Thursday, February 11, 2010

Waste Repostories vs. Carbon Sequestration:

An Interesting Question

Following my posting of a comment by Rod Adams on my January 6 blog entry, he and I continued the discussion through an exchange of a couple of private e-mails on one of the points he raised. One point he made is so important that I thought it deserved to be shared in a full entry, rather than a series of comments to comments.

He had remarked on the difficulty of carbon sequestration, and I echoed his concern. I am not an expert in this field, but I had in mind reports I have read from time to time of the earth belching up gases from somewhere in its depths. I am thinking of incidents such as the 1986 eruption at Lake Nyos in Cameroon that killed 1700 people. Now, I know there are differences--the gas, the geology, etc. And I have read reports that there may be ways of chemically binding the carbon dioxide to something to make it a liquid or solid, although no one states the energy cost. The point is that there are at present a lot of unknowns about the feasibility of carbon sequestration--and yet many seem to regard it as a given that the problems will all prove tractable.

The point that Rod added that I hadn't thought of is this: "When I think about the physics of storing used nuclear fuel - which is in the form of corrosion resistant tubes containing high temperature ceramic materials - and compare it to storing a gas like CO2, I just have to shake my head. Why is the first one considered impossibly difficult and the second one just a matter of scaling up technology that is just around the corner?"

That is such a profound observation that I really can't add anything to it, except perhaps that radioactive isotopes do eventually decay. Carbon dioxide doesn't. Rod's observation is a good one to keep in mind the next time you encounter someone who says the waste problem is insoluble.


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