Disposal of Nuclear Waste
How long would it take to dispose of nuclear waste and where to put
The best way to dispose of nuclear waste is to turn it into
rapidly-decaying isotopes that decay to produce stable isotopes
(which are not radioactive). In that way, the waste could be reduced
to only miniscule fractions of the original radioactivity in
a hundred years or so (depending on what the longest lived
isotope you would have to deal with would be). However, doing that
requires certain kinds of nuclear reactors that are no longer
being actively considered (at least in the United States).
The only other way to dispose of it is to put it somewhere where
you will not have to deal with it until it is mostly decayed away.
A lot of the waste we have now is really long-lived (10's of thousands
of years to decay) so that means finding places to put
it that would last that long. The best option for that is probably
the worlds ocean-bottoms, where things could be buried and left for
millions of years with almost no disturbance. However, political
considerations again seem to have eliminated that possibility,
at least for the moment. That leaves burial on land somewhere, and
the U.S. government is still trying to figure out a good place.
Actually, chemical wastes (often associated with the nuclear weapons
program) are a much bigger problem than the nuclear wastes we now
have on hand, and the government is spending 10's of billions of dollars
every year trying to fix up the messes the defence department and other
government and private source has made.
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Update: June 2012