-1
$\begingroup$

What is (roughly) the half-life of the materials used/generated in a nuclear plant, if that plant goes into meltdown? Could the world bounce back from global warming in a shorter time period than that half-life? Even in a worst-case scenario, could full-scale global warming be a better outcome than a cascading series of nuclear power plant failures (due initially to a natural event such as an earthquake, or to deliberate attack, war, etc.)?

$\endgroup$

closed as too broad by Communisty, Fred, Jan Doggen, bon, BillDOe May 9 '18 at 20:43

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think this is much to vague to get a good answer. How many nuclear plants and what type of fuel matters. Also what kind of meltdown. There's a series of nuclear waste products some with shorter half lives than others. Most of the risk of nuclear meltdowns is gone within a few decades (most not all) the peak risk, gone in a few weeks to months. Decades is a shorter time-frame than global warming which can last a century, a few centuries or perhaps longer depending on a few factors. $\endgroup$ – userLTK May 8 '18 at 22:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Okay, I misunderstood the time spans involved. I thought nuclear materials/waste had much longer (100s of thousands of years) half lives. Conversely, I thought global warming and sea level rise (but not all their effects, such as extinction of species) might reverse themselves in less time than that. $\endgroup$ – posfan12 May 8 '18 at 23:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There's nuclear waste with that long a time period too. People can visit Chernobyl for example, it's just not a good idea to live there, and plant and animal life is thriving there because the danger is mostly gone. Safe nuclear waste storage can be on the scale of tens or hundreds of thousands of years, or so too, so there's no easy answer. There's dozens of different isotopes that need to be taken in consideration, each with a different half life. $\endgroup$ – userLTK May 9 '18 at 0:13
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @posfan12: There's an important point here that you seem to have missed, which is that the intensity of radiation produced by a particular isotope is inversely proportional to the half life. For instance, U-238 has a half-life of something over 4 billion years, K-40 is over a billion, so for practical purposes they aren't really radioactive at all. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 9 '18 at 4:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not to mention different radionuclides having different magnitude and type of adverse health effects. Or nuclear winter type effects. $\endgroup$ – Communisty May 9 '18 at 10:16
2
$\begingroup$

Maybe you can describe how many degrees of global warming are you trying to compare that massive meltdown.

There are several nuclear waste, like the following: Xe133, I131, Cs134, Cs137, Te132, Sr89, Sr90, Ba140, Zr95, Mo99, Ru103, Ru106, Ce141, Ce144, Np239, Pu238, Pu239, Pu240, Pu241, Cm242

Some isotopes have a short life, so they don't matter, while others might have a half life of millions of years. In fact, uranium is so stable that you can still find it in the Earth crust.

But usually, the most dangerous for health are the ones that are between some days and some years of half life, like I131 (8 days of half life), Sr90 (28.78 years) and Cs137 (30 years).

Maybe you can give a look to Chernobyl case in order to get more info.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I did not understand how harmless elements with really long half-lives (let us say 100k years) are. $\endgroup$ – posfan12 May 10 '18 at 2:35

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.