Nuclear waste out into space?

Why don’t we…OK OK I can hear it now. But seriously is the reason we don’t send it out there because we are afraid the rocket will blow up or something before it makes it out there.

I mean once it is out into space what harm will it do. What would happen if we sent it into the sun??

Yeah yeah I know what you’re all thinking (what’s he thinking about messing up the sun for) But what would one pile of nuclear waste do to the sun?

And also skip the logical answer we mess up our world so why take the chance of messing up another world. The odds of our nuclear waste infecting another ]planet (with life) must be staggering.

I know I’ll get it for asking but how about some serious answers.

Quite apart from the risk of having the rocket go boom and scattering radioactives across several hundred square miles, and the cost of the rockets themselves – we may want to keep it where we can get at it. I can hear the snickering now. But, apart from the unjustifiable hysteria of the no-nukes crowd (and keep those flames to yourselves; I know there are non-hysterical arguments against nuclear power), it’s a bad idea to chuck away something that might have some use in the future. I don’t know what that use might be, but I will point out that the only use there was for petroleum up 'till the 1800’s was in medicine. It might be that the nuclides in that “waste” might prove fantastically useful in the future. So, glassify it, mix it with concrete and make blocks out of it, whatever, but don’t go flinging it into deep space just yet.

Shared pain is lessened; shared joy is increased.

I think you are right that nothing would happen to the sun if we sent nuclear waste into it. It’s a big hot fusion reaction and no piddling spent products of fission would significantly affect it.

I think it might be a decent idea to get rid of nuclear waste that way, but it is much cheaper and no less safe just to glassify it, as has been mentioned.

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

What is this, how you say, “glassify”?

Back off, man. I’m a scientist.

Glassification, also called vitrification, is where the wastes you want to isolate from the environment are melted together with glass. The resulting molten glass is then poured into a stainless steel urn, which is (ideally) put away in a dry cave nobody’s using with a sturdy front door. This article has a good thumbnail description of the process.

Shared pain is lessened; shared joy is increased.

The sun is one million times the size of the earth, in volume. If the Earth were side-by-side with something as big as the sun, you’d have trouble even seeing the Earth. A block of nuclear waste the size of the whole planet wouldn’t affect the sun any more than peeing on a nuclear reactor would stop it from melting.

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to relive it. Georges Santayana

The energy budget for launching the many thousands of tons of nuclear waste we have on hand and the many tons we create each year is staggering. Keep in mind that we invented the entire science of miniaturization, and the built the largest motors ever built, just to send three guys to the moon.

Until the cost of launches drops to a level where payload costs are figured out in dollars per ton, instead of dollars per ounce, this dream remains of the pipe variety.

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The problems of nuclear waste disposal are political, not technical. Technically, we have several ways to dispose of nuclear waste right now that are extremely safe.

One of the reasons we have problems of waste disposal is because we can’t even get permission to move the stuff through various political boundaries. So even if we wanted to shoot it into space you probably couldn’t truck the stuff down to Florida or any of the other launch facilities.

The anti-nuke people are unreasonable, strident, and organized. Hell, they even came close to delaying or cancelling the Cassinni mission to Saturn, even though they didn’t have a scientific leg to stand on.

Space:1999 reruns, anyone??


Keep in mind that most (if not nearly all) of the rad waste produced each year is low level rad waste. Low level waste is by definition less than the legal limit. However, since it has been used in connection with a potentially ionizing source,; it has to be classified as rad waste. There is very little (by comparison) high level rad waste produced. The problem, as stated earlier, is political. Because of past mistakes at places such as Hanford, Wa. and Rocky Flats,Co. most states are skittish about allowing rad waste to even move through their area. And, of course, there are the Jane Fondas of the world who use fear mongering to further their own twisted political agendas.

Ghaa! now I have to go wash my hands. I feel so unclean having typed HER name.

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”

Computer science sage Robert Wilensky