What-If 0029: "Spent Fuel Pool"

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Demki
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What-If 0029: "Spent Fuel Pool"

Postby Demki » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:18 am UTC

http://what-if.xkcd.com/29/

What if I took a swim in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool? Would I need to dive to actually experience a fatal amount of radiation? How long could I stay safely at the surface?
—Jonathan Bastien-Filiatrault


I waited and I waited, and no thread, so I decided to man up and post myself.

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tibfulv
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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby tibfulv » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:22 am UTC

But just to be sure, I got in touch with a friend of mine who works at a research reactor, and asked him what he thought would happen to you if you tried to swim in their radiation containment pool.
“In our reactor?” He thought about it for a moment. “You’d die pretty quickly, before reaching the water, from gunshot wounds.”


Hehe. The old 'kill you in order to save you' thing. :lol:

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Klear » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:23 am UTC

Demki wrote:I waited and I waited, and no thread, so I decided to man up and post myself.


We were reading it. Duh.

This seems oddly relevant to the ongoing discussion in the other thread. Uh, get out of my forum, Randall? =)

Edit:

tibfulv wrote:
But just to be sure, I got in touch with a friend of mine who works at a research reactor, and asked him what he thought would happen to you if you tried to swim in their radiation containment pool.
“In our reactor?” He thought about it for a moment. “You’d die pretty quickly, before reaching the water, from gunshot wounds.”


Hehe. The old 'kill you in order to save you' thing. :lol:


They probably also don't want you stealing radioactive materials...

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby rhomboidal » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:31 am UTC

I remember a MythBusters episode which demonstrated that just a few feet of water could protect you from close-range bullets. So it's good to know there's a Wet-And-Wild Fun Zone between the Death By Gunfire Zone and Fatal Radiation Zone.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby jgh » Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:09 am UTC

These pool supervisors must be selectively bred to leap to correct conclusions from a standing start. If it had been me it would be something like: c'mon Bob, out you get, pass me that basket - hell, the alarms have gone off, quick, pass me that basket and get out of the pool.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Mirkwood » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:10 pm UTC

jgh wrote:These pool supervisors must be selectively bred to leap to correct conclusions from a standing start. If it had been me it would be something like: c'mon Bob, out you get, pass me that basket - hell, the alarms have gone off, quick, pass me that basket and get out of the pool.


I'd have probably panicked and pushed the diver back into the pool. ^_^ Unclean, unclean!

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Postby ve_ » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:36 pm UTC

“In our reactor?” He thought about it for a moment. “You’d die pretty quickly, before reaching the water, from gunshot wounds."


really? over here we have ocassionally school classes visiting the university research reactor. there are no armed men anywhere, not even burly ones.
most of the time just a mildly bored maintenance guy, and maybe one or two researchers. it's usually a dare to spit into it :D

the physics department sometimes oranizes BBQ in front of the reactor building (nice lawn) and brags with "cooling" beer with liquid nitrogen.

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Re:

Postby Klear » Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:44 pm UTC

ve_ wrote:the physics department sometimes oranizes BBQ in front of the reactor building (nice lawn) and brags with "cooling" beer with liquid nitrogen.


Thank God for cold fusion.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:06 pm UTC

ve_ wrote:
“In our reactor?” He thought about it for a moment. “You’d die pretty quickly, before reaching the water, from gunshot wounds."


really? over here we have ocassionally school classes visiting the university research reactor. there are no armed men anywhere, not even burly ones.
most of the time just a mildly bored maintenance guy, and maybe one or two researchers. it's usually a dare to spit into it :D

the physics department sometimes oranizes BBQ in front of the reactor building (nice lawn) and brags with "cooling" beer with liquid nitrogen.


Here in the UK, most nuclear power plants take a reasonably paranoid approach to security - if a terrorist wants to cause a major disaster, then successfully blowing up a nuclear plant is one way to manage it, or there are usually all sorts of interesting substances in the spent fuel pool hat can be used to kill people more selectively...

