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“A New Approach to Radioactive Waste Self-burial Using High Penetrating Radiation”, Arutunyan et al 2018

2018-arutunyan.pdf: “A new approach to radioactive waste self-burial using high penetrating radiation”⁠, Rafael Arutunyan, Leonid Bolshov, Anton Shvedov (2018-04-25; similar):

The method of self-burial of radioactive waste in geological formations using direct heating of rocks by radiation is proposed in this paper.

In the currently known studies, thermal conductivity is considered as a main heat transfer mechanism. Application of high penetrating gamma radiation for direct melting of surrounding rocks will reduce the energy absorption inside the sinking device and will lower maximum temperature and temperature gradients in the elements of the device. In this paper, conditions of realization of the direct heating by radiation mechanism are presented and requirements to heat-generating radionuclides have been derived.

Assessments of the spatial distribution of energy release in the surrounding rocks for the point and plane sources with the radionuclide [^60^Co](!W “Cobalt-60”) have been performed. Based on these data, the temperature distributions in the surrounding rocks and the expression for determining the descent velocity as a function of 60Co surface activity in the sinking device have been obtained. Estimations of energy absorption fraction inside the spherical heat-generating elements filled with 60Co and surface activity of 60Co, necessary to achieve velocity of about 1 km per year, have been made. The results are given for granite and salt rocks.

[Keywords: Radioactive waste, geological disposal, self-burial, gamma radiation, heat transfer, heating by radiation, rock melting]

“Self-disposal Option for Highly-radioactive Waste Reconsidered”, Ojovan et al 2012

2012-ojovan.pdf: “Self-disposal option for highly-radioactive waste reconsidered”⁠, M. Ojovan, V. Kascheev, P. Poluektov (2012-03-28; similar):

Self-disposal option for heat-generating radioactive waste (HLW, spent fuel, sealed radioactive sources) known also as rock melting concept was considered in the 70s as a viable but alternative disposal option by both DOE in the USA and Atomic Industry Ministry in the USSR. Self-disposal is currently reconsidered with a novel purpose—to penetrate into the very deep Earth’s layers beneath the Moho’s discontinuity and to explore Earth interior. Self-descending heat generating capsules can be used for disposal of dangerous radioactive wastes in extremely deep layers of the Earth preventing any release of radionuclides into the biosphere. Descending of capsules continues until enough heat is generated by radionuclides to provide partial melting of surrounding rock. Estimates show that extreme depths of several tens and up to hundred km can be reached by capsules which could never be achieved by other techniques.

“Mission to Earth's Core—a Modest Proposal: Not Science Fiction, but a Technically Feasible Plan to Probe Our Planet's Inner Workings”, Stevenson 2003

2003-stevenson.pdf: “Mission to Earth's core—a modest proposal: Not science fiction, but a technically feasible plan to probe our planet's inner workings”⁠, David J. Stevenson (2003-05-15; similar):

Planetary missions have enhanced our understanding of the Solar System and how planets work, but no comparable exploratory effort has been directed towards the Earth’s interior, where equally fascinating scientific issues are waiting to be investigated.

Here I propose a scheme for a mission to the Earth’s core, in which a small communication probe would be conveyed in a huge volume of liquid-iron alloy migrating down to the core along a crack that is propagating under the action of gravity. The grapefruit-sized probe would transmit its findings back to the surface using high-frequency seismic waves sensed by a ground-coupled wave detector.

The probe should take about a week to reach the core, and the minimum mass of molten iron required would be 108–1010 kg—or roughly between an hour and a week of Earth’s total iron-foundry production.

…For the duration of the mission, about 108 cycles of probe oscillation would occur, which would be sufficient to encode the state and composition of the deep Earth.

This proposal is modest compared with the space programme, and may seem unrealistic only because little effort has been devoted to it. The time has come for action.

