Can Remnants of Ancient Life Show Us How to Live Wisely Into the Future? – Facts So Romantic

At long-term nuclear repositories in Finland and Sweden, waste will be ensconced in cast-iron inserts (right), which are then placed in copper canisters (left).Posiva Oy

This is part 2 of Vincent Ialenti’s report on how how to think about nuclear waste in the environment over the very long term. Also see part 1, which ran on Facts So Romantic yesterday.

In the next decade, Finland and Sweden hope to take a big step toward making nuclear power sustainable, by building the world’s first-ever long-term storage repositories for spent nuclear fuel. To keep this dangerous, high-level waste from leaking over the many thousands of years during which it will remain active, the repositories will rely on four main barriers: First, used-up nuclear fuel rods are inserted into large, cast-iron inserts. Second, the iron inserts are placed in large copper canisters (see image above), which will then be welded shut. Third, the copper canisters are placed in the repository’s underground tunnels and then surrounded by bentonite clay “buffers.” This clay will absorb groundwater, which will make it expand and then, it is hoped, snugly encase the copper canisters. Fourth, the entire bundles are to be sealed in hard granite bedrock at…

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