warpath1979 asked in Environment · 1 decade ago

Eliminating our carbon foot print.?

With all the talk on global warming and storage of nuclear waste I thought of a possible solution. I wonder what the effects would be if we captured the carbon and sent it on a suicide mission to the sun. Carbon is one thing, what would the effects be if we did the same with nuclear waste. I understand that nuclear waste is more volitile (sp) than carbon emissions. I think it would be comparable to throwing a grain of sand at a basketball. The sun and space have way more nastier chemicals than what we have on earth. Your thoughts?

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  • David
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Launching nuclear waste into the sun is actually a serious proposal that a lot of people are proponents of. The obvious drawback is, the only way to get it there is to send it up in a rocket, and sometimes, rockets blow up. This means deadly waste would be showered over a huge area of land, a situation much worse than we already have.

    http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/factsheets/doeymp0017.sht...

    Carbon sequestration is another idea a lot of people take seriously, but by the sheer volume of carbon we emit, it would not make sense to put it into space. Indeed, we would be spitting out more carbon via the rocket fuel to lift it out of here than there would actually be in the cargo hold of the rocket--not to mention it would be extraordinarily expensive.

    Carbon sequestration mostly refers to burying it deep under the ocean, inside of old oil wells, underground in the form of charcoal, etc. The problems are mainly that there is no really an efficient way of capturing carbon dioxide, and no really good place to permanently put it where we can be sure that it will not leak.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_st...

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  • 1 decade ago

    Do you have any idea how much it costs to put stuff into space?

    Several thousand dollars per kilogram of payload (and if the rocket uses RP-1 as it's fuel it'll emit a lot of CO2, of course we don't exactly do many space launches so the environmental effects of space flight are pretty much limited to periodic die offs in the lakes around the shuttle launch pads).

    As for nuclear waste, better to just recycle it so that we get to use that 99% which current reactors don't use before we bury it in a place with nice stable geology. Given the results of Oklo (natural nuclear reactor a couple of billion years ago) we can probably justify being pretty reckless about where we bury the nuclear waste but there's so little of the stuff that we can afford to go overboard with safety and ensure that the stuff won't be escaping until it has decayed to nothingness (nuclear waste is pretty stable and also becomes less dangerous the longer you leave it).

    Although some components of nuclear waste might be useful, Sr-90 releases a lot of heat and would be a good RTG material, less efficient than Pu-238 but a lot cheaper and with cheaper launchers might replace Pu-238 for outer system space probes.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Nuclear waste is an easily handled form of glass that emits radiation for only a few hundred years, not worth the expense to launch out of earth orbit.

    Spent nuclear fuel on the other hand is an extremely heavy (most is the density of lead) many thousands of year lasting hazardous material stored in the same metallic tubes that were used in the reactor.

    In the US, the latter form of nuclear material is found scattered across the country at individual power reactors, stored in dry concrete casks; hundreds of thousands of tons, too.

    Making nuclear waste from spent nuclear fuel is not done in the US, yet, and requires commitments to a closed loop fuel cycle where uranium is treated as a precious commodity and plutonium as a potential fuel source (civilian). Uranium is currently and always has been the cheapest part of running a nuclear power reactor.

    Spent fuel storage costs are traditionally born by the utilities but that is changing as lawsuits are filed against the government for not having ready a national spent fuel storage facility (Yucca Mountain, construction paid for from electricity dollars, research to show its not the best idea, your dollars).

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  • John W
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    It always amazes me at how most people can simply not comprehend the scale of astronomical distances. The Sun is very very very far away, so far that it takes light from the Sun, 8 minutes to reach us. Yes, it's our nearest star and yes it's possible to get there but the effort is enormous, why would we put that much effort for waste. Any such attempt will likely cost us more in energy than any reasonable expectations of benefits.

    Also, most Nuclear reactors are actually designed as part of a weapons program hence generating very radioactive by-products. There are very few truly civilian nuclear programs and the reactors designed from those programs don't have the same environmental issues. The CANDU reactor from Canada can actually operate on natural uranium (designed to do so in event of a disruption of enriched uranium supplies due to politics) and the spent fuel being less radioactive than the natural uranium does not require special containment. The CANDU reactor can also run on the spent fuel rods of other reactor designs, a good indication of how wasteful the other designs really are. Of course, that's not to say that the CANDU can't produce weapons grade plutonium, India delayed the construction of their CANDU by insisting on various modifications throughout the construction process, as it turns out, those modifications were to enable the production of weapons grade plutonium hence leading to their atomic bomb. There isn't any reason why the production of nuclear waste can't be addressed here on Earth provided we can keep the military requirements out of it.

    Besides, why would we want to chunk millions of tons of Earth into the Sun. It would be a one way trip, and we may need that carbon or uranium in the future. Carbon is a very useful element and is the basis of life. It would be better to take the energy involved in blasting it into the Sun and convert it back into something useful such as hydrocarbon fuels or carbon nanotubes.

    If you think that rocketing waste into the Sun is a good idea, then why don't you come to my place, pick up my trash and carry it on foot to a landfill in China. Don't forget your swimming trunks, the Pacific will be quite the swim.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Hahahaha . Now dumping waste in outer space ???

    Not good enough to contaminate our air , our ocean , the health of our future generation ? Outer space is next ??? How about fill it up with nuclear waste and when future generation has to move to the moon and other planets because the earth is no longer inhabitable , their spaceship will have to get pass a sea of radioactive waste in space .

    How about not producing such nasty waste to start with ? There are heaps of renewable energy available . People use to dump waste in the ocean because they think it's big and it'll be gone and out of sight and be rid of . See how polluted it is now ? Whales in arctic ocean have such high heavy metal level , their carcasses are classified as toxic waste ! Everybody put a grain of sand in the ocean and through many generations , the sea level will rise !

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  • 1 decade ago

    It's impractical to do this with radioactive materials since we'd have to launch them out of Earth orbit (very expensive) and there is the risk the launcher would fail as Dawei noted and contaminate a lot of real estate. And people. At some point we may have space elevators or other means to do this cheaply and safely but it's more likely we'll find new uses for what we now consider waste so I'd hesitate to get rid of it for good.

    Carbon sequestration is not complex, they are already seeding the south oceans with iron oxide to stimulate the growth of algae. That algae sucks up a lot of CO2 but I'm not sure this is wise since it might be difficult to reverse and the people doing it are the very same people who squawk if someone dams a river and harms any nearby mice and that's very small-scale compared to this project.

    Essentially all you need to do is harvest the lumber in many of our forests and then store that lumber, ideally in the form of buildings and new products. Require lumber companies that cut the trees to replant and you lose a lot of CO2. Mature trees emit as much as they they take in but growing trees absorb a lot of CO2 and retain it until they rot or are burned. Which is why storing them is essential. Besides, trees are nice and yet lumber is nice, too, why not have both?

    CO2 of course is not a problem, levels have been 10 times higher than they are now during an ice age and it will take us until at least 2250 to even double the current level. A lot longer to go up 10 times as high as it is now.

    This is another doomsday warning, it's gone from from ice age to zero population growth and pollution to Y2K to warming. Pollution is lower than it was in the past and at some point we'll have tiny robots scavenging our landfills for fresh resources which will reduce that problem even more. No doubt we'll find ways to remove as much CO2 as we want but only if we have the wealth and industrial ability to do so, crippling both isn't the way to succeed.

    Even if you die you have a carbon footprint since you are a carbon-based lifeform like nearly everything else on Earth. If you really worry about this then plant or sponsor the planting of some trees, don't buy any carbon credits since all they do is keep underdeveloped areas (and people) poor.

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  • Nata T
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    there is no way to sequester CO2 cost effectively. To recover the CO2 from a power plant (coal/natural gas/oil), you'd have to double the size because 1/2 the energy generated would be used to capture and pump the CO2 into the ocean. And all power plants would have to be beside the ocean.

    The cost of the CO2 sequestration system is 50% the cost of the power plant it sits beside. Net effect all electricity would more than double in cost.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    If you believe in global warming then yoiur dum I'm in advanced placement environmental science, I did that lil carbon footprint thing, I got about 80 eaths to support everyone if they were all like me.

    TBH I was haopin for a few thousand, I drive about 3 diff SUV's global warming is BS and your stupid as hell to belive in it

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  • 1 decade ago

    I am a retired NASA Eng. and back then it saw costing about $ 20.000 for each lb.The plants are taking care of the CO2 and doing a food job. So there is no such thing as corbin footprint.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I honestly think it sounds great, but as far into pollution and such as we are, it may be quite impossible to do this. However, I believe anything is possible. If we could manage to do this, it of course wouldn't reverse the environment, but it would fix it at least in the slightest. And, if we fix the environment, the economy benefits. You should go to the government with this.

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