U.S. Experimented With Nuclear Fracking
A few weeks ago, a reader wrote to me asking how we can be sure the government isn’t slyly getting rid of nuclear waste by injecting it into shale rock that’s been fracked for oil or gas. Jon Abel’s questions will seem far-fetched to some of you, worrisome to others, depending on how much you trust government and the energy industry:
I wanted to mention something that might be getting missed with the whole radioactivity issue surrounding fracking waste water,” my reader wrote. “Has anyone tested for other radioactive metals – such as cesium or plutonium (not just NORM elements)? And, has anyone tested the frack water for radioactivity BEFORE it goes down the frack production wells? Is it possible that the government is getting rid of nuclear waste in this manner?”
Far-fetched or not, no sooner had Jon posed the question than someone proposed it.
At the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, Leonid Germanovich of the Georgia Institute of Technology suggested that nuclear wastes deposited in shale rock would never return to the surface.
“It’s basic physics here — if it’s heavier than rock, the fracture will propagate down,” said the physicist and civil and environmental engineer.
Jens Birkholzer, head of the Nuclear Energy and Waste Program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told Livescience the idea is impractical, largely for safety reasons, but in fact, the government has already disposed of nuclear wastes this way, as you’ll read below.