origin
1.2 / 5 (21) May 10, 2012
Molten salt reactors, particularly the Liquid fluoride thorium reactor are very intriguing and promising.
They're not. In addition, the operation of breeder reactors is inherently even more dangerous, than of those classical ones (higher temperatures or pressures, etc..). The only clean nuclear power is the cold fusion.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.3 / 5 (11) May 10, 2012
Plutonium is an essential component to the nuclear weapons needed in the coming battle with the Moon Men and their cloned army of Big Foot space apes.

Plutonium NOW!

ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (16) May 10, 2012
Molten salt reactors, particularly the Liquid fluoride thorium reactor are very intriguing and promising.
They're not.
http://www.ieer.o...eet.pdf.


Yes, they are:
http://energyfrom...ebuttal/
ShotmanMaslo
2.3 / 5 (16) May 10, 2012
Also this rebuttal:
http://energyfrom...psrieer/

"In addition, the operation of breeder reactors is inherently even more dangerous, than of those classical ones (higher temperatures or pressures, etc..)"

Nope, LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure. And higher temperature is not a safety concern with molten salts.
They have many safety advantages:
http://en.wikiped..._reactor
See "safety" section.
pres68y
3.8 / 5 (6) May 10, 2012
Interesting that, with suitable irradiation, they can make "DU" warheads but yet cannot do anything with plutonium stockpiles -except bury it.
Certainly the coal and oil industries want to make as big of a problem out of this as they can. Essential to maximize their business!
kaasinees
2.6 / 5 (18) May 10, 2012
ones mans waste... one mans treasure.

Use that waste, recycle.
Terriva
1 / 5 (25) May 10, 2012
Nope, LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure
But it operates at 800 degrees instead. Simply forget it - the cold fusion will wipe all these dangerous fission technologies (which are just helping the terrorists in development of dirty bombs) from the surface of Earth. We don't need them for anything and we will not. It's blind alley of evolution and I'm sure, in near future all fission reactors will be monitored with neutrino detectors and baned with international law. Their proponents are actually those, who are delaying the introduction of really useful research of cold fusion and wasting the money, which should be invested into it instead.

The people who are asking money for the development of less perspective technology, although the better technology is already know are just a parasites of human society from my perspective and they should be punished for it.
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (10) May 10, 2012
Density of Pu is ~20 metric tons/cubic meter
So the total volume is ~25 cubic meters.

You'll want this stuff to be VERY diluted before putting it away (preferrably vitrified at a few grams of Pu per ton of glass).
Putting it in solid plutonium blocks would give you some nasty meltdown (critical mass for plutonium starts at around 10kg). Pure enough and it would blow up with a nice mushroom cloud.

We're talking literally mountains of barrels with glass/plutonium mixtures which need to be stored/disposed of.

Toxicity: Plutonium is chemically very toxic. Much smaller amounts (micrograms) will kill you chemically before the radiation will do you in (one reason why a dirty bomb is so dangerous). Plutonium can be easily ground up fine to be inhaled (accidentally or intentionally) - something butolinum toxin can't.

aroc91
4.5 / 5 (8) May 10, 2012
The only clean nuclear power is the cold fusion.


Aha! I was waiting for you to reveal your ulterior motive. Begone, troll. Rossi's hand-waving and secrecy isn't fooling anyone.

TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (11) May 10, 2012
Fissionables are they most valuable commodity that a civilization at our stage of development can possess.

Fissionables are freedom to operate for extended periods in hostile environments where no other power source is available. Fissionables enable us to apply extreme amounts of power in very small places, to change and move things that otherwise could not be changed or moved.

Fissionables alone will enable the species to colonize the solar system. We would not be able to do so without them. They allow us to respond to emergencies. They provide essential political control and influence. They are security.

Which is why it was necessary to create the monumental Deception of 2 superpowers willing to destroy each other, as justification for spending $trillions and poisoning thousands, in order to create the thousands of tons of the stuff which we now possess.

People of the future will be grateful.
Terriva
1.3 / 5 (23) May 10, 2012
Rossi's hand-waving and secrecy isn't fooling anyone.
Who is talking about Rossi? Mr. Hagelstein is official MIT professor and lecturer. If he would spread open frauds between students, he would be fired already. Speaking of Rossi, if prof. Hagelstein can report COP over 14 (i.e. energy yield 1400% !!!), why Andrea Rossi could claim COP = 6? He would be still quite earthbound with his claims about his technology - no matter which principle it's actually based on... After all, the Focardi and Piantelli reported the COP over 3 before twenty years already. We should expect some progress in this area of research, if nothing else.
Terriva
1 / 5 (17) May 10, 2012
BTW It's just me - or this page got blacklisted with some free speech haters right now? There is lotta money in the fission research. If its proponents cannot censor the discussion as such, they will attempt to block the site as a whole. Now you can see, how easily the web site blacklisting feature of some browsers can be abused for censorship.
aroc91
5 / 5 (4) May 10, 2012
"e-catworld.com"

That's all I need to see to make the link to Rossi. Cold fusion has, time and time again, failed at getting respectable publication.