“Self-burial of Radioactive Waste”, Kosachevskii & Syui 1999

1999-kosachevskii.pdf: “Self-burial of radioactive waste”⁠, L. Ya. Kosachevskii, L. S. Syui (1999-11-01; similar):

The problem of the “self-burial” of radioactive waste into melting rock is solved for a spherical container of finite thickness. The mathematical model constructed, unlike the existing ones, takes into account the thermal losses to the solid rock and to the melt behind the container, as well as the reverse evolution of heat upon solidification of the melt. A calculation for the particular case of self-burial in granite shows that consideration of these factors substantially increases the maximum permissible radius at which the container will remain in the solid state and slows the burial rate.

“Laboratory Modeling of Self-disposal of Radioactive Wastes”, Efankin et al 1994

1994-efankin.pdf: “Laboratory modeling of self-disposal of radioactive wastes”⁠, V. G. Efankin, V. A. Kashcheev, P. P. Poluéktov, A. S. Polyakov (1994-02-01)

“Stokes's Problem With Melting”, Emerman & Turcotte 1983

1983-emerman.pdf: “Stokes's problem with melting”⁠, Steven H. Emerman, D. L. Turcotte (1983-11-01; similar):

[Stokes problem] In this paper we solve for the drag experienced by a hot rigid sphere which melts its way through a cold medium.

The temperature of the sphere is maintained by internal heat generation. The cold medium is solid and deforms only when the hot sphere heats it above its melting point.

We find that the flow is confined to a thin layer about the forward hemisphere when the Péclet number is much greater than a known function of the Stefan number⁠.

We apply our results to the China Syndrome problem and show that in about 2000 years a nuclear reactor core could melt its way through the solid earth to the earth’s core.

“Radioactive Sinkers: Can We Devise High-temperature, Rock-melting Probes, Fuelled With the Radioactive Wastes from Reactors, Both to Dispose of Those Wastes Effectively and to Tell Us More about the Earth's Interior? There Are Many Difficult Problems, but the Gains in Knowledge about the Deep Regions of the Terrestrial Mantle Could Be Considerable”, Talbot 1978

1978-talbot.pdf: “Radioactive Sinkers: Can we devise high-temperature, rock-melting probes, fuelled with the radioactive wastes from reactors, both to dispose of those wastes effectively and to tell us more about the Earth's interior? There are many difficult problems, but the gains in knowledge about the deep regions of the terrestrial mantle could be considerable”⁠, Christopher Talbot (1978-07-13; similar):

[A new concept for the storage of radioactive wastes in rock formations is discussed.

The storage containers would be so designed that the heat generated by the stored radioactive material would melt small volumes of rock below the container resulting in progressively deeper burial. It is also proposed that the rock-melting probes should contain laboratory facilities capable of communicating information about the deep regions of the terrestrial mantle back to the surface.

It is felt that it should be possible to construct appropriate containers capable of withstanding large pressures, high temperatures and high radiation dosage without developing substantial mechanical defects using refractory alloys or ceramics. A hypothetical model of such a probe is shown.]

“Deep Self-Burial of Radioactive Wastes by Rock-Melting Capsules”, Logan 1974

1974-logan.pdf: “Deep Self-Burial of Radioactive Wastes by Rock-Melting Capsules”⁠, Stanley E. Logan (1974; similar):

The rock-melting-capsule concept utilizes decay heat from high-level radioactive wastes in a container to melt rock. Descent by gravity achieves deep disposal. Molten rock resolidifies in the wake of the capsule, providing permanent isolation from the environment.

Results: calculated for:

  1. waste categories of fission products, actinides, and Sr + Cs
  2. spherical capsule radii of 25, 50, and 100 cm
  3. waste oxide volume fractions of 0.15, 0.30, and 0.50
  4. basalt and granite rock types

indicate adequate heat generation for rock melting, maximum depth increases with capsule size and waste concentration, with depths greater than 10 km obtainable by each waste category.

Further work is recommended to investigate corrosion and erosion of refractory container materials in contact with waste oxide melts and molten rock.

