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Burying Chernobyl

Method for burial of Chernobyl or other radiation leaking structures
  [vote for,

After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, the nuclear reactor where the accident occurred was covered in a large concrete sarcophagus. Dangerous radiation is still present inside. Now cracks have formed in the concrete. The situation is highly dangerous. The Chernobyl reactor will remain dangerously radioactive for many years. A permanent solution needs to be found.

Scientists currently plan to enclose the reactor in even more concrete and steel.

The better solution, however, would be to bury the entire reactor complex, including the concrete sarcophagus, to a depth of 100 meters or more underneath the Earth. That way no matter what happens, the dangerous radiation is deep underground. This is how to bury it.

This is a method that could work equally well for any other structure that in the future may need to be sunk into the earth.

The problem is how to lower the complex very slowly into the earth, so as not to further crack the sarcophagus.

First, robotic digging machines currently used in mining and tunnel building will need to be modified. They have to be radiation hardened and waterproofed.

Second, determine how much area around the sarcophagus you plan to bury. To stay on the safe side, plan on sinking the whole complex area plus a hundred meters to each side. In addition, ensure that the area to be sunk is rectangular in shape.

With the digging machines, cut a tunnel underneath the complex at a depth of about twenty meters, and a height of about three meters. Halfway through the rectangle, make a right turn, continue digging, then make another right turn, continue digging, always expanding the tunnel until a giant labyrinth of tunnels is built. Extend the labyrinth to the entire rectangle.

As the tunnels are being cut out of the rock, remove the earth and rock from the tunnels. Store the earth and rock off to the side for later use.

As earth and rock are removed, fill in the tunnel with mud and water. This would be a technique similar to mudjacking. The mud and water must be densely packed to keep the pressure constant.

Chernoybl is right next to a lake, helpful for making mud. As the robotic digging machine continues digging, less rock and more mud and water will fill the subterranean chamber.

Once the labyrinth of tunnels is cut out, use the machines to cut away the remaining walls, replacing their mass with mud and water. At this point a large chamber is formed. Pull all the machines out.

Slowly pump all the mud and water out of the chamber. The entire dangerous reactor complex should slowly, safely sink three meters, the same amount as the height of the chamber.

Repeat those steps as many times as necessary to bury the reactor complex to a sufficient depth for safety. Perhaps 100 meters would be deep enough. Perhaps it should be 500 meters.

After the lowering process is complete, take the mud, rock, and earth that was removed and use it to bury the complex. A small hill will be formed. Concrete layers or other materials can be placed over the whole area to whatever extent necessary.

Some kind of evil-looking sign could be permanently posted to warn away future visitors.

One disadvantage is that burying the reactor complex could contaminate nearby water. To alleviate this problem, any nearby lakes, rivers, or groundwater aquifers would have to be diverted, dammed, or moved. That would be cheaper and better, however, than letting another dangerous Chernobyl-like situation develop sometime in the future.

Burying Chernobyl is feasible, cost-effective, and represents a permanent solution that will never require any maintenance and will never fail to protect against Chernobyl's lethal radiation.

clockwork, Mar 07 2004

Chernobyl pics & words by a Russian motorcyclist. http://www.angelfir...treme4/kiddofspeed/
Coincidentally, 10 minutes ago, this link became a topic on another board I'm on. [thumbwax, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Kidofspeed - Ghost Town http://www.kiddofspeed.com/default.htm
Elena's old Angelfire site was moved to a better server. [Amos Kito, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Wikipedia: Chernobyl accident http://en.wikipedia.../Chernobyl_accident
Apparently the sarcophagus is already nearly dead, and something must be done. [dbmag9, Apr 10 2006]


       Please tell me that you already thought of digging a mile-deep trench and rolling the whole thing, ass over teakettle, into the watery pit.
dpsyplc, Mar 07 2004

       I believe the reactor is still burning, and with 200 tons of plutonium, experts estimate that it will burn for another 100+ years. Water has to be pumped in to the reactor to keep it cool. Buried or not, it will blow the cap off of whatever we put on top of it if it overheats, like it did in 1986. (If thats really what happened).   

       I would suggest digging that "mile deep trench" around the whole complex, as to quarentine the water seeping in or out of the area.   

       If we can build domes for football games (in the US), I would think the international community could build a super-big-assed dome over this thing.   

       [+] for reminding us that this problem has not been solved yet.
1st2know, Mar 07 2004

       Out of sight, out of mind? This solution is unworkable. It would block maintenance access to the site, contaminate groundwater, and disturb the debris, and cost untold amounts of money.   

       The best bet is to let sleeping fallout lie - that is to renew the sarcophagus, maintain any safety systems and help the former Soviet Union decommission any additonal unsafe plants still running.   

       We in the West (and particularly the closest wealthy neighbours the EU) need to appreciate that though the problem is was the fault of the Soviets, we're all ultimately in the same boat with respect to nuclear safety ... and cough up the dough.
FloridaManatee, Mar 07 2004

       I seem to remember a program fairly recently that said that unless work is done soon on the protective building around chernobyl it will colapse kicking up a new radioactive dust cloud. as for burying it suspect that idea will have been considered shame world safety issues are left to countries.
engineer1, Mar 07 2004

       Would it be possible to simply fill the structure with lead?
theircompetitor, Mar 07 2004

       It was the Soviets' fault, but you are absolutely right that we don't have the luxury of playing the blame game for this. This is now the entire world's responsibility.   

       If you are right that the reactor would burn if coolant water were not continually cycled through it, that would present a problem for this plan. Perhaps the dangerous material could be removed, first, though.   

       Since I posted this I read that the current plan is to decommission the reactor and remove its fuel. Presumably that could be accomplished robotically.   

       If the lack of coolant meant an explosion and the removal option were feasible, the removal option would be the best solution.   

       Even then, after removing the dangerous material, the complex will be radioactive and dangerous. It would be preferable to sink the entire complex deep underground. Thus, the "Burying Chernobyl" plan would even then have utility.
clockwork, Mar 07 2004

       Howabout just piling a monstrous amount of sand on top of the thing?
RayfordSteele, Mar 07 2004

       cost-effective my foot.   

       radiation is scary, sure, but people make alot bigger deal about it than is warranted.   

       Also, 200 tons of plutonium is not at Chernobyl. It was actually 190 tons of URANIUM. Not quite as radioactive.   

Madai, Jul 07 2004

       I think it is a bit sad that everyone is of the opinion that the Atomic Engineer guys in Ukraine are too thick to come up with a safe idea. Every one has a solution but on an issue like this I can guarantee that all these ideas have been floated and have failed safety tests. The accident at Chernobyl was primarily a managerial problem. The powerstation was forced to delay testing and simultaneously provide additional power to the grid to make up for other stations. The lessons have been learnt by the various power stations around the world and now people take this seriously. US had Three Mile Island, Japan had TokaiMura. Unfortunately this problem is not one that you can just bury in mud and forget about.
PainOCommonSense, Jul 08 2004

       I thought the accident was caused _during_ a safety test, running the reactor at very _low_ power? Overloading wasn't what caused the problem; it was caused by running the reactor in a part of its performance envelope where it was known to be unstable.
david_scothern, Jul 08 2004

       Correct however.... Rather than linking this to the topic I will break ethics and dump a link in here...   


       I think this will explain what I meant...
PainOCommonSense, Jul 08 2004

       I think just burying it under a mountain of dirt and rock would be easier and just as effective.   

       Why not speed up the process? Why not tunnel in with a low yield nuclear device and blow it up? Make sure the device is of a size and type that will cause the hot U238 to be consumed in the million degree heat. Yes, there would be fallout, but better to deal with it all at once than suffer with it for generations. Wait for a calm winter day, move everyone back a little farther, and let 'er rip.
bobad, Jul 09 2004

       Hmm I take it by that suggestion that you don't live any where near the Ukraine?
PainOCommonSense, Jul 09 2004

       IIRC, nobody has ever made a robot hard enough to do any sort of extensive exploring of the plant itself, let alone construction, so refreshing the sarcophogus is pretty much out of the question. Frankly I don't see anything wrong with the current solution, though--it's fairly safe right now, and as long as it's above ground we can keep an eye on the thing.   

       However, if burying it was the right solution, I think this would work. And, as you mention, it could possibly be used in other places too.
5th Earth, Jul 09 2004

       Big problem, and I can sum it up in two words: ground water. That is the prime reason why hazardous waste is so annoying... you can't just bury it because it leaches everywhere! That's why the salt mine in Yuma mountain in the US is a good choice: ultra-dry, isolated, and self-sealing (the salt slowly flows back together, closing the tunnels). Another idea that has been floated: mixing the radioactive waste with graphite and glass. The graphite soaks up neutrons, and the glass is hard to dissolve. Then you can bury it.   

       On the topic of nuking it: isn't a hydrogen bomb relatively fall-out free due to ultra-high energies? If so, just get all the nuclear waste from around the globe, dump it on the sarcaphogus, and then H-bomb the whole darn thing. End of story, and the place (crater?) can be resettled relatively soon.
Agamemnon, Apr 05 2006


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