Nuclear Waste Management Essay

2365 words - 10 pages

Report on Nuclear Waste

1. Introduction:
Radioactive wastes are wastes that contain radioactive material. Radioactive wastes are usually by-products of nuclear power generation and other applications of nuclear fission or nuclear technology, such as research and medicine. Radioactive waste is hazardous to most forms of life and the environment, and is regulated by government agencies in order to protect human health and the environment. Radioactive waste comes from a number of sources. The majority of waste originates from the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear weapons reprocessing. Other sources include medical and industrial wastes, as well as naturally occurring ...view middle of the document...

As this waste is not harmful to people or surroundings, it can disposed off with domestic refuse.

* Low-Level Waste
Low-Level Waste (LLW) is generated from hospitals and industry, as well as the nuclear fuel cycle. It comprises paper, rags, tools, clothing, filters which contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity. It does not require shielding during handling and transport and is suitable for shallow land burial. To reduce its volume, it is often compacted or incinerated before disposal. It comprises some 90% of the volume but only 1% of the radioactivity of all radioactive waste.

* Intermediate-Level Waste
Intermediate-Level Waste (ILW) contains higher amounts of radioactivity and some requires shielding. It typically comprises resins, chemical sludge and metal fuel cladding, as well as contaminated materials from reactor decommissioning. Smaller items and any non-solids may be solidified in concrete or bitumen for disposal. It makes up some 7% of the volume and has 4% of the radioactivity of all radioactive waste.

* High-Level Waste
High-Level Waste (HLW) arises from the burning of Uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor. HLW contains the fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core. It is highly radioactive and hot and therefore, requires cooling and shielding. It can be considered as the 'ash' from 'burning' uranium. HLW accounts for over 95% of the total radioactivity produced in the process of electricity generation. There are two distinct kinds of HLW:
* Used fuel itself.
* Separated waste from reprocessing the used fuel
HLW has both long-lived and short-lived components, depending on the length of time it will take for the radioactivity of particular radionuclides to decrease to levels that are considered no longer hazardous for people and the surrounding environment. If generally short-lived fission products can be separated from long-lived actinides, this distinction becomes crucial in management and disposal of HLW.

3. Management of nuclear waste:

Nuclear waste requires sophisticated treatment and management to successfully isolate it from interacting with the biosphere. This usually necessitates treatment, followed by a long-term management strategy involving storage, disposal or transformation of the waste into a non-toxic form.
* Storage and transport of waste
Following its generation, untreated radioactive waste may be subject to a
number of waste management processes prior to its disposal such as handling, treatment and conditioning. During these processing steps, radioactive waste may be subject to storage at a number of stages. Hence, radioactive waste will be stored in processed and unprocessed forms and for varying periods of time. The storage facility may be located at the facility generating the waste, such as a nuclear power plant, a hospital or a laboratory, or it may comprise a separate entity such as a centralized facility or a national...

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