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby craigmpeters » Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:32 pm UTC

I saw a great article about storing radiation so that we can tell people thousands of years in the future that it is unsafe about how they would convey by architecture and symbols "do not dig this up you idiot, man did some stupid stuff here and do not disturb it"

I cannot find it unfortunately.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby peewee_RotA » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:03 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
ve_ wrote:
“In our reactor?” He thought about it for a moment. “You’d die pretty quickly, before reaching the water, from gunshot wounds."


really? over here we have ocassionally school classes visiting the university research reactor. there are no armed men anywhere, not even burly ones.
most of the time just a mildly bored maintenance guy, and maybe one or two researchers. it's usually a dare to spit into it :D

the physics department sometimes oranizes BBQ in front of the reactor building (nice lawn) and brags with "cooling" beer with liquid nitrogen.


Here in the UK, most nuclear power plants take a reasonably paranoid approach to security - if a terrorist wants to cause a major disaster, then successfully blowing up a nuclear plant is one way to manage it, or there are usually all sorts of interesting substances in the spent fuel pool hat can be used to kill people more selectively...


I think he's trolling terrorists. He just wants to see the burly armed guards finally shoot someone.
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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby bobdvb » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:10 pm UTC

When I saw this I immediately thought of the Sellafield nuclear processing facility in the UK, this has several waste "pools" in which stuff was just dumped because it was hot and they didn't know what to do with it back in the 60s-70s.
Now they are described as the most polluted places in Europe.

Words like Radioactive Sludge bring forth thoughts of Springfield power plant, a three eyed fish and Mr Burns.

(I wanted to post links to articles as sources but apparently it says the message is flagged as spam)

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby ChrisQ » Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:48 pm UTC

When I visited Sellafield in the UK I was told that if you fell in their spent-fuel pool you would get some nasty chemical burns. To avoid corrosion it is treated with caustic alkali. With a PH of 11 you wouldn't last long if you tried to swim!

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Re:

Postby mcdigman » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:24 pm UTC

ve_ wrote:
“In our reactor?” He thought about it for a moment. “You’d die pretty quickly, before reaching the water, from gunshot wounds."


really? over here we have ocassionally school classes visiting the university research reactor. there are no armed men anywhere, not even burly ones.
most of the time just a mildly bored maintenance guy, and maybe one or two researchers. it's usually a dare to spit into it :D

the physics department sometimes oranizes BBQ in front of the reactor building (nice lawn) and brags with "cooling" beer with liquid nitrogen.


Then again, Randall used to work at NASA, and a government reactor might be better secured than a university one. Although I know someone who works at the MIT reactor, and apparently the FBI still took it pretty seriously when someone accidentally triggered the alarm.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Wnderer » Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:04 pm UTC

I'm surprised they use just water. I vaguely recall some ancient Scientific American amateur scientist experiment (may have been a fusor), where you viewed the process through a fish tank with water and borax in it. Boron helps block radiation.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Draconaes » Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:42 pm UTC

Wnderer wrote:I'm surprised they use just water. I vaguely recall some ancient Scientific American amateur scientist experiment (may have been a fusor), where you viewed the process through a fish tank with water and borax in it. Boron helps block radiation.


My uneducated guess is that using slightly more water might be cheaper than using water+boron.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby 0600Zulu » Tue Jan 22, 2013 8:29 pm UTC

Draconaes wrote:
Wnderer wrote:I'm surprised they use just water. I vaguely recall some ancient Scientific American amateur scientist experiment (may have been a fusor), where you viewed the process through a fish tank with water and borax in it. Boron helps block radiation.


My uneducated guess is that using slightly more water might be cheaper than using water+boron.


Depends on the type of reactor. For commercial light water reactors in the US, a BWR would use unborated water in the spent fuel pool (SFP), since it uses unborated water in the core, and a PWR uses borated water in the SFP, since it uses borated water in the core. As such, the SFP racks in BWRs need to have denser neutron poison built in to prevent criticality, while PWRs may rely more on the boron in water - although I'm not sure if any/all PWRs use borated racks. The reason a BWR really cannot have borated water in the SFP is that the SFP is connected to the core during refueling outages, and contaminating the core with borated water would make the reactor essentially unable to be (easily) restarted without major cleanup.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby bmonk » Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:35 pm UTC

Draconaes wrote:
Wnderer wrote:I'm surprised they use just water. I vaguely recall some ancient Scientific American amateur scientist experiment (may have been a fusor), where you viewed the process through a fish tank with water and borax in it. Boron helps block radiation.


