Could you return nuclear waste to the mines it came from?

25 March 2007

Question

Could uranium waste not be re-mixed with uranium 238 and put back into the mines it was taken from as storage?

Answer

I think there are a number of problems. One of the problems is making sure that when you're putting stuff in the ground you don't build a bomb by accident. This is in the sense that this stuff would be in a reasonably active state and so if you put everything together you might get reactions propagating. The second question is whether a mine is the best geological place to put something that could potentially have major health implications. If it gets into water and then into people, it could have major implications for human health and the environment. You may need a more stable geological site. This is why scientists have not really decided how to make the best repository. There is one site, which is over in America, but I don't think anything's in it yet. People are putting a lot of thought into this because you don't want to make the wrong decision. Some of this stuff remains radioactive for 250 000 years, so the place you put it must also be stable for 250 000 years. Putting it back in a mine might be dodgy if you want my personal opinion.

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