“Operation 'Hot Mole': Self-burial: an Elegant Solution to the Problem of Storing High-activity Radioactive Effluents?”, Donea 1972

1972-donea.pdf: “Operation 'Hot Mole': Self-burial: an elegant solution to the problem of storing high-activity radioactive effluents?”⁠, Jean Donea (1972-12-01)

“Preliminary Study Of The Nuclear Subterrene”, Robinson et al 1971 (page 5)

1971-robinson.pdf#page=5: “Preliminary Study Of The Nuclear Subterrene”⁠, E. S. Robinson, R. M. Potter, B. B. McInteer, J. C. Rowley, D. E. Armstrong, R. L. Mills (1971; similar):

[Not an underground rocket⁠; background, and outcome] This report is the product of a series of reviews, analyses, and discussions among a small group of Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) staff members during the spring, summer, and fall of 1970. The group consisted of individuals from several Laboratory Divisions, and included a broad range of backgrounds, viewpoints, interests, and professional specialties. As the work of this group continued, a consensus appeared concerning the feasibility of developing a Nuclear Subterrene as a rapid, versatile, economical method of deep earth excavation, tunneling, and shaft-sinking. The concept offered the challenge of a major scientific development and the prospect of an important technological breakthrough. The Nuclear Subterrene was seen to offer potential solutions to many of man’s urgent ecological problems, the means of exploiting many of the earth’s still untapped natural resources, and the exciting possibility of a practical solution to the emerging crisis in the world’s energy supply. Drilling and tunneling by melting the rock was found to be the most promising method of accomplishing these things. It was concluded that the capabilities of high-temperature heat pipes and of small nuclear reactors put the development of a practical rock-melting system—in the form of the Nuclear Subterrene—within the grasp of present technology.

This report presents the outline of a proposed program for development of the Nuclear Subterrene, a summary of the technical background of such a program, several specific program goals, and some speculations concerning applications of the programs products, Several appendixes provide greater detail on some of these subjects.


The rock-melting drill was invented at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in 1960. Electrically heated, laboratory-scale drills were subsequently shown to penetrate igneous rocks at usefully high rates, with moderate power consumption. The development of compact nuclear reactors and of heat pipes now makes possible the extension of this technology to much larger melting penetrators, potentially capable of producing holes up to several meters in diameter and several tens of kilometers long or deep.

Development of a rapid, versatile, economical method of boring large, long shafts and tunnels offers solutions to many of man’s most urgent ecological, scientific, raw-materials, and energy-supply problems. A melting method appears to be the most promising and flexible means of producing such holes. It is relatively insensitive to the composition, hardness, structure, and temperature of the rock, and offers the possibilities of producing self-supporting, glass-lined holes in almost any formation and (using a technique called lithofracturing) of eliminating the debris-removal problem by forcing molten rock into cracks created in the bore wall.

Large rock-melting penetrators, called Electric Subterrenes or Nuclear Subterrenes according to the energy source used, are discussed in this report, together with problems anticipated in their development. It is concluded that this development is within the grasp of present technology.

…At the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, a device has been developed that bores holes in rocks by progressively melting them instead of chipping, abrading, or spalling them away. The energy requirement for melting rock is relatively high, but it is not prohibitive. (Common igneous rocks melt at about 1200°C and, in being heated from 20°C to just above their melting ranges, they absorb about 4300 joules of energy per cubic centimeter. In comparison, the corresponding figures for metallic aluminum are about 660°C and 2720 J/​cm3, and for steel they are about 1500°C and 8000 J/​cm3. The energy requirement for rotary drilling in most igneous rocks is about 2000 to 3000 J/​cm3.) Even for a penetrator of very large diameter advancing at a high rate, the melting energy can easily be provided by a compact, high-temperature, nuclear reactor, and LASL has pioneered in the development of such reactors. Energy transfer from the reactor to a melting tool at the rates and densities required would probably be impossible except by means of heat pipes, which have also been highly developed at LASL. Combining the 3 major components—a refractory rock-melting tool, a nuclear reactor, and a system of heat pipes—into a large, rock-melting penetrator called a Nuclear Subterrene would be a natural extension of existing LASL technologies, talents, and scientific interests

Mohorovičić discontinuity

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