How buried nuclear fuel, and how long is it dangerous


2020-05-08 22:00:25




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How buried nuclear fuel, and how long is it dangerous

Until then, until we learn to get energy out of fusion reaction, the most effective and economical method of its production will be nuclear power plant. Only they can provide a huge amount of energy with minimum fuel consumption. The problem lies elsewhere. All that fuel after goes into the category of ”spent nuclear fuel” (SNF), is becoming a burden to our planet. It is necessary to do something with and for the progress have to pay. As they say, the ruble entrance, exit — two. But how can you deal with it that the fuel does not harm the planet and its inhabitants? It turns out that there are several very effective ways, in addition to the burial. Let's see what happens to the ”exhaust” of a nuclear power station.

What are the different types of radioactive waste

First and foremost, we must understand that radioactive waste is generated not only from nuclear power plants, but also from other areas of human activity. For example, research and laboratory work with radioactive isotopes, radiation therapy for cancer patients and radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) that are used in remote places to generate energy. Although, the last time they are used mainly only on space stations.

There is another very large source of radioactive waste, namely, the military industry, and especially — the legacy of the cold war. Missiles, bombs and submarines of that time are still processed and pose a risk of contamination.

In General, radioactive waste per year produced hundreds of thousands tons, but not just because of the fact that produces so much fuel, and due to the fact that according to the IAEA (International atomic energy Agency) of radioactive waste is recognized any waste products that have to exit the radiation level above the standard. So here goes the equipment, machinery, cranes, clothing, appliances, stationery and even whole cars. According to the standards at the enterprises of all continuously monitored and cancellation is made before the control measurement and the decision to just throw it away or dispose of.

All radioactive waste must be labeled

By the Way, I hasten to please you. Contrary to General opinion, that in Russia for pennies dumped everything and is buried in the Far East, it is not. Moreover, since 2011 the law, which prohibits the cross-border movement (in both directions) except for the return of waste of fuel which was produced on the territory of Russia or the Soviet Union. So, compliance with contracts for the supply of fuel and equipment.

Naturally, our country must be a normal number of companies that are engaged in the further destiny of the radioactive waste and they are, for example, the famous ”Mayak”. Interestingly, contrary to General opinion, the waste is not only buried, but they find other, often a useful application.

What to do with radioactive waste

There are several ways to solve the further problem of radioactive waste. To include basic processing, storage and disposal. Sometimes resort to combined methods that can be applied in any combination, permitting to achieve the correct result.

In such rods in the reactor load of nuclear fuel. Then it is necessary to do something.

First of all, before starting work, waste is collected from enterprises who are working with the relevant materials.

Waste is transported to the plants in special containers, which can be steel, lead, concrete, from the enriched boron, polyethylene and others. All wastes are transported in strict compliance with the safety standards, and the large party even accompanied by convoys.

So transporterowych radioactive waste by rail.

How to store waste from the nuclear industry

For some wastes, the decision to keep them. This occurs when, or complex, and when all other methods are not suitable.

An Example of the fact that it is easier to bury than recycle, are nuclear submarines during the cold war. In the midst of an arms race in the USSR, there were more than two and a half hundred, and is now about five times less. The remaining two hundred boats as floats were laid up until that time, until the turn came to recycle them. Yes, this of them were cut three sections (the reactor and two adjacent) and went to the storage in special containers. The remainder was processed normally.

it looks like the storage pad for reactor compartments of submarines in the Kola Bay. Right «sails» rusty compartment, which is just getting ready to pack. In the foreground of the docking pontoon to transport and other operations with compartments of nuclear submarines.

Such storage is done on a rock Foundation. To do this, even took some of the hills so they don'tstood on the ground, through which can contaminate groundwater, which takes all the elements even further.

Such storage is completely safe, but looks so-so. And just, keep these wastes out of sight. Are done for about the same storage, but they built bunkers and all of that sprinkled the ground that they never gave. To do so is not only very dangerous waste that can be recycled after some time.

it all started with this beautiful piece of uranium ore.

Sometimes for temporary storage are canned artificial concrete boxes, also known as wet, but it is also a temporary measure. To do this, they still have thick concrete walls, but they are not able to safely store waste for hundreds and thousands of years. For this you need to build not storage, and a full burial. We'll talk about that below.

You just Have to understand that any waste you have , and some haven't. In addition, the half-life of one isotope is tens of years, such as tritium, and some — billions, for example, some uranium isotopes.

How to recycle nuclear fuel

For the processing of spent nuclear fuel and other waste uses a completely different approach depending on what exactly is recycled. For example, part of the solid waste is burned in special furnaces with a complex air filtration system. Obtained at the output of the ash and ash is buried in long barrows. So waste occupy significantly less space and carry less harm.