Cold fusion proponents are in the same boat as people that claim the oil companies keep assassinating random inventors of high-mpg cars. Shell themselves sponsors that eco-marathon thing, where people consistently race >1000mpg cars. If their theories held any water, those people would be dropping like flies.
aroc91
5 / 5 (4) May 10, 2012
If they keep up this "we can't get independent verification because the man is keeping us down" shit, nobody is ever going to take them seriously.
Origin
1 / 5 (10) May 11, 2012
this page got blacklisted with some free speech haters right now
Statement of PhysOrg and Google about malware blacklisting. The malware reporting should be subject of reporting too, as it adversely affects the site credibility and/or even accessibility in some browsers/browser setting.
bluehigh
1 / 5 (10) May 11, 2012
Indeed it was likely from a third party link and NOT of the Phys.org website itself. Perhaps time to disallow links in the comments. In any case all the evidence indicates it did happen, sadly. For the doubters, I am going to watch Friday night NRL football now and when I get normality restored (150,000 to 1 and falling) and if I have relevant useful information to pass onto the phyorg team, I will.

bluehigh
1 / 5 (10) May 11, 2012
Could be a betrayal of trust by a malevolent user posting a comment with embedded link to badware.

I'm having a hard time with the idea that a registered physorg user would post such a link but theres some nutjobs here nowadays and yep .. be fool me i clicked.
Origin
1 / 5 (11) May 11, 2012
Indeed it was likely from a third party link and NOT of the Phys.org website itself.
Nope, the malware reporting was made with malicious users of PO forum manually as an attempt to censor posts, which appear here. The malware detection service in Firefox is solely based on manual reporting and every one of you can contribute to it. It doesn't check the links to other sites at all. The Google checked the presence of links used with known malware and it found no errors. My web sites are routinely reported in the same way, although they contain only pictures and few static pages with no links. Your silly and apparently misleading comments here are making you a suspicious person in this matter.
bluehigh
1.7 / 5 (12) May 11, 2012
@Origin

your whole comment was nonsense. If you check the evidence, its IE that allowed the badware. Your attempt to cast a victim (me) as culprit brings into question your involvement and perhaps your sanity. Clearly evidence based conclusions are beyond you.

Origin
1 / 5 (10) May 11, 2012
If you check the evidence, its IE that allowed the badware.
LOL, prove it and show us this evidence. You clearly have no idea, what the SafeBrowsing Reporting service is and how it works - or you're pretending it at least. This service has nothing to do with IE.
DarkHorse66
1 / 5 (10) May 11, 2012
Question: as a person not familiar with what does and does not get done by a malware sweep; does such malware checking include checking subscriber accounts? Especially as you can upload certain files (pictures, etc) into there. Heaven knows, there are enough malicious sockpuppets floating around and downranking at random. The latest currently active ones that I have observed, go by the name of 'Pluton' and 'Atomsk'. Phys.org seems oh so good at ignoring such sockpuppets, even a report is made...
Regards, DH66
Origin
1 / 5 (9) May 11, 2012
does such malware checking include checking subscriber accounts
Nope and there is even no reason for it, as you cannot install malware into your private profile.
R2Bacca
5 / 5 (4) May 11, 2012
Getting a bit off-topic here...
that_guy
5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2012
Bury it in a subduction zone, so it will go into the mantle for a long time

That may be a good idea, but is it worth the potential side effects? Sci fi channel will make nothing but bad made for TV movie originals about nuclear earthquakes and rift supervolcanoes for centuries to come. The effect on TV entertainment could be devastating.

2,000,000x more radioactive than Uranium dioxide.

Could be but there are much more dangerous radioactive sources used every day. Cobalt 60 is a power full gamma emitter and is used to sterilize medical products.
Like U, Pu typically emits alpha particles which are easy to shield.

internal radioactive toxicity is a little more complicated than straight radioactivity. Pu exposes one to relatively little dangerous ionizing radiation externally compared to Cobalt 60.

