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Self-Disposal Option for Heat-Generating Waste

[+] Author Affiliations
Michael I. Ojovan

University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Pavel P. Poluektov, Vladimir A. Kascheev

A. A. Bochvar’s Institute of Inorganic Materials (VNIINM), Moscow, Russia

Paper No. ICEM2011-59182, pp. 1215-1221; 7 pages
  • ASME 2011 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management
  • ASME 2011 14th International Conference on Environmental Remediation and Radioactive Waste Management, Parts A and B
  • Reims, France, September 25–29, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5498-3
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


Self-descending heat generating capsules can be used for disposal of dangerous radioactive wastes in extremely deep layers of the Earth preventing any release of radionuclides into the biosphere. Self-disposal option for heat-generating radioactive waste such as spent fuel, high level reprocessing waste or spent sealed radioactive sources, known also as rock melting concept, was considered in the 70s as a viable alternative disposal option by both Department of Energy in the USA and Atomic Industry Ministry in the USSR. Self-disposal is currently reconsidered as a potential alternative route to existing options for solving the nuclear waste problem and is associated with the renaissance of nuclear industry. Self-disposal option utilises the heat generated by decaying radionuclides of radioactive waste inside a heavy and durable capsule to melt the rock on its way down. As the heat from radionuclides within the capsule partly melts the enclosing rock, the relatively low viscosity and density of the silicate melt allow the capsule to be displaced upwards past the heavier capsule as it sinks. Eventually the melt cools and solidifies (e.g. vitrifies or crystallizes), sealing the route along which the capsule passed. Descending or self-disposal continues until enough heat is generated by radionuclides to provide partial melting of surrounding rock. Estimates show that extreme depths of several tens and up to hundred km can be reached by capsules which could never be achieved by other techniques. Self-disposal does not require complex and expensive disposal facilities and provides a minimal footprint used only at operational stage. It has also an extremely high non-proliferation character and degree of safety. Utilisation of heat generated by relatively short-lived radionuclides diminishes the environmental uncertainties of self-disposal and increases the safety of this concept. Self-sinking heat-generating capsules could be launched from the bottom of the sea as well as from intermediate-depth or deep boreholes. Self-disposal can also be used with a novel purpose — to penetrate into the very deep Earth’s layers beneath the Moho’s discontinuity and to explore Earth interior.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME
Topics: Heat



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