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Monday, 6 January 2014

How The World Deals With Nuclear Waste

 High level waste is the most dangerous by-product of nuclear power. It has the longest period of half life. In some cases, it may reach millions of years until it stabilises .

Right now most of the High level waste is stored near nuclear plants themselves in pools filled with water. However, the water pools require constant maintenance. Another method is to bind the waste in borosilicate glass. It's used because it's more thermal resistant than other types of glass. It is later sealed inside metal containers and stored in offsite facilities. Both methods work so far, but scientists state they are only temporary solutions.
Do you wonder what happens to all those piles of highly toxic materials? Well, engineers have a way to completely seal it away from the environment. The idea is to find a stable enough location with minimum geodesic disturbances where an underground facility can be built. It's carved inside the very rock to ensure maximum stability. It's job is to store radioactive waste until it's no longer dangerous. The repositories have to withstand for tens or even hundreds of thousands of years. The containers where the material is stored are also engineering marvels. Execution of the project has to be perfect to ensure success. No quick fixes are possible.
There are three deep geological repositories under construction. Finland is building it's newest deep geological repository. It is located in Olkiluoto Island, just off the south-west coast. The designed is to hold all of the country's high level waste – roughly 300 000 tons and 12 000 tons which are expected annually. The facility is designed to hold strong for at least 100 000 years. The project is worth three billion dollars and is ran by Finland's nuclear power companies Fortum and Teollisuuden Voima.

Germany and Korea are also building one each. In the world, nine deep geological repositories exist.

The US tried to build a second facility of their own in Yucca Mountain Project, Nevada, but the construction was cancelled in 2010.
Anti-nuclear power activists try their best to stop attempts like this. In their eyes, the deep geological repositories are ticking time bombs. If anything were to happen with the facility, disaster will surely follow. However, this notion of piling waste around the plants won't be an option for too long. It is physically insecure and has much easier access to everyday life.
Truth is, we need these deep geological repositories. We have no better way to secure our nuclear waste and we don't have much time before it gets too much. Nuclear power plants continue to be our main power source. As dangerous as they may be, they still produce far cleaner energy than coal or petrol fuelled reactors. Alternative methods like wind turbines, solar collectors and tidal wave generators have yet to take a bigger place in power production. By that time we will only have more nuclear waste to dispose of. And chances are, we might never complete take nuclear power out of the plate, it's just too efficient.
We have to take responsibility and act before it's too late. We've put trust in our engineers to build the world we live in, we also have to trust them to maintain it an inhabitable place.