NASA Has a $3.46 Billion Plan to Ensure the Yellowstone Supervolcano Doesn’t Erupt
NASA has detailed a plan to prevent the Yellowstone supervolcano from ever erupting. By drilling into the volcano and pumping water into and out of it at high speeds, they believe they could cool the volcano and use the emerging hot water to generate electricity.
When people think of Yellowstone, it’s usually in relation to the national park, a massive 8,983 square kilometer (3,468.4 square mile) area comprising mountains, rivers, and forests. Less commonly considered is the Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano whose eruption could be devastating for our planet.
Thankfully, such an explosion is highly unlikely, and now, NASA has come up with a way to not only ensure that the volcano remains inactive, but also use it to provide the surrounding area with electricity.
Following their release of a story on supervolcanoes, the BBC was contacted by a few NASA members who wanted to share details on a previously unreleased plan to deal with Yellowstone. Even NASA admits their incredibly ambitious plan is risky, but the potential benefits resulting from its success can’t be completely ignored.
First, they would drill into the volcano from the lower sides, outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. Coming from this direction would prevent the intense heat from making its way to the top of the chamber, where it would cause further problems.
Once drilling is complete, water would be pumped into and back out of the supervolcano at high pressures, with the exiting water heated to a temperature of around 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit). The water going in would slowly cool the volcano, while the hot water coming out of it could be used to generate electricity.
“Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat,” Brian Wilcox, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), explained to the BBC. “Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh.”