However, the way Plutonium or Polonium are metabolized in the body make them extremely radioactively toxic if ingested internally.
that_guy
4.4 / 5 (7) May 11, 2012
Toxicity: Plutonium is chemically very toxic. Much smaller amounts (micrograms) will kill you CHEMICALLY BEFORE THE RADIATION WILL DO YOU IN.


This is wrongity wrong wrong wrong.

I wrote a short story once where plutonium and polonium dust settling out of the atmosphere was the a vector for death.

I initially made the same assumption as you - however, when I actually did the research, I found that the proximate cause of death is indeed radioactivity - The chemical properties of Pu are not the primary toxicity - the chemical properties just allow the radioactivity to cause the maximum amount of damage when ingested.

Also, alpha radiation normally doesn't penetrate the skin, but can be dangerous when emitted within the body.
kaasinees
1.3 / 5 (12) May 11, 2012
does such malware checking include checking subscriber accounts
Nope and there is even no reason for it, as you cannot install malware into your private profile.

Wrong. If someone posts a malicious link onto their profile it will get detected by the scanner. The scanner doesnt differentiate the website pages as to what they are.
wwqq
4.2 / 5 (5) May 12, 2012
Plutonium is the most toxic substance on earth, by far.


Plutonium is not particularly toxic. It's extremely poorly absorbed(~10^-5) by the stomach lining, it's not particularly radioactive, it's very difficult to turn into an aerosol.

It is 2,000,000x more radioactive than Uranium dioxide.


Uranium-238 is 4200,000,000x times as radioactive as bismuth-209!!!1

Who cares? U-238 is barely radioactive and you've tacked on a zero too many. Po-210 is ~70 000 times more radioactive than plutonium and easily absorbed.

One pound is enough, properly distributed, to kill every man woman and child on the planet.


You can drown infinity people in a bath tub.

6 manhattan pu-workers have/had in their bodies more than one billionth of a pound of pu with no detectable cancer risk increase or ill effect(which means they were exposed to a few orders of magnitude more plutonium than that!). I cannot find anyone who has been exposed to more plutonium or killed by it.
wwqq
3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2012
The chemical properties of Pu are not the primary toxicity - the chemical properties just allow the radioactivity to cause the maximum amount of damage when ingested.


The chemical properties of plutonium are such that almost none of it is absorbed if ingested, even less if it's in oxide form. Hence why Bernard Cohen challenged his opponents to eat as much caffeine as he would eat plutonium in oxide form.
wwqq
3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2012
However, the way Plutonium or Polonium are metabolized in the body make them extremely radioactively toxic if ingested internally.


If you eat plutonium 99.999% will go straight through and be eliminated from the body, with only 0,001% being absorbed.

The only kind of plutonium exposure that is considered a serious threat is inhalation of fine particulate dusts.
wwqq
5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2012
The US military has done extensive work studying radiological dispersal devices("dirty bombs"), by taking actual sources and blowing them up with high explosives.

What they've found is that they don't bloody work. Sure, they might kill people, but only the way explosions usually kill people: blast and shrapnel.

If you have the capability to build a moderately effective RDD, you are probably a nation state and you could easily build a nuclear weapon instead.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (8) May 12, 2012
Seriously why don't they just launch it into space, send it into jupiter or the sun or just the hell out of the solar system on a polar orbit, the cost of a few heavy-lift launches has got to be less than monitoring this stuff for the next thousand years right?

I understand the safety issue but if it were flown to sub orbital altitude using those new huge planes they are building then launched you would need less fuel and have more room for a shielding container that would minimize the risk should there be a catastrophic failure during launch.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) May 12, 2012
]q}Seriously why don't they just launch it into space
Cost. Launching these gigatonnes of vitrified plutonium would be ENORMOUSLY expensive. And who would want to pay for it? The number of luanches you'd need would be in the hundreds of thousands (at a minimum of 20 million a pop you do the math) (That many launches would also overkill the ozone laye. Rocket launches aren't exectly ecologically nifty events).

