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Impressie van een satelliet (zonder kernafval) bij de zon

Can we shoot nuclear waste at the sun?

Nuclear power plants face a waste problem. At the same time, launching missiles became cheaper and cheaper. That’s why KIJK reader Michael Tan asks: Could we launch our nuclear waste into space, say into the sun?

This will still be an expensive project. Launching the material into space costs at least 3,000 euros per kilo. The Purcell Nuclear Power Plant produces about 100,000 kilograms of radioactive waste every year. So sending that into space would cost at least 300 million euros a year. Then there are more than four hundred active nuclear power plants around the world.

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It’s raining nuclear waste

Suppose this is funded and enough additional missiles are built. Then all our nuclear waste ends up in orbit around Earth, among all the satellites. If one of them collides with a waste container, it rains down radioactive material. So you have to take the waste away. but where? If you dropped it anywhere in the solar system, it could always fall to Earth. For future manned missions, you would prefer not to pollute the Moon.

The sun is safer

The sun will be a safe destination. It’s just that any spacecraft you launch at the Sun tends to orbit around it. To reach the sun itself, very powerful rockets are needed. If it were technically possible to launch many of these missiles, it would obviously cost a lot of money.

Rockets sometimes explode

Furthermore, don’t forget that missiles regularly explode shortly after launch. If such a missile were filled with radioactive waste, the consequences could be catastrophic. In short: Unfortunately, shooting nuclear waste at the Sun is very expensive, technically very difficult, and above all, life-threatening.

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Text: Yannick Fritschi

Opening image: ESA/AOES