Environment

Sink the Nukes

By Jessica GormanJul 1, 2000 12:00 AM

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Leftovers from nuclear power plants remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Until then they need protection from earthquakes, terrorists, water infiltration, and unknowing humans who might stumble across them millennia from now. Fergus Gibb, a geologist at the University of Sheffield in England, has proposed a new way to dispose of the highest-level waste—plutonium and enriched uranium. He suggests dropping the nasty stuff into boreholes three miles deep. Gibb’s scheme utilizes heat-resistant waste containers. Thermal energy from the decaying elements would melt the surrounding rock, thereby entombing the containers deep within Earth’s crust, where water does not return to the surface. Gibb claims his method would be both safer and less expensive than burying waste in shallower underground mines, such as the trouble-plagued Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

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