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Burying Nuclear Waste
Radioactive nuclear waste I can't understand the difficulty governments have disposing of nuclear waste materials. Can't they just put it back in the same place they dug it up from in the first place?

Somewhere out there, dotted around the map, are uranium mines where they dig up low-level radioactive bearing ore. Putting the "spent" radioactive materials back in the original hole is surely no more dangerous to that area, or to those people, or to the environment, than the original radioactive ore that came out of it?

And if my un-scientific assumptions are incorrect, and the refined nuclear material has been brought to a higher level of radioactivity than the original ore, then it seems only fitting that it goes back to where it came from so that those land-owners who profited by its extraction should be the ones who have to deal with the dangerous legacy that they themselves instigated.

From the International Atomic Energy Agency's web site (http://www.iaea.org):
Each year the world’s 441 nuclear power reactors create enough spent fuel to fill a football field. That’s about 10,500 tonnes of heavy metal. This waste is thermally hot and can stay radioactive for thousands of years. Because it is solid and does not readily dissolve in water, the fuel wastes are typically stored in water pools on site at the nuclear reactors for many years.

But permanent disposal places are needed. Scientists warn that the ongoing storage of spent fuel is not sustainable for the long years needed for the waste to decay and lose its radioactivity. Right now only one permanent disposal facility exists in New Mexico where long-lived radioactive waste from United States military programmes is carefully packaged and cocooned in tunnels deep underground, in what is called a geological repository.

Ian Fieggen, Jun-2003

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