Firing nuclear waste into the sun, placing it in Antarctic ice sheets so it sinks by its own heat to the bedrock, or putting it under Earth's crust so it is sucked to the molten core. These are three of the 14 options the government's advisers are considering to get rid of the UK's troublesome nuclear waste legacy.
All options are technically possible and many are potentially hazardous -- either to current generations or those yet unborn. Most also have political drawbacks and are expensive, around ?50 billion and counting, yet it is a problem the government has decided it must solve.
Last year it appointed a committee on radioactive waste management to re-examine all possibilities to find a publicly acceptable solution to the nuclear waste problem -- something that successive governments have failed to do for 50 years.
The committee's options range from the exotic to the well established. And most have their difficulties. For example, firing waste into the sun or into outer space may permanently rid Earth of the problem, but the possibility of rocket failure may make this seem too much of a gamble.
The Antarctica solution, allowing heat producing waste to bury itself in the ice, runs into the difficulty that the internationally agreed Antarctic Treaty bans such activity. The last pristine continent is supposed to be untouched by nuclear material.
Sub-seabed disposal, where waste is placed in a pre-dug hole or dropped in specially built penetrators to bury itself in the soft seabed, may be the best technical option. Even if the packages eventually rot and the radioactivity escapes it will be diluted by the sea water. But sea dumping is banned.
Some of the other ideas, such as placing it deep in the ground either to lose it in the Earth's mantle or in deep stratas where it would remain have been tried by Russians and Americans. The Swedes are successfully using a deep depository, but so far the UK has proved short of suitable geological formations. Exporting nuclear waste is also against government policy and likely to draw international protests.
All of the ideas remain on the table and none is yet a frontrunner. The present policy, by default, is storage -- but with a government committed to safeguarding the environment for future generations, this may be ruled out as an option too. Nuclear waste stays dangerous for 250,000 years and even the best-constructed concrete bunker is likely to need upgrading every 100 years or so.
A report to the committee says: "Fifty years of experience has proved the pursuit of 'the best' in the long term management of radioactive waste to be an illusory concept. The UK is currently engaged in a process, the success of which would be the identification of `the acceptable,' at a level which would allow the government to proceed with confidence."
Martin Forwood, of Cumbrians Opposed to Radioactive Environment, who is due to meet members of the government committee this week, was dismissive of the 14 ideas: "We thought all these madcap schemes had been junked donkey's years ago. The only sensible solution is to store it where it rightfully belongs -- in above ground custom-built concrete stores at the site of origin."
The government's estimates it will soon have 500,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste it has no home for, even if it never builds another nuclear power station. The even higher volume of low level waste is sent to a waste dump at Drigg, near Sellafield, in Cumbria, for disposal in specially-engineered trenches. By far the largest stores and the most dangerous high level heat-producing liquid wastes are at Sellafield, where Britain's major nuclear facilities were built and developed.
Vaccines that protect against severe illness, death and lingering long COVID-19 symptoms from a SARS-CoV-2 infection were linked to small increases in neurological, blood and heart-related conditions in the largest global vaccine safety study to date. The rare events — identified early in the pandemic — included a higher risk of heart-related inflammation from mRNA shots made by Pfizer Inc, BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc, and an increased risk of a type of blood clot in the brain after immunization with viral-vector vaccines such as the one developed by the University of Oxford and made by AstraZeneca PLC. The viral-vector jabs were
A steam of sweat rose as hundreds of naked men tussled over a bag of wooden talismans, performing a dramatic end to a thousand-year-old ritual in Japan that took place for the last time. Their passionate chants of “jasso, joyasa” (“evil, be gone”) echoed through a ceder forest in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, where the secluded Kokuseki Temple is ending the popular annual rite. Organizing the event, which draws hundreds of participants and thousands of tourists every year, has become a heavy burden for the aging local faithful, who find it hard to keep up with the rigors of the ritual. The Sominsai festival,
‘PUTIN IS RESPONSIBLE’: Authorities detained more than 100 people in Russia, as mourners remembered the opposition leader outside embassies around the world Floral tributes to Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest foe who died on Friday in a Russian penal colony, were removed overnight by groups of unidentified people while police watched, videos on Russian social media show. More than 100 people were detained in eight cities across Russia after they came to lay flowers in memory of Navalny, said OVD-Info, a group that monitors political repression in Russia. Yesterday, police blocked access to a memorial in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and detained several people there as well as in another Siberian city, Surgut, OVD-Info said. Video footage shared on social media
DECLINE: About 27 million Argentines are poor, of which 15 percent are mired in ‘destitution,’ meaning they cannot adequately cover their food needs, a study showed Poverty levels last month skyrocketed to 57.4 percent of Argentina’s population of 46 million, the highest rate in 20 years, a study by the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) showed. The findings quickly unleashed accusations between Argentina’s former vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the government of President Javier Milei, who came to power announcing a series of shock measures aimed at tackling the country’s severe crisis. About 27 million people in Argentina are poor and 15 percent of those are mired in “destitution,” meaning they cannot adequately cover their food needs, according to the study released over the weekend. The UCA’s