1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is it Possible to Contaminate our Sun?

  1. Feb 7, 2009 #1
    Lets assume if we were able to gather ALL the Radioactive waste on Earth, eg. depleted Uranium, and also other un-recyclable materials - drink bottles, plastic bags etc... and fire them into the Sun. Would then, the sun be contaminated for the next billion years since most radioactive materials have half-lives of millions of years. Or would there be NO effect at all?

    I've always been intrigued at possibility of using our sun as a waste storage system, but not sure about the consequences. Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 7, 2009 #2

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The sun is rather large, the amount of waste is rather small (in fact if all radioactive waste was distributed evenly over the Earth it would still be well below the background)

    The tricky bit is getting the stuff to the sun
     
  4. Feb 7, 2009 #3
    What would happen to the radioactive waste in the Sun? Would they become inert? Yes, I know it's tricky getting all the Earth's garbage to the sun, but I'm assuming we can do it easily, cheaply in the near future.
     
  5. Feb 7, 2009 #4

    mgb_phys

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    They don't become inert although some may be fissioned by any stray neutrons. But depending where you put them on the surface of the sun they would just get blown back out into space
     
  6. Feb 7, 2009 #5
    Thanks, I was hoping to put them into the Center of the Sun, so they wouldn't escape. Slightly off topic, but what if we put the radioactive materials onto a neutron star.. wouldn't that be a better way to get rid of it forever? Thanks.
     
  7. Feb 7, 2009 #6
    Isnt the sun about 1 million times bigger than earth? We could probly throw out entier planet in there with out much notices by the system and the fission that makes the sun what it is produces some pretty crazy radiation that would kill us pretty easly if we wern't protected by the atmosphere/magnitosphere.
    I think what prevents srious conseideration for this is the idea of one of the rockets full of the radioactive wast exploding befor it was out of the atmosphear creating an enviormental disaster or epic proportions
     
  8. Feb 7, 2009 #7
    Why would you want to get rid of it? Nuclear waste is greatly overblown as a problem. There are a lot of uses you could use of the various isotopes. The problem with nuclear waste is that it is a wide mixture of different radioactive materials. Most of them can be put to various uses if they are purified. Some day we will probably be "mining" the various waste sites for those nuclear materials.
     
  9. Feb 7, 2009 #8
    Nice Subductionzon what can we do with all the differnt stuff after we purify it ?
     
  10. Feb 7, 2009 #9
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  11. Feb 7, 2009 #10
    That's useful, I never thought about it in that way.. No more sending them into space! :)
     
  12. Feb 8, 2009 #11

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Ignoring that this is throwing away potentially valuable resources (see post #9) and ignoring the immense safety issues, why would you want to use the Sun as a waste storage system? It would be much cheaper in fuel costs (delta V) to simply put the waste on an escape trajectory from the solar system than it would be to place it on a collision course with the Sun. Even cheaper would be to put the waste in orbit around Venus.
     
  13. Feb 25, 2009 #12
    Cheap but irresponsible. If everyone thought the same way, then Space would fill up with garbage sooner or later, and we must think of our younger generations who one day might use space to fly to other planets and stars. I strongly believe than any material that can be reused or recycled should be sent into the sun for decomposition. It's the best way to ensure that there are no waste left behind.
     
  14. Feb 25, 2009 #13
    Our sun as the ultimate garbage-pit?
    I can't think of any thing from our earth which would destabilize our sun.
     
  15. Feb 25, 2009 #14
    Shooting it at the sun will be about the same as shooting it into space. The material shot at the sun probably isn't going to stay in the sun, it will just get vaporized and blown everywhere. It's still going to be radioactive waste in space either way.

    Space is far larger than any person could ever imagine; we couldn't fill it up with anything even if we tried.
     
  16. Feb 25, 2009 #15

    Nabeshin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The question isn't one of destabilization. Of course, the sun could gobble up the entire earth and likely not change a wink.

    Nothing particularly grand would happen to the material either. The sun emits so much radiation, anything radioactive we add to it is completely negligible. Really, all effects of putting radioactive material in the sun are negligible. (Fortunately, so are they for shooting it out of the solar system, which costs much less!)
     