My uneducated guess is that using slightly more water might be cheaper than using water+boron.

Water is rather cheap by comparison, and you don't have to worry about maintaining a certain concentration. Just check the level on the pool.
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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby mousewiz » Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:38 pm UTC

A relevant comic from a relevant story arc over at Nukees http://nukees.com/d/20120420.html offers a different answer to the what-if...
Spoiler:
the eventual solution is to make the swimmers employees to save paperwork.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby armandoalvarez » Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:00 am UTC

Does this water being a such a good absorber of radiation thing mean that inhabitants of underwater bubble cities, even ones in shallow water, would have lower cancer rates than those of us living on dry land?

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:23 am UTC

armandoalvarez wrote:Does this water being a such a good absorber of radiation thing mean that inhabitants of underwater bubble cities, even ones in shallow water, would have lower cancer rates than those of us living on dry land?

Presuming the technology necessary for such cities to function didn't for one reason or another increase cancer rates more than the decrease in exposure to surface radiation did, sure. (Lots of things can cause cancer, not just radiation).

That's a large reason why life evolved first in water. It's dangerous out on dry land, lots of harsh radiation beaming down constantly and nothing to shield delicate primitive life from it.
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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:27 am UTC

craigmpeters wrote:I saw a great article about storing radiation so that we can tell people thousands of years in the future that it is unsafe about how they would convey by architecture and symbols "do not dig this up you idiot, man did some stupid stuff here and do not disturb it"

I cannot find it unfortunately.

http://www.damninteresting.com/this-pla ... -of-honor/

I knew exactly what you were talking about when I read that. I found it via tropes a while back. I won't link but if you are willing to type your way to it: sealed evil in a can.
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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby tibfulv » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:55 am UTC

rhomboidal wrote:I remember a MythBusters episode which demonstrated that just a few feet of water could protect you from close-range bullets. So it's good to know there's a Wet-And-Wild Fun Zone between the Death By Gunfire Zone and Fatal Radiation Zone.


Sounds like something retired special forces people might do on their off day, in between survival shows.

"Right, this pool is our target. We take this route through the kill zone (machine gun nests here and here), and once we're in the pool we should be mostly safe. Just don't swim too deeply. Any questions? Higgs?"
"Though I'd make time for a brew first. Want one?"
"Thank you, Higgs. Don't mind if I do. Now drink up, lads, we leave in ten minutes. And remember, the stuff at the bottom is not for eating."

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby ijuin » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:57 am UTC

craigmpeters wrote:I saw a great article about storing radiation so that we can tell people thousands of years in the future that it is unsafe about how they would convey by architecture and symbols "do not dig this up you idiot, man did some stupid stuff here and do not disturb it"

I cannot find it unfortunately.


The most worrisome problem is that even if we were able to communicate our intentions to these future people, who might have long-since forgotten any of the languages that we currently use, the mere fact that we are telling them to keep away will make it a "forbidden fruit" issue, sort of like with warnings placed on tombs. The mere fact that we don't want them digging it up might lead some of them to think that it is a buried treasure rather than poison. This goes doubly if they happen to be a non-industrial society and have no concept of radiation poisoning, and therefore wouldn't believe that the nuclear waste would kill you just by being near it without touching it.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby illuzn » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:00 am UTC

Did some fairly unscientific digging around because a greenie friend of mine put me to task on this one:

You expect a humorous web-comic (albeit grounded in fact) to be a harvard cited publication?

The calculation is actually pretty involved and I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say high level nuclear waste exposes you to around 100,000 mSv/h (for comparison, background radiation is 2.4 mSv/year).

There is most likely an error actually in that radiation mostly comprises beta and gamma radiation. Beta radiation is stopped by 3 metres of air (let alone water) so we can ignore that. But gamma radiation has a halving rate in water of 18cm not 7cm.

Let's assume all of the radiation is gamma radiation (which is strictly not correct - gamma radiation is much less ionising than beta). Lets also assume we are swimming for 1 hour - I'm too lazy to do 40 minutes.

