Nuclear reactions produce huge amounts of energy with only a small amount of material, making them an excellent, reliable energy source. Nuclear energy, however, is not without some difficult problems. One of the biggest problems concerns how to deal with the nuclear waste that is inevitably produced during the nuclear reaction.
Nuclear waste, or radioactive waste, is a by-product of various nuclear technologies (including nuclear power, nuclear medicine, and nuclear research). Nuclear waste is extremely dangerous because it contains radioactive materials. These radioactive materials cause harm to all life forms including humans.
Modern human society hopes to extract a lot of energy from the nuclear reaction process, and the disposal of nuclear waste is one of the biggest challenges facing the modern world. Many people have put forward various ideas and assumptions on how to effectively dispose of nuclear waste.
One idea often suggested is to collect all nuclear waste and put it in sealed containers. Then, goes the idea, we can use rockets to launch these dangerous containers into space and perhaps expel the material toward the sun.
Sounds perfect, right? In reality, this method has several flaws.
Very high requirements for propulsion
Launching any rocket into space is inseparable from propulsion, an upward force that can push the rocket off the ground and to its intended destination – such as the International Space Station.
Many people may not know that the propulsion required to launch a rocket outside the solar system is actually less than the propulsion required when the destination is in the solar system, such as sending the rocket to other planets or the sun in the solar system.
Why? Our earth rotates at nearly 1,000 miles per hour, or 460 meters per second (this is the rotation speed of the earth on the equator). When a rocket rises from the earth, the rotation speed of the earth will be added to the speed of the rocket. Space agencies around the world use this technique to launch satellites and space probes.
After launch, the rocket will enter orbit obliquely, and then use the gravity of the earth to go to other destinations.
However, if you plan to fly the rocket to the sun, you need comparatively huge propulsion for several reasons: first, to prevent the rocket from "flying away" from the earth’s orbit; second, to push the rocket to the sun.
Even if huge propulsion is obtained, when the rocket approaches the sun, it still needs more fuel to provide greater propulsion because the gravity of the sun is stronger. Therefore, the closer to the sun, the harder it is for the rocket to hit the sun. In fact, the rocket is more likely to be captured by the sun’s gravity, orbit the sun, and finally fly away from the sun.
The risk of rocket launch failure
Examples of rocket launch failures abound. In the history of space research and space exploration, there are many accidents caused by rocket launches, and some have even brought catastrophic consequences, causing casualties. Every rocket and its staff will be fully prepared for emergencies during and after launch.
Now, imagine if a rocket carrying high-risk radioactive waste had a problem during launch, what would happen?
It can be said that if the launch fails, it would bring terrible consequences to the entire planet. Under the influence of the atmosphere, the radioactive waste on the rocket is very likely to be scattered everywhere.
Then there is the danger of space junk. Outside of our planet, there are already a large number of abandoned old satellites. The parts and debris of these satellites are orbiting our earth, posing challenges to all space missions. Undoubtedly, if a rocket carrying nuclear waste fails to crash into the sun, but simply leaves the radioactive waste in space, making it part of the growing amount of space junk in the outer circle of the earth, the outcome may be even more terrifying.
The cost is too high
The cost of such a large-scale space mission is bound to be very expensive. In fact, the cost is so high that no space agency will waste time at all considering whether to send nuclear waste on Earth to the sun or the moon.
Launching all the nuclear waste on Earth into space is a very dangerous task, and it is not economically feasible, especially now that we have more cost-effective methods to deal with nuclear waste.
In addition, we do not want to send nuclear waste to the moon because we don’t want to contaminate the nearest celestial satellite with radioactive waste. Although we don’t go to the moon often now, maybe we will build a new home on the moon one day in the future!