Egypt’s Great Pyramid, made of exercise balls: a creative solution for storing half a day’s fossil waste in Ontario

How many spheres the size of 65-centimetre exercise balls, stacked so as to maximize their density, would it take to form a square pyramid the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramid? By my calculation, roughly 14.85 million. A 65-centimetre sphere has a volume of about 144 litres. So 14.85 million 65-cm spheres have a collective volume of roughly 2.14 billion litres. That is enough to hold 4,214 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal man-made greenhouse gas.

The pyramids of Egypt, only remaining wonders of the seven wonders of the ancient world. You would need five stacked-sphere pyramids the size of the biggest one in this picture to hold the primary waste product of roughly half a day’s output from Ontario’s natural gas-fired power plants. Natural gas is, according to the gas lobby, a clean fuel.

The pyramids of Egypt, only remaining wonders of the seven wonders of the ancient world. You would need five stacked-sphere pyramids the size of the biggest one in this picture to hold the primary waste product of roughly half a day’s output from Ontario’s natural gas-fired power plants. Natural gas is, according to the gas lobby, a clean fuel.

And how much is that? Well, in the 13 hours since Monday February 23 began, gas-fired power plants in Ontario have dumped 21,205 tons of CO2 into the air. That’s enough to fill more than 75 million 65-cm-size spheres, and enough to make five packed-sphere square pyramids the size of the Great Pyramid. Where in Ontario could you put five Great Pyramid-size stacks of packed 65-cm spheres?

The length of each side of the base of the Great Pyramid is 230 meters (according to Britannica). That means that the thing sits on 52,900 square meters, or 5.29 hectares. So you would need to find roughly 26 hectares of Ontario to put those five pyramids of packed spheres.

And that is to store the waste from just a bit more than half a day’s gas fired power generation. And that was from less than 15 percent of our power. The rest of our power came from zero-emitting sources, mostly nuclear and hydro.

The nuclear waste from half a century of continuous generation of the bulk of Ontario’s electricity would fill six NHL hockey rinks up to the top of the boards. An NHL rink is roughly 1,580 square meters. The height of the boards is let’s say 2 meters, so one NHL rink up the the top of the boards is roughly 3,160 m3. Six of them is 18,960 m3.

The base of one pyramid the size of Egypt’s biggest pyramid, up to a meter, has a volume of 52,900 m3.

She’s sitting on a 65-centimeter ball, which if it were filled with CO2 would hold 143 liters. You need 14,850,000 spheres this size to make a packed-sphere pyramid the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramid.

She’s sitting on a 65-centimeter ball, which if it were filled with CO2 would hold 143 liters. You need 14,850,000 spheres this size to make a packed-sphere pyramid the size of Egypt’s Great Pyramid.

It has been guessed that the Great Pyramids were built by slaves. No one knows for sure, since they were built thousands of years before the Toronto Maple Leafs won their most recent Stanley Cup. But I’m cynical about how heavy work was done in the days before machine power, so until somebody can prove the pyramid builders used machines, I buy the slave-labour hypothesis.

If anyone ever gets the idea to build another pyramid the size of the big one at Giza, I trust they will use machines. I hope they don’t make it using 14.85 million packed spheres filled with carbon dioxide. I hope they build it for some useful purpose, and I hope the machines making it run on zero-carbon energy.

1 comment for “Egypt’s Great Pyramid, made of exercise balls: a creative solution for storing half a day’s fossil waste in Ontario

  1. James Greenidge
    February 25, 2015 at 15:25

    Steve, you hit it square on that you have to avail pictorial examples to give the public some true perspective of the issues at large here and without public understanding and approval there won’t be any new nuclear plants, no matter how whiz-bang they are. Unfortunately the nuclear community has a hard time relatingPR positive to the grass roots at their level like Tylenoyl and BP Gulf successfully did. Like your pyramids, the public needs more easily-graped urban concepts to enviage the concept. Use Goodyear blimps or railroad tanker cars as CO2 storage examples. Going with your flow, I’m going to rip my own quote in ANS’s Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 249:

    “…I think it’s VITAL that _comparative industrial accident/norm operation public-health/environ-effects_ of all energy sources be put up front FIRST in any public forum or discussion about nuclear energy. Not gibe about reactor types or nuclear plant construction or plant economics or nuts and bolts but nuke’s health/safety RECORD in and out of accidents compared others since Stagg Field. Nip the FUD gorilla in the bud to discredit antis off the bat! Go simple defining it to the public! All the fatalities incurred from nuclear plant operations WORLDWIDE since Shippingport can be packed on ONE Grayhound bus! Ask your audience what it’d take to accommodate oil and gas and coal causalities! Can you spell ocean liners? I say this because of all the press and media I’ve gathered from nuclear town meetings and media interviews this ace card is VERY seldom whipped out from the back pocket of nuclear advocates!”

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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