2.4 is 5 magnitudes of order smaller than 100,000 (or 10^5). This means we need to halve it around 16 times. i.e. (1/2)^16 = 1/100,000 (approximately).

16x18cm = 288cm or 2.88m But hey... lets just say the height of two people for roundness sake. The diagram illustrates this in a fairly good scale format - although if it was my health at stake I would probably allow for a little bit of error in that "safe zone" area.


I'm guessing that halving rate varies depending on source though.

However, swimming in the coolant pool of a nuclear reactor that has just been switched off is another matter. This has radioactivity of around 10^8 mSv/h.

By the same reasoning you need around 26.5 halving thickenesses of water or around 477cm (4.77m). This is still remarkably low in my opinion.

What really suprises me is that you could stay at 2.88m and 4.77m respectively for around 500 hours and then still only have a 1/20 chance of developing cancer.

I sourced the radiation numbers from the same place used in the comic. And the shielding numbers from some well referenced wikipedia pages.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby tibfulv » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:27 am UTC

ijuin wrote:[The most worrisome problem is that even if we were able to communicate our intentions to these future people, who might have long-since forgotten any of the languages that we currently use, the mere fact that we are telling them to keep away will make it a "forbidden fruit" issue, sort of like with warnings placed on tombs. The mere fact that we don't want them digging it up might lead some of them to think that it is a buried treasure rather than poison. This goes doubly if they happen to be a non-industrial society and have no concept of radiation poisoning, and therefore wouldn't believe that the nuclear waste would kill you just by being near it without touching it.


True. The half-life of some of these substances is much longer than the average lifetime of civilisations, so there might not be a way to communicate danger across civilisation boundaries. Skull symbols would of course be the most lasting, but not a barrier for inquisitive minds. The actual poisoning might reinforce the meaning of the symbols, however. Hmmm.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby tibfulv » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:38 am UTC

Had a thought. How about storing the materials under the sea floor near a subduction zone? We could let the mantle take care of the problem. Of course we could then never use it again, and we would have to store it away from volcanoes.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby stianhat » Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:24 am UTC

tibfulv wrote:Had a thought. How about storing the materials under the sea floor near a subduction zone? We could let the mantle take care of the problem. Of course we could then never use it again, and we would have to store it away from volcanoes.


Easier to just dissolve it in acid and and release it to the sea. The sea is quite large and can accomodate an appreciable amount of spent fuel salt.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Klear » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:18 am UTC

ijuin wrote:The most worrisome problem is that even if we were able to communicate our intentions to these future people, who might have long-since forgotten any of the languages that we currently use, the mere fact that we are telling them to keep away will make it a "forbidden fruit" issue, sort of like with warnings placed on tombs. The mere fact that we don't want them digging it up might lead some of them to think that it is a buried treasure rather than poison. This goes doubly if they happen to be a non-industrial society and have no concept of radiation poisoning, and therefore wouldn't believe that the nuclear waste would kill you just by being near it without touching it.


I heard (though I can't find anything relevant to it now, so it's likely bullshit) that jewlery made from radioactive metal was bried with some pharaohs, so that whoever looted the tomb died mysteriously. What if these were not tombs but actually radioactive waste disposal facilities and the ancient Egyptians failed miserably to explain this to us? Image

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Vahir » Wed Jan 23, 2013 11:35 am UTC

All signs seem to indicate that ancient Egyptians did not, in fact, possess the capability to perform nuclear fission.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby saccerzd » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:29 pm UTC

craigmpeters wrote:I saw a great article about storing radiation so that we can tell people thousands of years in the future that it is unsafe about how they would convey by architecture and symbols "do not dig this up you idiot, man did some stupid stuff here and do not disturb it"

I cannot find it unfortunately.


I know exactly what you mean - it's such an interesting idea, and I spent ages trying to think of ways of communicating "Danger! Stay Away!" far into the future without tempting people (cf. Egyptian tombs). Plenty of links below:

Edit: It's flagging my links as spam - probably because I'm newly registered - so I will just give the descriptive text for you to Google.