Add to that that we're still in the rage where one out of every 20 rockets we launch go 'boom'. If you have a rocket filled with plutonium go boom you are in a world of hurt.
megmaltese
1 / 5 (11) May 12, 2012
Drop it in the marianne's hole, nobody will ever extract it from there and in some years we should finally have godzilla at last!
Terriva
1.9 / 5 (13) May 13, 2012
If you eat plutonium 99.999% will go straight through and be eliminated from the body, with only 0,001% being absorbed.
This is complete nonsense and I cannot understand, which religious trolls are willing to upvote it. Most of heavy metals are adsorbed easily in the organism. See for example here: "Plutonium leaves your body very slowly in the urine and feces". Only 60% of orally administrated plutonium is excreted in three week period. We know about many examples of accumulation of plutonium in living organisms. Of course, various proponents of nuclear energy will claim, the plutonium is as harmless as kitchen salt, because the propaganda has no limits in lies.
Pediopal
1 / 5 (8) May 13, 2012
Living close to Hanford in eastern Washington I will place my bets on this being the world retainer for nuclear waste. They have tried to clean it up for years at the cost on millions of dollars. The more they dig the more they find. Washington needs money and like most places Washington doesn't care how it is generated. The animals, weeds and dirt in Hanford are already tripping the Geiger counter so why waste more money in a futile cleanup effort when they can just bring in more. The area is easily accessible by rail, water and highway system and already has tight security.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (9) May 13, 2012
If they are going to dump it into washington, they might as well make a power plant that runs on it in washington.
Caliban
1 / 5 (2) May 13, 2012
I'm for the Subduction Zone burial strategy, myself. Bore a shaft as deep as possible below the sea floor, at the verge of the subducting plate, set a plug in it at a depth well below the sea floor, pump a slurry of Pu dust/concrete into the bore below the plug, and backfill the remaining bore.

The rigs could be set up to make several bores in a given footprint, and then moved on to the next site, a few feet or a few miles away.

By the time the conglomerate was carried deep enough to be altered substantially, it wouldn't pose any explosive threat, and any return to the surface would not only take a very long time to happen, but would also be at harmless concentrations.

A one-time enterprise. It would completely eliminate the cost of maintaining storage facilities the whole world over, indefinitely.

Alas, there are still the problems that Pediopal mentions, but they will remain a related, though seperate problem regardless of the HL-radiowaste storage solution.

Terriva
1.4 / 5 (11) May 13, 2012
We should store this sh*t somehow for future in safe way. For example, the nanodust of plutonium could ionize the huge volume of interstellar gas or asteroid and it could create the cosmic shield. The mixing with Americium-241 looks well:

Israelis develop 'safe' plutonium: good for power, bad for weapons
Eventide
1 / 5 (9) May 13, 2012
The human race made some cool advancements so far that showcases creativity and tenacity in figuring something out, but radioactive waste is the BIGGEST letdown our scientific age. And we have nothing to show for it to make it benign or less toxic. Why isn't there a scientific discipline solely devoted to this very problem?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) May 13, 2012
Why isn't there a scientific discipline solely devoted to this very problem?

Because you're dealing here with a physical process (half life) of atoms.

And in the immortal words of Scotty:
"Captain, I canna change the laws of physics!"

The biggest letdown here is that we ever started with nuclear in the first place - without giving the waste disposal a second thought (actually we have been doing that with all forms of energy for the past several thousand years...and have always paid our lack of foresight with more than we ever gained from using that energy)

Only recently have we started to look at the entire lifecycle of products (which includes powerplants nowadays). But still the environmental aspects are largely ignored.

could ionize the huge volume of interstellar gas or asteroid and it could create the cosmic shield.

Jeebus Christ...you just jumped an entire order of magnitude over your regular level of 'crazy'.
Terriva
1.4 / 5 (11) May 13, 2012
...you just jumped an entire order of magnitude over your regular level of 'crazy'.
You see and Carl Sagan was payed for such brilliant ideas daily...
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (2) May 13, 2012
Please avoid all future references to gay scat. It excites the Parker and Rygg Tard brothers.

"ones mans waste... one mans treasure." - kaasin
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 13, 2012
You see and Carl Sagan was payed for such brilliant ideas daily...

And he wrote novels. Fictional novels. Look up the word 'fiction'

When he was talking about science he tried to keep it real (i.e. he double checked whether what he was saying was real/feasible/sensible).

Your 'ideas' are neither good fiction nor are they anywhere real. They're just brainfarts of someone living in a dreamworld he thinks is real. Get help.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (9) May 14, 2012
And we have nothing to show for it to make it benign or less toxic.


Incorrect. There are reactor designs that can burn the long-term waste into isotopes that are less radioactive than natural uranium after 300 years, thus solving the waste problem once and for all. We have had them for a few decades now.

"Because you're dealing here with a physical process (half life) of atoms."

