What About Tupperware?
Now that the U.S. Senate has given the go-ahead to store the nation’s most highly radioactive nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, new questions loom: What kind of containers can protect the waste for 10,000 years, and who will provide them? Those are high-stakes issues, given that the Department of Energy plans to buy about 10,000 storage containers at roughly $500,000 a pop. So far, the DOE is looking at conventional containers made of steel alloyed with chrome, molybdenum, and nickel, and covered by a titanium tent. But some scientists question whether anything made of metal can withstand long-term storage without rusting — especially since water percolates through the rocks under Yucca Mountain. Ceramics and polymers have been proposed as alternative materials, but experts say the DOE is likely to opt for familiar materials over experimental ones.