"damninteresting not a place of honor"
"slashdot place not a place of honor"
"downlode.org Etext WIPP" - Extracts from the original report (I believe)

Re the Yucca Mountain Project, one of the local Native American tribes said something like: "You don't need signs. If people wander into the area 10K years from now, we will warn them for you."

Also, first post. I've lurked here for YEARS but never posted before, so hello!

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby mojacardave » Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:59 pm UTC

Vahir wrote:All signs seem to indicate that ancient Egyptians did not, in fact, possess the capability to perform nuclear fission.

OBVIOUSLY the aliens who built the pyramids helped them.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby FrobozzWizard » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:28 pm UTC

Any Doom player can tell you that nukage will kill you in 40 seconds (assuming max health and no radiation suit when you dive in).

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby J Thomas » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:29 pm UTC

stianhat wrote:
tibfulv wrote:Had a thought. How about storing the materials under the sea floor near a subduction zone? We could let the mantle take care of the problem. Of course we could then never use it again, and we would have to store it away from volcanoes.


Easier to just dissolve it in acid and and release it to the sea. The sea is quite large and can accomodate an appreciable amount of spent fuel salt.


Hey, the atmosphere is even bigger. Just disperse it as a fine aerosol and forget about it.

That worked for other kinds of air pollution, right?
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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Himself » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:45 pm UTC

ijuin wrote:
craigmpeters wrote:I saw a great article about storing radiation so that we can tell people thousands of years in the future that it is unsafe about how they would convey by architecture and symbols "do not dig this up you idiot, man did some stupid stuff here and do not disturb it"

I cannot find it unfortunately.


The most worrisome problem is that even if we were able to communicate our intentions to these future people, who might have long-since forgotten any of the languages that we currently use, the mere fact that we are telling them to keep away will make it a "forbidden fruit" issue, sort of like with warnings placed on tombs. The mere fact that we don't want them digging it up might lead some of them to think that it is a buried treasure rather than poison. This goes doubly if they happen to be a non-industrial society and have no concept of radiation poisoning, and therefore wouldn't believe that the nuclear waste would kill you just by being near it without touching it.


I can imagine a civilization about as advanced as we were c. 1850 uncovering one of these disposal sites The archaeologists either get cancer or come down with a mysterious illness. Now everyone thinks the "tomb" is cursed. Though we could try to make it as clear as possible that there is poison in there. Most civilizations understand that concept.
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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:55 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
stianhat wrote:
tibfulv wrote:Had a thought. How about storing the materials under the sea floor near a subduction zone? We could let the mantle take care of the problem. Of course we could then never use it again, and we would have to store it away from volcanoes.


Easier to just dissolve it in acid and and release it to the sea. The sea is quite large and can accomodate an appreciable amount of spent fuel salt.


Hey, the atmosphere is even bigger. Just disperse it as a fine aerosol and forget about it.

That worked for other kinds of air pollution, right?


Higher volume, but the hydrosphere as a whole has about 300 times the mass of the atmosphere, the bulk of it (~97%) in the oceans. The density of radioactive pollution as a fraction of mass would be lower in the oceans (and less likely to be washed down by rain...)

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby ImagingGeek » Wed Jan 23, 2013 4:27 pm UTC

armandoalvarez wrote:Does this water being a such a good absorber of radiation thing mean that inhabitants of underwater bubble cities, even ones in shallow water, would have lower cancer rates than those of us living on dry land?

Not really. Much of the radiation that we encounter that causes cancer is in the materials we build with (a lot of bricks are made of uranium-containing clays, for example). Medicals sources, etc, also account for a lot. Radon is a major source; depending on your building materials and air-handeling technology you *might* get away from it underwater.

Globally, about 10% of cancers are though to involve exposure to radiation, about 1/3rd of that medical, so at-best you'll reduce your cancer burden by 6 or so percent. And that's assuming you don't introduce new (or higher-dose) non-radiative carcinogens in your colony.

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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby J Thomas » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:14 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
stianhat wrote:
tibfulv wrote:Had a thought. How about storing the materials under the sea floor near a subduction zone? We could let the mantle take care of the problem. Of course we could then never use it again, and we would have to store it away from volcanoes.