  17. Feb 25, 2009 #16
    It would take a lot of energy to get it all to the sun, mostly getting it out of the earth's gravity well. Not something likely to happen any time soon. Not to mention the bulk involved. Not all our nuclear waste is spent fuel. There is also a significant amount of other radioactive waste that is bulky and heavy. Back around 1980 there was a problem with the coolant in many reactors in this country. The heat exchangers in a bunch of power plants had to be removed from the containment domes and replaced. These things look like gigantic CO2 cartridges, around 100 feet long and made from steel that was 6 or more inches thick if I recall. Each reactor had at least a couple of them. All that steel is radioactive and had to be shipped and stored somewhere as radioactive waste. Many, many tons and that wasn't the only source of waste from that operation. I know about this because I helped remove them from a nuke plant in Norfolk VA for a few weeks. It was an amazing process, they had to be cut in half and then jockied around by an internal crane and out a round porthole in the side of the containment dome. It's why I quit photography, I still fog unexposed film when I am near it. I only started taking pictures again since cameras went digital :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2009
  18. Feb 25, 2009 #17

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Oh, please. This is a physics forum. That is utter nonsense. Think of how empty space truly is.
     
  19. Feb 26, 2009 #18
    Not so empty in near earth orbit, it's already full of garbage and getting more added all the time.
     
  20. Feb 26, 2009 #19

    Nabeshin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Actually, still quite empty in near earth orbit. Even with all the junk we've put up there, there's still plenty of space (the recent satellite collision was a fluke. But the fact that it's never happened before indicates just how empty it still is). Really, you're underestimating the vastness of space. We could shoot as much trash as we want into space on an escape trajectory and probably never notice.
     
  21. Feb 26, 2009 #20
    Till it collided with nirabu and wiped out the entire annunaki civilization... wouldn't you feel like crap then!!!

    :tongue2:
     
  22. Feb 26, 2009 #21
    The volume of Earth is 1.08683241 * 1021 m3. Let's say we took every cubic meter and shipped it separately into space. Then let's say we don't even bother with moving it out of the solar system, it all stays within the inner planets (Mar's orbit). The space of the inner planets has a volume of 6.48307947 × 1034 m3. This means our matter would take up 0.0000000000017% of the space (just the inner solar system). For even more fun, let's say that we impose a 1km no fly zone around each 1 cubic meter piece. The entire Earth broken up into 1 cubic meter pieces, and spread out throughout the inner solar system with a 1km bubble surrounding each piece would still only take up 0.007%. Filling up space is not going to happen.
     
  23. Feb 26, 2009 #22

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    The context of my statement was placing stuff on a solar system escape trajectory, not low earth orbit.

    That said, even low earth orbit is not "full of garbage". It is practically devoid of garbage. The 150,000 or so pieces of space debris in low Earth orbit are spread out amongst a volume of more than 1020 cubic meters, or one piece of space junk for every 1015 cubic meters. Imagine a 100 km x 100 km x 100 km cube of space. If the stuff was uniformly distributed (it isn't), that huge cube would hold one piece of space debris, most likely a little flake of metal.
     
  24. Feb 26, 2009 #23
    I think the real point here is as we develop new tech an better ways to harnas all types of energy there will be little to no in recyclable waste to send anywhere
     
  25. Feb 26, 2009 #24
    It appears that way if you look at a static representation of all of it, volume of objects versus position. But all that stuff is moving and the relative velocities of the garbage and say a ship can be large enough for paint chips to crater metal. If it were as empty as your statistics imply we wouldn't be tracking it all. That's like saying there is nothing in the path of a collider but an atom, practically zero volume compared to the volume of the whole circular path, but would you stick your hand in there? It's almost empty but it will get hit by that atom.
     
  26. Feb 26, 2009 #25

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    We can safely put people and expensive equipment into orbit precisely because even near-earth orbit altitudes are still relatively empty. Is that debris a problem? Certainly. The recent collision is evidence of that (and made the problem a lot bigger, to boot). Is space "full of garbage"? Depends on what you mean by "full". If by full you mean one item per million cubic kilometers, then yes, near-earth space is full of garbage. I doubt many people would agree with that definition of "full".

    False analogy. The probability your hand will get hit if you leave it there for any time longer than one cycle around the path is exactly one. The probability that a spacecraft will be hit by a piece of debris large enough to do damage any time during the entire life of the spacecraft is still very very small.

    Anyhow, this discussion of debris in low-Earth orbit is completely off-topic. Nobody has yet suggested storing radioactive waste in Earth orbit.
     
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook