Nuclear Waste

Nuclear waste has become a serious problem in many countries. Click here to know more about the types, management and prevention of nuclear waste.

Nuclear Waste

The waste that contain radioactive material are normally called as radioactive waste.

The waste that contain radioactive material are normally called as radioactive waste. The remains that are available from nuclear energy power plant are called nuclear waste.

The waste, sometimes is dangerously radioactive, and remains so for thousands of years. When it first comes out of the reactor, it is so toxic that if you stood within a few meters of it while it was unshielded, you would receive a lethal radioactive dose within a few seconds and would die of acute radiation sickness within a few days. In practice, nuclear waste is never unshielded. It is kept underwater (water is an excellent shield) for a few years until the radiation decays to levels that can be shielded by concrete in large storage casks.

Classification of nuclear waste

Nuclear wastes can be classified into three types

  • Low level nuclear waste
  • Intermediate nuclear waste
  • High level nuclear waste

Low level nuclear waste

  • Low-level nuclear wastes include paper, rags,tools, clothing, filters, and other materials which contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity.
  • Low level nuclear waste is normally generated from hospitals and industry.
  • Low level nuclear wastes are suitable for shallow land burial.

Intermediate level nuclear waste

  • Intermediate-level nuclear wastes includes resins, chemical sludge and metal reactor nuclear fuel cladding,

High level nuclear waste

  • High-level nuclear waste is produced by nuclear reactors.
  • It contains nuclear fission products and transuranic elements generated in the nuclear reactor core.
  • High level nuclear waste is highly radioactive and often hot.
  • High level nuclear waste  accounts for over 95 percent of the total radioactivity produced in the process of nuclear electricity generation.
  • The amount of high level nuclear waste worldwide is currently increasing by about 12,000 metric tons every year.

Management of nuclear waste

  • Three general principles are employed in the management of radioactive wastes:
    • Concentrate-and-contain
    • Dilute-and-disperse
    • Delay-and-decay.
  • The first two are also used in the management of non-radioactive wastes.
  • The waste is either concentrated and then isolated, or it is diluted to acceptable levels and then discharged to the environment.
  • Delay-and-decay however is unique to radioactive waste management.

Prevention of nuclear waste

  • Radioactive materials in quantities that exceed your intended usage should be avoided.
  • Non-radioactive wastes must never be mixed with radioactive wastes. 
  • Non-radioactive tracers and methods are available for many common assays, and procedures used in biomedical.

Prevention of nuclear waste

  • Substitute with Short-lived Radionuclide’s where feasible
  • Reduce the activity and volumes of materials used in the experiment to decrease the amount of  nuclear wastes generated.
  • Replace hazardous chemical solvents with formulations not regulated as hazardous or mixed nuclear wastes.
  • Number of users of radioactive materials should be limited.
  • N of areas where radioactive materials are used should be limited.

Other types of Atomic Energy