“Regardless of the future of nuclear power, the need to control and manage radioactive waste will persist for many decades. The objective of any radioactive waste management programme must be that undue burdens on future generations are avoided.” - Nuclear Energy Agency
Have you seen or heard the news lately? Radioactive waste water contamination… Contracts for the disposal of radioactive waste… Nuclear sites and dumps leaking… Cancer and Death by Radiation… What is all this? More importantly what is radioactive waste?
Radioactive waste. What is it? Radioactive waste is what the name says it is; radioactive and waste. Basically, it is anything that ...view middle of the document...
Intermediate-level waste are handled with more precaution than LLW and they are stored away for a much longer time because they are long-lived. Examples of ILW are incinerator ash, and ion exchange resin which are used to clean up radioactive liquids.
High-level waste contain 99% radioactivity and need to be isolated from humans and from the environment. HLW takes about a million years to completely decay and it has such high level of radioactivity that the waste also generates heat. There are many problems with HLW, the most important one being that it is very hard to fulfill the requirements of storing radioactive waste. The requirements being that the waste has to be stored for a very long time, they have to be stored in well-designed storages, and the storages need to be well protected. Can we build a facility for HLW? Or is it too much?
Let’s name this Radioactive: Where it all Began
Radioactivity was not discovered at once. In fact it was not even discovered by a lone person. The discovery was made from 1901, to around 1919. It was discovered by five people and they all made discoveries about different parts of the radioactive material. It all began when Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (1845-1923) discovered x-rays and even though x-rays are not the same as radioactivity, it was the beginning of the road.
Then came Antoine Henri Becquerel (1852-1908), who wanted to further investigate the prospect of x-rays. His experiment needed sunlight but it was cloudy where he was living. So he wrapped his experiment in a cloth and put it in a dark desk drawer so he could finish it on a sunnier day. When he came back to his experiment he noticed that the salt on his photographic paper left very clear imprints, which meant that even without any energy it glowed or emitted radiation. So the fluorescence (the glow) meant that there was a certain amount radiation, which meant that Becquerel discovered radioactivity.
The very famous Pierre Curie (1859-1906) and Marie Curie (1867-1934) had also contributed because while Becquerel discovered radioactivity, Marie had named it. She also discovered many other elements of radioactivity like Radium and Polonium. And last but not least, the ‘Father of Nuclear Physics’, Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) who not only figured out the atomic structure, but also how radioactive elements decayed over time.
Radioactive materials are now used at home (in your smoke detector), in nuclear power plants, gamma sterilization (used to kill parasites), medicine, and at war. Think about all the waste that comes out of these ‘projects’. Where will it all go?
Where it takes Place
Part of the chart below is taken from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and it gives information on only a few of the different waste management laboratories in Canada. All these facilities receive waste from nuclear power plants and other places that generate waste and then these facilities store the waste until it is no longer harmful. These...