Monday, 2 May 2011

Possible new alternative for storing nuclear waste........

The issue that surrounds the storing and disposal of nuclear waste is, perhaps, the most problematic of the disadvantages of expanding the world's nuclear power generation capability. Ideas for disposing of this waste, which stays radioactive and thereby poses a risk to human life for a number of years, vary imensely from storing it in concrete containers in specially designated areas or even the possibilty of sending it to space. All the the ideas have their own problems, clearly some more than others, but does a, more recent idea in America, provide more of a sustainable option or not???

Burying the radio active waste is not a new idea, as such, but due to the ongoing situation in Japan at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant,  it is now being considered. Beds of salt, left behind millions of years ago by evaporationg seas, up to 1 kilometre thick lie around 2km deep. Salt is flows slowly and so, unlike deposits of shale and granite which fracture under stress, seal any fissures themselves, preventing the radioactive waste from seeping into groundwater stores. The idea would involve, excavating a chamber in the salt in which the radioactive waste, in its transportation canister, could be lowered. It is believed that once the hole is sealed with salt, concrete and clay, the pressure from the surrounding rock would cause the salt layers to creep inwards and encapsulate the waste. The biggest worry is the impact that the heat from the radioactive waste would have on the salt as the effects of this are yet known. Also levels of tectonic activity and volume of groundwater would play a role in dictating possible sites.

So, is this a possible option for the future? Well, it seems clear that further research needs to be conducted before this idea can be developed further. For the US, who have quite a few underground salt deposits, it could be an option to replace the reprocessing of spent fuel that occurs in some other countries but, due to the concerns surround its possible use in nuclear weapons, does not happen in the USA.

The problems experienced, and still being experienced, in Japan has clearly forced the risks and disadvantages associated with generating nuclear power right into the front of the general public's minds.The above is just on example of  the thoughts that have been provoked by this disaster. One such response that did catch my eye is that a few people in India have stated that they would rather die than allow the events in Fukushima to repeat themselves in the future in Jaitapur. The article on this story is well worth reading and suggests that some have not learnt from what Japan is still experiencing.

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