Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Trash Heap Deadly for 250,000 Years or a Renewable Energy Source?

Nuclear waste is either a millennia’s worth of lethal garbage or the fuel of future nuclear reactors, or both.

  1. A 98-foot-wide, two-mile-long ditch with steep walls 33 feet deep that bristles with magnets and radar reflectors will stand for millennia as a warning to future humans not to trifle with what is hidden inside the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) outside Carlsbad, N.M. Paired with 48 stone or concrete 105-ton markers, etched with warnings in seven languages ranging from English to Navajo as well as human faces contorted into expressions of horror, the massive installation is meant to stand for at least 10,000 years—twice as long as the Egyptian pyramids have survived.

    But the plutonium ensconced in the salt mine at the center of this installation will be lethal to humans for at least 25 times that long—even once the salt walls ooze inward to entomb the legacy of American atomic weapons. And WIPP will only hold a fraction, though a more deadly fraction, of the amount of nuclear waste the U.S. plans to store at Yucca Mountain in Nevada or some other site designated to replace it as ...

The complete text of “Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Trash Heap Deadly for 250,000 Years or a Renewable Energy Source?” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on www.scientificamerican.com.

Great reading. Anywhere, any time

Subscribe to Byliner to finish this and thousands of other riveting stories for just $5.99 a month. Get started now with a 14 day FREE trial.

Join Today

Already a member? Sign in