Photo: Szczur (flickr)
What’s the best way to dispose of nuclear waste? And is it true that scientists have considered sending it into space?
Good question. To answer the second part first–yes, sending nuclear waste into space has come up. But if a rocket or space shuttle carrying nuclear waste exploded, the radioactive material would spread far and wide. So it’s too dangerous.
There have been a few other interesting ideas–such as burying nuclear waste beneath the ocean floor. Scientists have also thought about putting waste in really deep holes, burying it in polar ice sheets, and stashing it beneath uninhabited islands.
Solutions Yet, Problems
But there are problems with each of these ideas. For example, it would be difficult to monitor nuclear waste under the ocean floor. Waste buried deep in the earth, meanwhile, might contaminate ground water.
And as ice sheets continue to melt, it’s hard to say how long nuclear waste would remain buried, or where it would end up if it floated away.
Plans to store waste produced in the United States in Yucca Mountain, in Utah, have been put on hold. So for now almost all nuclear waste is kept above ground in special containers at a few hundred different sites around the country. So far the containers seem safe, but there’s always the possibility of corrosion.
So, basically, there is no best way to store nuclear waste.