Sean Pedersen

Sean Pedersen

A Nuclear Powered Nuclear Waste Dispenser

Nuclear power has many advantages but the few disadvantages are severe. One of the major pain points is leftover nuclear waste produced by nuclear fission power plants. It is highly toxic and stays radioactive for thousands of years, leaving a pandora box packed with nuclear death for future humans to enjoy. To sum it up: We urgently need to clean up after our nuclear shit trail.

The current approach is archaic: We dig a hole somewhere and hope it will not come back to haunt us any time soon. This is naive, wishful thinking. Give it enough time and it will leak into our living environments. So how can we do better? My answer is quite simple and radical: Shoot the nuclear waste straight into space, either into deep space leaving our solar system or directly into the sun. This would remove the problem from mother earth for good.

How? Current rocket technology is not gonna do it (launch costs are prohibitively expensive but we are slowly improving, so that could change in the future allowing for rocket based nuclear waste disposal). Right now we need to come up with something different: Design a thick bullet containing the nuclear waste. Build a giant cannon that is powered by nuclear power. Each launch needs to accelerate the bullet to earth's escape velocity and off goes our thick nuclear waste bullet into deep space.

How to build it? Dig a cylindrical hole housing the cannon down into earth (preferably into some high mountain). Install a coil cannon or rail gun powered by nuclear energy capable of accelerating the waste bullet to earth's escape velocity (~12km/s). Before all that, sit down and calculate where to dig the hole according to the needed trajectory. And there it is a sweet nuclear powered nuclear waste dispenser.

Biggest potential hurdle: This nuclear waste dispenser design only works out if it can dispense more waste than is produced needed to operate it. Figuring that out is key to success and is left as an exercise for the curious reader.

Biggest potential failure: The nuclear waste bullet does not reach escape velocity and comes right back at spaceship earth. Mitigation: Simulate several failures without real nuclear waste but the same bullet case design and a realistic non-toxic replacement material for the waste.

I am really curious if this idea is practical. It would be amazing.

References:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_gun
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coilgun
  • https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railgun
    • https://research.lifeboat.com/ieee.em.pdf
    • https://www.universetoday.com/73536/nasa-considering-rail-gun-launch-system-to-the-stars/
  • https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2019/09/20/this-is-why-we-dont-shoot-earths-garbage-into-the-sun/