Author Topic: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes  (Read 5789 times)

Offline hektor

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BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« on: 12/20/2017 02:53 PM »
Do you think BFR could make space disposal of long-lived highly radioactive material economically viable. I am thinking of putting them on a trajectory with direct impact with Jupiter for instance (a place where conceivably we will never go).

I found a source which says

Quote
The question was investigated in the USA by NASA in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Because of the high cost of this option and the safety aspects associated with the risk of launch failure, it was abandoned.

Could BFR solve both issues, cost and safety ?

Online speedevil

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #1 on: 12/20/2017 02:57 PM »
Could BFR solve both issues, cost and safety ?

No.
The highly radioactive stuff is not very bulky, and the bulky stuff is not very radioactive.

The most highly radioactive stuff is actually not that difficult to store - and concerns about launching it into space are going to be orders of magnitude (rightly) more than any sane ground-based solution.

If you're already in orbit, you can assume a technologically literate civilisation, so in principle putting it at (say) a little over GEO, in a suitably shielded container would be rather easier energetically.

Offline hektor

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #2 on: 12/20/2017 03:05 PM »
Well in France in 2007 (last figure I found) there were 2 293 m3 of them, so it is quite bulky, and a pain to find a solution for them.

Offline nacnud

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #3 on: 12/20/2017 03:07 PM »
Sending nuclear waste to space is a terrible idea. There are much better solutions but cost and Nimbyism make it a political football that just gets kicked down the road.


Offline hektor

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #4 on: 12/20/2017 03:11 PM »
Well my proposal was not to send them to space. Space is just an intermediate step.

Offline Ludus

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #5 on: 12/20/2017 03:16 PM »
Much “Nuclear waste” is actually only partly used fuel that will be valuable to power future nuclear reactors. The issue is political not technical and doesn’t require solutions like sending it into space. Launching nuclear fuel into space to support reactors will be controversial enough. Launching waste with a non zero chance of accidents that might scatter it on earth would be opposed more actively than other solutions.

Offline hektor

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #6 on: 12/20/2017 03:33 PM »
That is why I was asking the question about the BFR. It will be extremely reliable (carrying tens of passengers for Mars missions) and with a payload mass (150 t) which allows to accommodate a very resistant vault which would cover the extremely unlikely case were an accident happens.

Offline mikes

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #7 on: 12/20/2017 04:18 PM »
Well in France in 2007 (last figure I found) there were 2 293 m3 of them, so it is quite bulky, and a pain to find a solution for them.
That's 34 standard (40ft) shipping containers, so not vast.

(ed: External dimensions are not the same thing as internal volume! Corrected my arithmetic.)
« Last Edit: 12/20/2017 04:27 PM by mikes »

Offline Roy_H

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #8 on: 12/20/2017 05:10 PM »
IMHO the best solution for nuclear waste is to burn it in an LFTR. This way you get rid of it and produce electricity and valuable by-products. from: http://flibe-energy.com/lftr/

"LFTR technology can also be used to consume the remaining fissile material available in spent nuclear fuel stockpiles around the world and to extract and resell many of the other valuable fission byproducts that are currently deemed hazardous waste in their current spent fuel rod form.  The U.S. nuclear industry has already allocated $25 billion for storage or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and the world currently has over 340,000 tonnes of spent LWR fuel with enough usable fissile material to start one 100 MWe LFTR per day for 93 years. (A 100 MW LFTR requires 100 kg of fissile material (U-233, U-235, or Pu-239) as an initial fissile charge to begin the thorium-to-uranium breeding cycle)."
"If we don't achieve re-usability, I will consider SpaceX to be a failure." - Elon Musk

Offline mtakala24

Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #9 on: 12/20/2017 05:36 PM »
Discussing BFR safety is interesting. We can imagine the similarities in SpaceX animations vs. commercial airliners and passenger railways, and then compare that to the heavy casings/railcars/containers the nuclear waste is transported in.

Nuclear technologies not directly related to spaceflight is not in the scope of this forum, and could add moderation workload, so lets not get much further in this problem area.

However, if there was an objective forum related to these matters, without much if any spam and weirdos, then I haven't come across it yet. I would be happy to have such link posted here.

Offline Bynaus

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #10 on: 12/20/2017 05:43 PM »
Well, maybe we will one day build LFTRs (or IFRs) in GEO and just beam down the energy. That doesn't really make much sense (half of the power will be lost to conversion), but if this is what it takes to alleviate the concerns of the public masses with nuclear energy, then that is still better than to just dispose of the spent fuel in the Sun, Jupiter or even on Earth. In such a plan, BFR could be the system to shuttle the spent fuel (and the parts for the reactors) from the Earth's surface to orbit. On the side, this plan would develop space-grade reactors which might also find other uses in space (e.g., beam energy down to a martian colony, or for high-powered SEP / laser sails).
« Last Edit: 12/20/2017 05:44 PM by Bynaus »

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #11 on: 12/20/2017 08:27 PM »
No opinion on the idea of send nuke waste to Jupiter.

However that brings up the idea of the BFR&BFS combo be able to carry nuclear components to LEO. Like the Kilopower small fission reactor and mega watt range fission reactor kits. Not a big stretch from that to nuclear waste containers.

If SpaceX get the BFR&BFS combo certified to carry nukes like the Atlas V. Then nuke waste disposal seems closer to reality.


Offline Dave G

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #12 on: 12/21/2017 12:16 AM »
The best way to dispose of our current nuclear waste is to use it as fuel for 3rd or 4th generation breeder reactors.

Breeder reactors can also use depleted uranium, which is not particularly radioactive, but there's a lot more of it, enough to power the U.S. for centuries.

Breeder reactors also create some nuclear waste, but IIRC, it's like 100 times less waste, and it's less radioactive.

Offline Dave G

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #13 on: 12/21/2017 12:23 AM »
No opinion on the idea of send nuke waste to Jupiter.

However that brings up the idea of the BFR&BFS combo be able to carry nuclear components to LEO. Like the Kilopower small fission reactor and mega watt range fission reactor kits.

Agreed.  Nuclear power in space makes a lot of things possible.  It may also make sense on the Moon and Mars.
« Last Edit: 12/21/2017 12:34 AM by Dave G »

Offline Darkseraph

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #14 on: 12/21/2017 12:59 AM »
Given the proven reliability of launch vehicles, no one would insure this. The mass of radioactive waste still on Earth is relatively high compared to what BFR can lift and even under more aspirational reliability figures for BFR, several of those flights would likely fail scattering radioactive waste over some random part of the planet. That includes major cities, for which cost would be truly astronomical. Hard to see any poltiician biting on the opportunity to sign off on The Reusable Dirty Bomb.

There are cheaper and safer ways to store this waste at the bottom of a gravity well. Or better yet, recycle it with breeder reactors mentioned above. If BFR launches anything nuclear, it ought to be high value compact payloads rather than low value bulk waste. Surface Power Systems and Nuclear Electric Propulsion Tugs come to mind. An interesting future application of BFR could be in reducing the complexity of a mission like the now-cancelled JIMO. I believe it was to be constructed through multiple flights and in orbit assembly.
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Online speedevil

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #15 on: 12/21/2017 01:18 AM »
However that brings up the idea of the BFR&BFS combo be able to carry nuclear components to LEO. Like the Kilopower small fission reactor and mega watt range fission reactor kits. Not a big stretch from that to nuclear waste containers.

If SpaceX get the BFR&BFS combo certified to carry nukes like the Atlas V. Then nuke waste disposal seems closer to reality.

Fission reactors can be orbited entirely cold - to the point that you can literally hold all components safely in your hands with no radioactive issues.
It's only after the first time they are lit off that they get dangerously radioactive.

RTGs are different, in that they are very dense, inside ridiculously protected shells, in a highly processed form.
Waste is not in this form, and would be both much more radioactive than unused reactor, and not dense enough to be very protected.

Offline AC in NC

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #16 on: 12/21/2017 03:14 AM »
Do you think BFR could make space disposal of long-lived highly radioactive material economically viable. I am thinking of putting them on a trajectory with direct impact with Jupiter for instance (a place where conceivably we will never go).

I found a source which says

Quote
The question was investigated in the USA by NASA in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Because of the high cost of this option and the safety aspects associated with the risk of launch failure, it was abandoned.

Could BFR solve both issues, cost and safety ?

I know I'm standing against a lot of expert opinion but I believe it can.  And should.  I'm of the opinion that there are a goodly number of coincident drivers that make this make much more sense than seems on the surface.  I'm not sure that I would choose Jupiter over Venus though.  Is there some potential need to keep Venus pristine that I'm overlooking?

Offline nacnud

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #17 on: 12/21/2017 09:15 AM »
I know I'm standing against a lot of expert opinion but I believe it can.  And should.  I'm of the opinion that there are a goodly number of coincident drivers that make this make much more sense than seems on the surface.  I'm not sure that I would choose Jupiter over Venus though.  Is there some potential need to keep Venus pristine that I'm overlooking?

Sending nuclear waste makes into space makes no sense.

Lets just turn your assumptions upside down, if space launch became so cheap as to enable the 4000 BFR launches needed to send the US nuclear waste to venus why would you bother instead of say colonising the entire solar system. Which is going to have the most economic and social value?

Rough numbers
100,000 tonnes nuclear waste, also assuming no packaging.
150 tonnes to LEO for BRF
6 fights to refuel the BFS to send it to Venus.

4000 flights

Offline Radical_Ignorant

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #18 on: 12/21/2017 10:46 AM »
In my ignorant opinion that makes sense.

Yes I agree there are much better solutions here on Earth, but because of fear which causes super strong NIMB reaction they are no go. And then everyone is about ok with USAF bombers flying with nuclear bombs. Once BFR is as reliable as plane, that would be way around NIMB and finally do something instead of storing it where it was produced because nobody agree to have save shelter in "his backyard".

And fear is a real thing. You can't just wave your hand at it. It is political problem. No way around it. People need to be educated or ordered. Both things seems to be even harder than rocket science - maybe it's easier to build super reliable LV :)

Offline llanitedave

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Re: BFR - disposal of nuclear wastes
« Reply #19 on: 12/21/2017 04:02 PM »
If the political will to ship it by rail or truck to a remote underground site in the Nevada desert doesn't exist, how is anyone going to get approval to ship it to the populous and hurricane-prone Space Coast?
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