Easier to just dissolve it in acid and and release it to the sea. The sea is quite large and can accomodate an appreciable amount of spent fuel salt.


Hey, the atmosphere is even bigger. Just disperse it as a fine aerosol and forget about it.

That worked for other kinds of air pollution, right?


Higher volume, but the hydrosphere as a whole has about 300 times the mass of the atmosphere, the bulk of it (~97%) in the oceans. The density of radioactive pollution as a fraction of mass would be lower in the oceans (and less likely to be washed down by rain...)


Are you serious?

Wouldn't you want to completely understand the oceans first? What if plankton concentrated the radioactivity enough to mostly kill themselves, what then?

What if fish eat the radioactive plankton and we have to give up seafood? Well that isn't so bad, I never liked seafood that much anyway. What if seabirds eat the fish and then come poop on you? How do you know what to expect?

I'll tell you a much safer way. We can take our radioactive waste and dump it in the sun. The sun is so huge that a few tons of heavy metals cannot possibly have any effect on it. They will disappear without a trace. If they have some sort of influence on one little sunspot or flare or something, it won't matter.

We don't have to know all about how the sun works to be completely sure that nothing we do can affect it in the slightest. There are people who say that if we don't completely understand how the sun works that we might possibly cause it to become more variable, or maybe go out or something. They're stupid. They don't realize how *big* and *massive* the sun is. It's sheer common sense that our wastes can't do anything at all to it.
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Fire Brns
Posts: 1114
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Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Jan 23, 2013 5:56 pm UTC

ImagingGeek wrote:
armandoalvarez wrote:Does this water being a such a good absorber of radiation thing mean that inhabitants of underwater bubble cities, even ones in shallow water, would have lower cancer rates than those of us living on dry land?

Not really. Much of the radiation that we encounter that causes cancer is in the materials we build with (a lot of bricks are made of uranium-containing clays, for example). Medicals sources, etc, also account for a lot. Radon is a major source; depending on your building materials and air-handeling technology you *might* get away from it underwater.

Globally, about 10% of cancers are though to involve exposure to radiation, about 1/3rd of that medical, so at-best you'll reduce your cancer burden by 6 or so percent. And that's assuming you don't introduce new (or higher-dose) non-radiative carcinogens in your colony.

Bryan

Smoke detectors give off a lot of radon which if left unventilated is perfect for causing lung cancer. Underwater bubble colonies would need excellent fire detection systems.

J Thomas wrote:What if fish eat the radioactive plankton and we have to give up seafood? Well that isn't so bad, I never liked seafood that much anyway. What if seabirds eat the fish and then come poop on you? How do you know what to expect?
Obviously they were arguing on a single variable which for practical purposes would be impractical but for the sake of discussion is entertaining.

Heavy metals tend to collect in the arctic and antarctic circle so as long as we don't eat polar bear meat(which is poisonous), penguin, or seal we should be relatively safe.
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ImagingGeek
Posts: 380
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Location: Canada

Re: What-If 0029: Spent Fuel Pool

Postby ImagingGeek » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:24 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:
ImagingGeek wrote:
armandoalvarez wrote:Does this water being a such a good absorber of radiation thing mean that inhabitants of underwater bubble cities, even ones in shallow water, would have lower cancer rates than those of us living on dry land?

Not really. Much of the radiation that we encounter that causes cancer is in the materials we build with (a lot of bricks are made of uranium-containing clays, for example). Medicals sources, etc, also account for a lot. Radon is a major source; depending on your building materials and air-handeling technology you *might* get away from it underwater.

Globally, about 10% of cancers are though to involve exposure to radiation, about 1/3rd of that medical, so at-best you'll reduce your cancer burden by 6 or so percent. And that's assuming you don't introduce new (or higher-dose) non-radiative carcinogens in your colony.

Bryan

Smoke detectors give off a lot of radon which if left unventilated is perfect for causing lung cancer. Underwater bubble colonies would need excellent fire detection systems.

This is incorrect. Americium-based smoke detectors do not release volatile fission products. Americium breaks down into an isotope of neptunium which is solid & has a multi-million year half-life.

Bryan
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Not that anyone reads it...


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