• Question: If it were up to you, with unlimited resources, how would you deal with nuclear waste?

    Asked by mijeffs to laurenceharwood, Akram, David, Gill, Jack on 15 Mar 2012. This question was also asked by johnathan.
    • Photo: Jack Snape

      Jack Snape answered on 15 Mar 2012:

      I’m sure Laurence has a good answer to this.

      I know of one cool idea of how to do this … By using the neutrons produced by a fusion reactor, we could ‘burn up’ the long-lived radioactive waste produced by a fission reactor. They would still be a bit radioactive but would be safe in a much shorter time. This could also be used to generate electricity in what is called a ‘fusion fission hybrid’. China are interested in building one of these reactors to see how possible it is 🙂

    • Photo: Laurence Harwood

      Laurence Harwood answered on 15 Mar 2012:

      Jack has effectively given you the answer. The chemistry my group has developed means that it is now possible to separate out the long-lived nasties in waste nuclear fuel – the so-called minor actinides, americium, curium and neptunium and these can be placed in the Generation IV reactor Jack mentioned and destroyed, being turned into non-radioactive materials. This is actually a much cheaper (and safer) way of dealing with the waste than just burying it, which is what had been proposed until now. We simply do not know what will happen to the waste or where we store it over millions and millions of years. We have been very irresponsible in the past. There are currently about 200,000 tonnes of untreated waste nuclear fuel being stored around the world.

    • Photo: Gill Menzies

      Gill Menzies answered on 15 Mar 2012:

      With unlimited resources I’d give Laurence and his team a big pot of money to develop the research to sort it out 🙂

    • Photo: Akram Alomainy

      Akram Alomainy answered on 15 Mar 2012:

      I second Gill’s suggestion … Go Laurence 😉