Can nuclear waste be safely disposed of in a volcano?

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Zain asked the Naked Scientists:
Would it be possible to dispose of nuclear waste by casting the waste into an active volcano?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 23/05/2011 15:30:02 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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Can nuclear waste be safely disposed of in a volcano?
« Reply #1 on: 23/05/2011 18:42:49 »
The question was discussed a couple of weeks ago.

It was concluded that it would be a bad idea.  For a volcano, what goes down comes back up.  The volcano itself would not change the rate of decomposition of the radioactive isotopes. 

I suppose there are different types of volcanoes, and volcanic activity.

Hawaiian volcanoes tend to have lava flows that might entomb the material.  Although, you would loose control of it, and it might eventually erode and be released into the environment.

Cascade Volcanoes have explosive phases releasing copious amounts of ash which would be bad...  distributing the waste all over.  Some volcanic glass is also formed which would be relatively inert, but would still emit gamma rays.  However, you would loose control of where it goes.  The Cascade volcanoes also have a mountain building phase which would tend to entomb the materials which might be good for the short half-life material, but still would run the risk of later explosions so it would not be good for the long half-life materials.

Furthermore, volcanic rock is often quite porous, and would have a risk of erosion, contaminating our water.