Their fission can be accelerated by neutron bombardment, either from accelerators or preferably in waste burning reactors. So its not like this physical process cannot be influenced.
Origin
1.4 / 5 (9) May 14, 2012
They're just brainfarts of someone living in a dreamworld he thinks is real.
I just tried to illustrate some usage for plutonium waste. Of course I know, we have no usage for it right now. It's artificial element, which doesn't occur anywhere in the nature and IMO it's a waste of human effort to dump it all in non-recoverable way. If nothing else, the storage pit could be significant source of radioactive heat. Even Stalin was surprised, how warm this metal is.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) May 14, 2012
It's artificial element, which doesn't occur anywhere in the nature

Plutonium does occur in nature (though in very small amounts..far too small to be useful for mining/refniement)
http://en.wikiped...currence

it's a waste of human effort to dump it all in non-recoverable way.

Since we have no use for it - and it poses nothing but a latent danger while stored - we should get rid of it if we can.
If we ever find a use then we can synthesize it from scratch.
Origin
1 / 5 (8) May 14, 2012
Since we have no use for it - and it poses nothing but a latent danger while stored - we should get rid of it if we can.
This is atemporal deterministic way of thinking typical for formally thinking people and the proponents of mathematical approach to reality. The math is atemporal, it doesn't recognize the time concept and if something is valid in it, it's valid for the whole axiomatic system at the same moment - for ever.

The formally thinking people cannot therefore account to the future, they cannot learn from past. If something has no price right now, it should be dumped without problem. It's simply short-seeing narrow-minded way of thinking.

BTW the same people indeed promote the breeding nuclear reactors burning the thorium, in which the plutonium would be replicated in large quantities. Just because these reactors work, but nobody cares about their potential risk. These two divergent lines of thinking demonstrate the limits of deterministic approach to problem.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (9) May 14, 2012


BTW the same people indeed promote the breeding nuclear reactors burning the thorium, in which the plutonium would be replicated in large quantities. Just because these reactors work, but nobody cares about their potential risk. These two divergent lines of thinking demonstrate the limits of deterministic approach to problem.



Incorrect. Thorium reactors which are recently the subject of a renewed interest - LFTR - do not have plutonium-239 in the final waste stream, only small quantities of Pu-238 (the dangerous isotope is Pu-239, not 238).

Pu-238 has half-life of only 88 years, emits only alpha particles, and is very useful - its the best element for powering radioisotope thermoelectric generators.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet May 14, 2012
If something has no price right now, it should be dumped without problem. It's simply short-seeing narrow-minded way of thinking.

It's simply common sense. Keeping this stuff around costs loads of money for uncertain future use. Storage and the security measures needed aren't free.

Beyond a certain timeframe it is economically better to dump and remanufacture as needed. That timeframe can be calculated

Simply calculate cost of storage for timeframe t (linear) minus cost of remanufacture (a constant). If positive then dump, if negative then keep.

Technologies also don't happen over night (as you see on physorg. The timeframe fom research to market is pretty long). There aren't even any technologies that require plutonium on the horizon - much less anyone working on them. So we can already estimate the minimum timeframe in which it will not be useful. I'd hazard that even for that timeframe we're already in the 'dump' bracket.
Anorion
not rated yet May 14, 2012
The most common chemical process, PUREX (PlutoniumURanium EXtraction) reprocesses spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium and uranium which can be used to form a mixed oxide "MOX fuel" for reuse in nuclear reactors. Weapons grade plutonium can be added to the fuel mix. MOX fuel is used in light water reactors and consists of 60 kg of plutonium per tonne of fuel; after four years, three-quarters of the plutonium is burned (turned into other elements). Breeder reactors are specifically designed to create more fissionable material than they consume.

MOX fuel has been in use since the 1980s and is widely used in Europe. In September 2000, the United States and the Russian Federation signed a Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement by which each agreed to dispose of 34 tonnes of weapon grade plutonium. The U.S. Department of Energy plans to dispose of 34 tonnes of weapon grade plutonium in the United States before the end of 2019 by converting the plutonium to a MOX fuel
-Wikipedia
kaasinees
1 / 5 (10) May 14, 2012
Why does the USA still use uranium in weapons?
Moebius
1.7 / 5 (12) May 14, 2012
Bury it in a subduction zone, so it will go into the mantle for a long time.


Good idea but way too slow. Why not put it back where it came from a lot quicker? There must be a large open magma tube in an active volcano somewhere. Package the stuff in something that won't melt, make it heavier than magma and drop it in.
ShotmanMaslo
1.4 / 5 (11) May 14, 2012
Bury it in a subduction zone, so it will go into the mantle for a long time.


Good idea but way too slow. Why not put it back where it came from a lot quicker? There must be a large open magma tube in an active volcano somewhere. Package the stuff in something that won't melt, make it heavier than magma and drop it in.


And when the active volcano explodes, enjoy your radioactive lava.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.