Million-year hard disk made of platinum-etched sapphire to store nuclear info
(CBS News) They say diamonds are forever, but apparently no one ever told that to the French nuclear waste management agency ANDRA. The organization is working on a hard disk made out of sapphire and platinum designed to hold information on the locations of nuclear waste sites. The disk is designed to last for more than a million years.
Governments are often tasked with finding solutions to problems the average person doesn't have to worry about. In this case, the problem is providing a warning about nuclear waste repositories for people - or even extraterrestrials - who may stumble upon the sites tens of thousands of years from now.
Patrick Charton of ANDRA proposed the sapphire hard disk as one possible solution. The disk is constructed out of industrial sapphire with information etched in platinum. Charton told the Euroscience Open Forum this week that the goal is to provide "information for future archaeologists."
Though he does concede one problem: "We have no idea what language to write it in."
The issue of nuclear waste storage is one many governments have to grapple with. Spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years. The consensus among nuclear-powered nations is to store the waste deep underground. The United States uses a facility known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico that buries nuclear waste in rooms located nearly 2,000 feet below the surface.
Deep underground rooms may be safe from the elements, but what about distant future generations? ANDRA's sapphire disk project is one attempt to provide warnings to archaeologists and other in the far future.
The disk itself is made of two thin disks, roughly eight inches in diameter, that are fused together and engraved with platinum. The engravings are designed to be legible with a microscope. The prototype - constructed at a cost of 25,000 Euros (around $30,000) - has been dipped in acid and weathered a battery of aging tests to make sure it can survive over the long haul.
Charton claims the sapphire hard disk will be able to survive for ten million years.
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