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Construction of a magnetic field over radioactive waste

  1. Jan 22, 2012 #1
    Hi all,

    Was reading articles on neutron stars and black holes when I started thinking about magnetic fields. I think it is a fact that magnetic shields on earth block out the harmful radioactive solar flares that come from the sun. So in the article i was reading it mentioned something about scientists being able to make magnetic fields but none as strong as that of a neutron star's.

    So i was thinking if they can make large enough magnetic fields to cover that of a nuclear power plant or a nuclear waste dump or whatever then why dont they. As it is proven that humans can safely pass through them by the mere fact that we have a space station i dont see why you couldn't put one over a power plant to reduce the already quite slim chances of an accident like Chernobyl happening again.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 22, 2012 #2


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    The reason solar flares can be mitigated by the Earths magnetic field is because they are charged particles. Radioactive waste, for the most part, is not. In incident like Chernobyl, the explosion released large amounts of radioactive material into the surrounding area. This materials was not ionized, and therefor was neutral, not charged, and could not have been stopped by any magnetic field.

    Also, you may have a misunderstanding of what radiation is. I suggest reading the following article and following some of the links there to find out more.
  4. Jan 23, 2012 #3


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    This is puzzling. If a radioactive plant also emits gamma rays and neutrons, how would the presence of large magnetic field do anything?

    And this is ignoring the feasibility of creating such a large magnetic field in the first place.

  5. Jan 23, 2012 #4


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    @ I eat Comets

    You are basically comparing two different scenarios.
    The Earth's magnetic field operates over a vast distance and deflects a whole range of fast charged particles from the Sun. It also causes them to spiral and this increases their path through the atmosphere - causing them to lose energy, slowly along the path before they get down to the ground.
    Emitted charged particles are not a problem with radioactive waste - Alpha particles only travel a few cm in air and Beta Particles (fast electrons) are also quickly absorbed. Screening is needed to cope with neutrons and gamma rays which don't arrive in deadly quantities from outer space. As mentioned above, it's the nasty radioactive isotopes that need to be contained for thousands of years, in some cases (there will be some of these on the Sun but it doesn't affect us!). Keeping the waste cool is also important so that the nasty stuff doesn't boil off into the atmosphere.
  6. Jan 23, 2012 #5
    Yes radioactivity im going to have to look into so thanks for the link. @ ZapperZ isn't it the radioactive rays that are dangerous? Maybe not i don't know? Thanks anyway i was just wondering.
  7. Jan 23, 2012 #6


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    When a particle decays and releases radiation it can release one of several types of particles. Alpha and Beta particles are charged particles that don't penetrate very far through materials. They are only dangerous if the radioactive material gets into your body before it decays, such as inhaling Radon gas or ingesting radioactive Iodine. Neutrons are particles that are uncharged, which allows them to penetrate a large amount of material before being stopped. Gamma Rays are simply extremely high energy light that can penetrate a lot of material as well. Both Neutrons and Gamma rays are capable of harming you at a good distance from the decaying material and both require lots of dense shielding to mitigate. Neither of them can be stopped by magnetic fields either.

    Also, as I said in my first post, one of the most dangerous things is for the radioactive material to escape into the environment before it decays. This is what happened in the Fukushima incident early last year. A magnetic field would not stop this from happening either, as the atoms are all neutral.
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