By Brian Clark HowardPosted 06.22.2012 at 11:30 am 14 Comments
Rechargeable batteries were supposed to keep trash out of landfills. Instead they replaced old garbage with new. Consumers throw away billions of battery chargers every year; cellphone chargers alone account for almost 100,000 tons of trash annually. And as discarded chargers sit in landfills, they bleed toxins like mercury and lead. That cycle is about to end.
Scenes of caustic red sludge surging through pastoral Hungarian villages last week evoked a familiar blend of human pathos and righteous anger that most of us had shelved shortly after the BP well was capped. Then the news cycle turned over and our attention moved elsewhere. But as emergency workers in western Hungary slog through ankle deep rivers of toxic red muck to clear roads and contain the growing mess, the hardest job hasn’t even started: the cleanup of an estimated 30 million cubic feet of alkaline mud covering some 16 square miles of Hungarian countryside.
Nuclear energy is looking like it will be a big part of a fossil-fuel-free future in the U.S. But the big question remains as big as ever: What's to be done with the waste it generates?
By Katie Peek with additional reporting by John BradleyPosted 07.13.2010 at 12:59 pm 22 Comments
In our Future of the Environment issue, we mentioned one visionary's suggestions: self-sinking tungsten spheres that stash spent nuclear fuel deep beneath the Earth's surface. That idea is a long way from reality, but in our green-energy-starved present, it may be worth considering all options, no matter how wacky. Here are a few other pie-in-the-sky ideas.
While the fate of America's Yucca Mountain appears to be sealed, Finnish company Posiva is moving forward with a cutting-edge nuclear waste storage facility that it claims will safely store radioactive waste in drums deep in the ground for 100,000 years. While challenges abound, a green light from the Finnish government expected by 2012 will make the site on Finland's Olkiluoto Island the first permanent nuclear waste repository in the world, opening the door for more to follow.
To scope out a suspected Mafia shipwreck that may hold nuclear material, Italian authorities sent in the robot.
A remote-controlled sub began filming a sunken vessel off Italy's southern coast over the weekend. That shipwreck may represent just one of 30 ships deliberately sunk in a rather sociopathic act of nuclear waste dumping.
Scrubbing sites of radiation is no easy task, not to mention costly. Aside from all the technical hurdles, the potential health hazards drive up the cost further, making it feasible in only the most necessary of cases. But researchers at the University of Missouri have found a work force that may be willing to clean up our radioactive messes on the cheap.