Australian news, and some related international items

No country has a nuclear waste repository that will last long enough

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINTemple of Doom: How do we warn the future about nuclear waste?, Triple J Hack, by James Purtill, 19 Feb 16  “…….This week the South Australian Royal Commission released “tentative findings” recommending the state take more than 100 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste and store it in the desert for hundreds of thousands of years…….

The report notes that the used fuel of nuclear power plants requires isolation from the environment “for many hundreds of thousands of years” and that many countries, including Finland, France, Hungary and South Africa, have developed purpose-built waste repositories.

This is true, but it’s worth pointing out none of these already built repositories are for the final disposal of nuclear fuel. They are either for low to intermediate level waste, which needs to be isolated for several hundred years, or they are temporary, interim solutions to the problem of finding a final resting place that will isolate waste for tens of thousands of years.

Finland is building the world’s first deep underground repository for high level nuclear waste and Sweden is close behind. The Finnish site is scheduled for completion in 2023.

A better example of the kind of repository proposed for South Australian is the United States’ Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), deep in the New Mexico desert. It’s the only working long-lived nuclear waste repository in the world. It holds barrels of gloves and masks and machines and bomb parts contaminated by nuclear testing. The site is designed to last for 10,000 years.


WIPP is scheduled to close in the 2040s. It will be sealed up and left alone. Centuries will pass and become millennia. On the surface, civilisations will rise and fall.

China, the world’s oldest continuous civilisation, stretches back about 5,000 years. The world’s oldest inscribed clay tablets date from about the same time.

Timeline-human-&-radioactiveThe half-life of plutonium-239, which can produce fatal radiation doses during short periods of direct exposure, is 24,000 years – the time it takes to decay to half its level of radioactivity. In 10 times that period, or 240,000 years, it decays to uranium-234, which is fairly harmless.

Homo sapiens began to evolve about 200,000 years ago………..

February 20, 2016 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia

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