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Subduction zones: Not relevant to present-day problems of waste disposal

September 28, 2010

SUBDUCTION zones are considered to be sites of disposal for vast areas of the Earth's surface1, while new surface is generated simultaneously at rise crests2. Bostrom and Sherif3 suggest that the world's industrial and domestic waste be dumped into subduction zones at deep sea trenches to allow nature to complete the recycling process at geologically rapid rates of 5 to 10 cm/yr. They also point out that trenches are often sites of rapid rates of deposition and suggest that the dumped wastes would, speaking geologically, soon be buried. Francis4 suggests that canisters of toxic chemical and radioactive wastes could be dumped onto trench sediments and be expected to sink at rates of 20 m/yr, assuming that the mass of turbidites in the trench fill often spontaneously liquefies on shaking by earthquakes. The assumption is based on the supposed lack of evidence for deformed sediment in trenches. I will argue that the suggestion of Bostrom and Sherif3 is not useful for the next few dozen generations of human populations and will point out observational evidence to show that Francis's4 assumption is incorrectly founded.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1972
Title Subduction zones: Not relevant to present-day problems of waste disposal
DOI 10.1038/239330a0
Authors E.A. Silver
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature
Series Number
Index ID 70001421
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization