<> wrote:

> Any fission reactor LEAVES A MESS for future generations, including the
> fast breeders.

That is true. Yet despite this, and despite the terrible problems at
Fukushima, I still think nuclear reactors are better than fossil fuel
alternatives such as coal and natural gas. I still hope the reactor in
Georgia is completed.

There is no doubt that fission reactors leave a mess for future generations
but it will probably be less of a mess than alternatives because:

The total mass of the mess is surprisingly small and it is concentrated in
a small, well-defined area, rather than being spewed out in the air and
over the landscape the way radioactive products from coal are.

Nuclear power does not cause global warming. It is better to leave a pile
of radioactive garbage than global warming.

Posterity may be upset with us but I think they will be able to deal with
the mess much better than we can. I hope they will have better technology.

I am sure they will have robots far better than ours which are capable of
doing the physical work of moving, packaging or burying the nuclear waste.

It is conceivable that nuclear theory may improve and they will find a way
to neutralize or "use up" the fuel to the extent that not much radioactive
material is left in it. In other words, breeder reactors may improve
tremendously hundreds of years from now.

In the distant future, people may have something like an extremely reliable
space elevator. I mean an elevator that handles millions of tons of freight
and passengers and has not had an accident in over 100 years. With
something like that, they might package up the nuclear waste, put it in
orbit, and drop it into the sun or store it on the moon. This might call
for an extra "strand" (elevator path) dedicated to dangerous or radioactive
freight only. That would be a tremendous expense today, with a first
generation space elevator, but centuries from now it might be a trivial
expense equivalent to a few million dollars.

I doubt there will ever be antigravity spacecraft and I do not think that
rockets will ever become reliable enough to carry radioactive waste from
earth to orbit, but we cannot rule out these possibilities. Rockets are
extremely unreliable today despite 70 years of intense development. But if
space elevators are not developed, perhaps rockets will become so reliable
they go for decades or centuries without an accident. From the 1920s to the
present day, airplanes went from being the most dangerous mode of
transportation to the safest per passenger mile, despite the inherent
danger of traveling close to the speed of sound 10 km above the ground. I
would not want to transport nuclear waste on airplanes -- or rockets, no
matter how safe they become. But perhaps some method of packaging the
material can be developed that would survive a crash, or falling from
orbit. We are talking about the distant future, in any case.

I have read discussions about how we have to make sure people know that
nuclear waste is dangerous thousands or tens of thousands of years into the
future. I do not think this will be necessary. I expect that before
thousand years have passed people will deal with the waste that we have now
generated. A thousand years is not very long. There are many buildings,
infrastructure such as roads and irrigation lakes, and institutions such as
universities, and even a few Japanese companies that have continued for a
thousand years. They have detailed records of what they did circa 1000 AD.
They know where their ancestors put things, and why they put them there.

- Jed

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