The next wonder of the world?

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Brian McDermott
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The next wonder of the world?

Post by Brian McDermott » Sat Sep 09, 2006 4:10 pm

Nuclear waste repositories are designed to safely store material for 10,000 years. Some speculate that if radioactive material were ever to be released, it would be caused not by natural processes, but more likely by intentional or unintentional human intrusion. This link is a report from Sandia National Lab detailing how such a repository would be marked for future generations, and how to discourage people from digging or drilling the site.

http://www.prod.sandia.gov/cgi-bin/tech ... 921382.pdf

In 2004, DOE published another report on how to mark the site:

http://www.wipp.energy.gov/library/Perm ... onPlan.pdf

It's quite amazing. We are, in effect, trying to create the longest lasting artifact in the history of mankind. Civilization has been in existence for only about 5000 years, and much of the ancient texts dating back that far have long since lost their meaning. How do we communicate with people 400 generations from now? It is literally a monumental task.

The picture below is one of the speculative options the Sandia group came up with. If it were etched onto granite tablets in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Navajo, do you think it's meaning would endure for 10,000 years?
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Wilfried Heil
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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by Wilfried Heil » Sat Sep 09, 2006 7:53 pm

I´ve heard of at least one plausible means to protect a radioactive dump site:

A possible way to prevent tampering would be a layered structure of the radioactive waste. If someone digs 10 m, he will start loosing his hair, after 25 m a hand falls off and after
a few meters more, an arm. At that point even the dumbest will have realized that it is undesirable to dig on that spot.

No, I don´t think there is even a remote possibility that any markers and their meaning will not be lost over geological times. We would just be shifting our responsibilities using St. Florian´s principle on other generations in an unforeseeable future.

Maybe we can survive the amount of waste that exists now. If a significant portion of the world´s energy will be of nuclear origin in the future, which is likely to happen and continue for hundreds of years to come, then we need new reactor concepts which don´t produce long lived radioactive isotopes to begin with.

Such concepts exist (e.g. by Rubbia), although the energy produced might cost a few cents more per kWh than it does now.

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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by Wilfried Heil » Sat Sep 09, 2006 9:06 pm

Cockroaches and ants will be our deserving successors.

Considering the amount of waste that is likely to be produced, the longer lived isotopes like plutonium will become significant. This will require storage times of several 100,000 years. By that time, the uranium will be in equilibrium with it´s decay products and about 30x more radioactive, energy wise, than it was at the beginning.

The 10,000 year stowaway time is just a convenient euphemism.

On the other hand, much more than 500 million years isn´t really needed, because by then the sun´s output will have increased to the extent of making the earth uninhabitable.

>http://www.copernicus.org/EGU/bg/bg/3/85/bg-3-85.pdf

We are on the declining edge of evolution already.

JohnCuthbert
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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by JohnCuthbert » Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:45 am

Does the US govt. have to pay roaylties on that copy of Munch's "The scream"?
Anyway, since even as dull an object as a crop circle gets looked at with a geiger counter, I think that they are not going to stumble onto that site unaware of the problem.
Of course, if society has fallen apart by then, there isn't much hope. After all you only need to go back a relatively short while to get to the point where most people couldn't read.
There's a possible amusing side to this; in many years time that warning- the same text in many languages- might be unearthed by some archaeologists and serve as the new "Rosetta stone"

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Frank Sanns
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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by Frank Sanns » Mon Sep 11, 2006 4:29 am

I think a hole should be drilled in a tectonic subduction zone. A nuclear bomb should be detonated at the bottom of the hole to open up a cavity and all of the high level radioactive waste should be put into the cavity. Soon (in geologic time) the waste will travel deep into the earth and be mixed into the magma only to be deposited as it was in the first place. This would logistically be a challange but would eliminate the waste until it resurfaced in deposits as it was originally formed.

Frank S.

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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by winterhaven » Mon Sep 11, 2006 4:53 am

Sounds like a really good idea as long as we can be sure that it doesn't come back up in a big blob again somewhere. I understand what you are gettin at - that radioactive waste would be denser than the other magma, and therefore should sink, so maybe it would work.

Todd Massure

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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by Alex Aitken » Mon Sep 11, 2006 10:49 am

I have the feeling the meaning of a skull and crossbones will last the duration.

Any sort of depiction of a deformed skeleton should work.

It ought to be possible to make a hole deep enough that it cannot be reached without industrial technology and would not be reached by accident.. The problem is noone is going to spend that kind of money to just dump waste.

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Frank Sanns
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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by Frank Sanns » Mon Sep 11, 2006 5:32 pm

Subduction zones take the earths crust and push it down to a distance of hundreds kilometers. No risk of the mass to come boiling up in the next several million years as the process has to carry the plates down to over 800 km before it can even get close to being molten. See http://earth.leeds.ac.uk/dynamicearth/s ... malbig.htm This is still no where near the core.

Yes, the gravity is totally zero at the center of the earth. If the earth were of uniform density, the gravity would be a maximum right at the surface but the top portion of the crust is slightly less dense so the maximum gravity is somehing like 30 km below the surface.

Frank S.

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Brian McDermott
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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by Brian McDermott » Mon Sep 11, 2006 6:25 pm

The volume of waste we have produced is miniscule compared to the volume of the mantle into which it would be subducted. It effectively disappears. Actually disposing the waste though would cause trouble with several international treaties, hence the choice for a land based repository.

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Brian McDermott
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Re: The next wonder of the world?

Post by Brian McDermott » Wed Sep 13, 2006 7:34 pm

The whole marker system could backfire too. I mean, practically every tomb in Egypt we've uncovered had messages warning against entry on pain of death. It could very well wind up as a tourist site. Actually, that would still prevent what the DOE fears, and that is future drilling for oil, gas or potash at the site (all three of which lie in its vicinity).

I think Edvard Munch would be happy to know that his painting will be on monuments designed to last 10,000 years.

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