If the waste is liquid, concentrate them by evaporation. Then is also sent for long-term storage, if they can no longer do nothing and they carry a great danger. To do this, they are Packed in thick drums of 100 or 200 liters of lead or steel.


A large part of the waste can be recycled for further use, for example, in medicine or research. These wastes are those which contain uranium-235, uranium-238, plutonium and other isotopes. Thus, it is possible to recycle up to 97% of nuclear fuel. That is, as you can see, the fuel not so bad for the environment. It is very well reused. Another thing is those wastes that cannot be recycled and can't (and didn't) keep. Here is really a headache.

Radioactive isotopes used in medicine.

Where buried nuclear fuel

It is Necessary to understand that the waste of the nuclear industry, which have high radioactivity and are no longer needed, it is necessary to dispose so that they reliably lay in his ”house” thousands and even tens of thousands of years. Scientists have long come to the conclusion that the most reliable places for this are the rock formations at great depths.

Actually, storage is very promising and provides the most tens of thousands of years of reliable preservation. The Earth itself helps, and that in the framework of our world can be more eternal than a solid? So you need it rocks. For example, in the USA there are active debates about the construction in the Nevada desert burial Yucca mountain. It should go for hundreds of meters in the volcanic mountain range. Even Sweden, one of the greenest countries, is considering options for burial within the rocky grounds. Yes, and Finland in 2015 is practicing and continues to expand the amount of useful storage. It turns out that there is nothing wrong? It works.

As temporary burial in emergency cases, the use of man-made repository. Prepared for them a thick concrete base. These pools are placed the radioactive waste, then the top filled with several layers of concrete. Sometimes as the fill is applied molten borosilicate glass. So conservation will be even more reliable, but still this method is used more as a last resort, as the rocks are much more constant thing. They were a million years before us would in a million years after us, and behave like concrete after 100 years, we can only guess. Sorry to predict.

it looks like one of the variants of the concrete vault.

For Example, such burial is at Chernobyl, where just does not make sense to take out tons of earth and other debris. In order that the contamination was at least a little less, especially hazardous waste is collected in such burial grounds, equipped directly.

Not so long ago we have a very hotly debated topic of waste disposal in space. In principle, this idea is very good. Enough to run the waste containers into the Sun or and the problem is solved, but the price tag of such works will be simply space. Perhaps, once the new phase of technology development, approximately 1,000 to 1,500 years our descendants will be able to find a cheap method to launch and then send all of our garbage from landfills to hell.

Why nuclear fuel is buried, but not destroyed

you Have to understand that technology now and technology in 50-100 years or more are at a totally different level. On this basis, it makes sense now not to do expensive deep processing of radioactive waste. They are clean still do not work, but through hundreds of years of industry may require rare isotopes, which are the people of the future will be able to find in the vaults and burial grounds that we are building now.

So the technique was buried after the Chernobyl accident. Here only minus was that much pilfered for parts and now the infected machines go to the cities.

There is Also the possibility that the fact that we now just can't recycle, will be enough to pour (of course exaggerated) and everything will be fine. While scientists are doing everything they can, but the disposal and processing are in balance, not in the aspiration to recycle as much waste.

Alternative nuclear fuel

An Excellent alternative to nuclear fuel and nuclear power plants in General are fusion reactors. I mean they already told and, if interested, details available on our website.

In a nutshell, this technology was invented in the fifties of the last century. For its implementation uses the tokamak (toroidal chamber with magnetic coils). It creates a vacuum and air is pumped a mixture of deuterium and tritium (variants of compounds of hydrogen). Under the influence of a magnetic field, the mixture is heated to a plasma state — the fourth aggregate state of matter. Its temperature even 70 years ago it reached 11 million degrees Celsius. In ITER, the international tokamak being built in southern France, the plasma temperature will reach 150 million degrees. The walls of the chamber at such high temperatures will not melt just because of the fact that the entire plasma is suspended in a near vacuum.

This is the tokamak. Inside this «hollow bagel» the plasma reaches temperatures of tens of millions Grabow Celsius.

This technology is safe. Even with tritium has a half life of only 12 years old. Explode this setup may not even in case of emergency, as the pressure inside is much lower than atmospheric, and in the case of violation of the conditions, plasma generation is terminated immediately. Even just the overlap of the fuel also immediately stop the reaction.

The best part is that fuel should literally at least. So, 80 grams of a mixture of deuterium and tritium, which are very easily obtained from simple water and cost pennies to produce as much energy as 1,000 tons of burnt coal.

Unfortunately, until the technology can be implemented on an industrial scale, but the favorable scenario, it will take only 10 years. Then we can obtain an almost endless source of energy in the form of a small sun on Earth. And most importantly, the price of such energy will be minimal, as the risks of its receipt.

These barrels are scared for one of its kind.


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