How do you store something for one million years? That’s the sort of question scientists have to consider when disposing of the spent fuel from nuclear power plants. To put that timespan into context: one million years ago, homo sapiens didn’t yet exist and the world was still locked in an ice age.

Sixty years after the birth of the nuclear power industry, countries around the world – from Australia to Germany – are wondering how to safely dispose of radioactive waste. France, the country in the world with the largest share of electricity produced by nuclear power (58 reactors meeting 75% of France’s electricity needs), produces enough radioactive waste annually to fill 120 double-decker buses.

Until a 1993 ban, some nations dumped nuclear waste into the ocean. In the 1970s, NASA investigated the possibility of blasting nuclear waste into space and storing it on the moon (though concluded space storage was not an “attractive option”). Some scientists want to use lasers to reduce the half-life of toxic radioactive material to a more manageable timespan.

The more mundane solution is to bury it. However, nobody wants to live near buried nuclear waste, so potential sites need to be isolated (not to mention geologically stable). So far, only Finland is moving ahead with plans to excavate a long-term storage facility to bury spent nuclear fuel underground (at a cost of 3.5 billion euros).

What should we do with radioactive nuclear waste? Should we bury it deep underground? Can science find a solution? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: Bigstock © makasanaphoto


14 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Yvonne

    hi..im not sure where it goes at the moment..i think the UK puts it spent items in the irish sea!! anyway would it be possible to put it on an unpersoned rocket and send it to the sun to incinerate there..what would that do to our planet then .. not sure..are there any planets out there which are uranium based and send the rocket there..get cheep transport there first ..i suppose..we need to develop teleportation better first !! anyway…hopefully somewhere safe

  2. avatar
    Borislav

    Depleted Uranium and etc could find purpose in future tech.

  3. avatar
    Γεώργιος

    Nuclear plants are lethal. They have to be closed all of them

  4. avatar
    Bódis

    Unnecessary debate: the tech for reducing the radiation of the spent nuclear fuel is already under development.

  5. avatar
    Николай

    Investment on science to find use of it

  6. avatar
    Olivier

    Now you ask the right question… After being green obsessed

  7. avatar
    Sirkka

    Shouldn’t that already be ensured
    in the design phase of the power plant?

  8. avatar
    Tristan

    No, it isn’t sustainable. And we don’t really have a viable solution for nuclear waste yet, except for storing it in a bunker and then having to guard it.

  9. avatar
    Paul

    Dump it into the Moskva River…2 problems solved !

  10. avatar
    Yannick

    In panic, we do even more stupid things. An energy crisis is an opportunity to change our consumption patterns and to steer away from dirty energy once and for all. We should NOT fall for the arguments of the oil and nuclear friendly conservatives willing to make a buck on the back of future generations. Behind the pandemic and now the war still looms the climate crisis, let’s remember that.

    • avatar
      Marek

      nuclear is a clean energy source. You can’t transition from coal and oil without nuclear. Stupid thing is not to use it and instead believe that whole world will “change its consumption patterns”.

    • avatar
      Vincent

      I would say the war initiated by Russia is compelling us to reverse stupid decisions that were made in the past on the basis of irrational arguments. Nuclear is not ideal on the long run as sole energy source. It is pricy (therefore not very profitable) and requires storage and processing of toxic wastes but it has high power density, requires little land and water, and unlike gas is a valuable tool for reaching carbon neutrality. See https://www.theguardian.com/…/addiction-russian-gas… .

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