Why Don't We Shoot Nuclear Waste Into Space?

Launching nuclear waste into space would make nuclear fuel for reactors way more expensive and greatly increase the cost of the electricity they produce.


Most countries are dealing with nuclear waste by not dealing with it and kicking the can towards the future. We want to shoot high-level nuclear waste into space, but there are a few tiny problems. Even though spaceflight is getting more affordable, it's still extremely expensive.

We only made the calculation for low earth orbit, where most of our rockets and satellites are launched. Sending nuclear waste to the moon would require 260 Saturn V rocket launches every year, making it even more expensive.

Space is empty, do we really need a target? Shooting waste in any random direction is also a bad idea, so we should launch our nuclear waste deep into space, which means even bigger rockets that would be even more expensive.

Rocket engineering has taken huge steps since the Apollo era, but the problem is that 11 out of 146 launches in 2021 failed, which means that a sizable number of our rockets carrying high level radioactive waste would be exploding on the launch pad or disassembling at high altitude or crashing from hypersonic speeds.

The fear of nuclear waste reveals how bad we are at understanding risk. The largest amounts of radioactive elements like uranium and radon are actually released by coal, and yet nuclear power plants are a harder sell than coal.

Nuclear waste can be buried deep underground or reprocessed into new fuel. Shooting nuclear waste into space is one of the worst ideas ever.

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