Curious Kids: why does the world store nuclear waste and not just shoot it into the Sun or deep space? – The Conversation AU
Science and Nature

Curious Kids: why does the world store nuclear waste and not just shoot it into the Sun or deep space? – The Conversation AU

This is an article from Curious Little ones, a collection for children. You can ship your problem to [email protected] You might also like the podcast Imagine This, a co-creation amongst ABC Young ones listen and The Dialogue, based on Curious Youngsters.


Why does the environment retailer nuclear waste and just not shoot it into the Sun or deep space? – Jason, age 16, Mackay, Queensland.


Hello Jason. Thanks for the dilemma. I investigation place junk, so I have also used some time considering about what we blast into space and wherever it finishes up.

It would be good to mail unsafe nuclear squander much away from Earth the place it won’t cause any damage. On the other hand, it’s not as simple as it appears.




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What is nuclear waste?

Nuclear squander is what’s still left about following nuclear gasoline has been applied in a reactor. A lot of countries throughout the planet use nuclear reactors to make electrical power for houses and industries.

The energy is manufactured by fission, which is when an atom breaks aside. The issue is that some of the waste – referred to as large-level waste – is incredibly radioactive. It releases particles that can make persons, animals and vegetation sick. It also lasts for 1000’s of yrs.

Superior-amount waste is only three% of all the nuclear waste made. A lot of it is recycled, which reduces its radioactivity. This leaves the trouble of what to do with the relaxation.

At the second, higher-amount squander is stored on Earth. Ordinarily it is isolated in water, glass or concrete to avoid the particles escaping. The containers are buried, but they have to be someplace exactly where earthquakes don’t transpire, and terrorists simply cannot dig them up.

We wouldn’t have to fear about this if we could send out the squander to the Sunshine, wherever it will disintegrate. But there are a several explanations we don’t do this.

It’s not as simple as you could assume

One is that this is very, incredibly costly. When the Parker Solar Probe was despatched to choose measurements of the Sunlight this year, it charge US$1.5 billion just for a spacecraft the size of a tiny vehicle to get that considerably.

It would seem easy to shoot an item in direction of some thing as huge as the Sunlight – which is 1.three million periods the dimensions of Earth. But it is really extremely hard. The Parker Photo voltaic Probe (a NASA robotic spacecraft en route to look into the outer corona of the Solar) has to swing earlier the earth Venus 7 times to slow by itself down sufficient to get near to the Sunlight.

The other cause is that rockets often blow up on the start pad, or in the environment. This would release the waste into the environment and make the issue even worse.

What about deep place?

You also requested about deep house, and it’s a great problem. Why never we just send out nuclear squander away from the Sunlight, into the outer solar technique?

Effectively, there is a possibility the waste storage spacecraft could go off study course and crash into a planet, moon or asteroid. Some spots may have life we haven’t uncovered nevertheless, like Mars and Europa (which is one particular of Jupiter’s moons).

Even if the waste is securely sealed in a container, there is a risk it could end up polluting other planets. It may pose a threat to us or other daily life sorts. The lifetime kinds may possibly be just microbes, but we however have an moral accountability not to damage them.

Of study course, there are now nuclear-driven spacecraft out there. They use an RTG (a sort of generator called a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator). In the movie The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney (performed by Matt Damon) digs up an RTG to keep him heat in the freezing temperatures.

In fact, the RTG container is incredibly safe and sound and would not be hazardous.

At the end of the day, the dilemma is that no a person on Earth needs nuclear squander stored in the vicinity of them, and it’s not harmless or value-successful to blast it into space.




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