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What Is Geography Essay

1334 words - 6 pages

The primary concern when disposing of nuclear waste and cleaning the facilities that produce it is the duration of half-lives of the elements that make up nuclear waste. One example is Uranium-235, which is used widely by nations that have a nuclear weapons program. U-235 has a half-life of 703,800,000 years. This means that U-235 will take over 700 million years for it to decompose by half. It is estimated that these elements will still be hazardous for ten times their half-lives. At this rate, U-235 will take around 7 billion years for it to become non-threatening to humans. It should be noted that seasons, temperature, or any known solvents will not affect the rate of decay. During ...view middle of the document...

Through a process called plasticity effects, salt and water will flow to any cracks that may develop and basically seal the site. They plan to place markers to prevent any human actions, such as excavating or drilling on the site for the next ten thousand years. How can this remain in place for ten thousand years? The Department of Energy has since 1983, been working with linguists, archeologists/anthropologists, scientists, science fiction writers, and futurists to develop a warning system. They came up with a system called “passive institutional controls.” This will include an outer perimeter of 32, 25 foot tall granite pillars arranged in a 4 mile square. These pillars will then surround an earthen wall, 33 feet tall and 100 feet wide. Inside this wall will be another 16 granite pillars. At the very center of the site, a roofless 15 foot granite room will provide more information. This information will be recorded in six official languages; English, Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese and Arabic. They will also include the Navajo language. There will be space for future languages, and also being considered are pictograms, such as stick figures, and “the scream” from Edvard Munch’s painting. They will submit information to archives and libraries around the world. The final plan will be submitted around 2028. There have been incidents at this facility, in February of 2014, there was a fire involving a salt haul truck which required the evacuation of the underground facility. Six workers were treated at a local hospital for smoke inhalation. Fortunately, tests showed no release of radioactive materials. Again in February 2014, the facilities air detected unusually high radiation levels which resulted in the workers being ordered to shelter in place. Of the 139 workers at the facility, none were underground at the time and not exposed to radioactive contaminants. Subsequent testing discovered trace amounts of airborne radiation consisting of americium and plutonium particles above ground a half mile away from the facility. According to officials at the site, the leak occurred the night before, releasing alpha and beta radiation that was characterized as consistent with a ceiling collapse. On February 26, 2014 the Department of Energy announced that thirteen WIPP above ground workers has tested positive for radiation exposure. Other employees at the site were being tested with no results identified. The DOE announced it was sending out letters to the residents of two counties what they do know so far. The Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) released a report on 15 April, 2014 that stated that one or more of the 258 contact handled (CH) containers that contain radioactive waste that are located in room 7, panel 7 released radioactive and toxic chemicals that traveled through more than 3,000 feet of underground tunnels and then up 2,150 feet by way of...

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