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Radioactive Waste Essay

1414 words - 6 pages

Radioactive waste is defined as “any material that contains a concentration of radioactive nuclides greater than those deemed safe and for which no use is foreseen” ["Press Kit: Radioactive Waste Management."]. Radioactive wastes produced in every step of the nuclear power cycle and are the leftovers from the use of nuclear materials for nuclear power generation, medicine, agriculture, research, industry, and education and other such purposes which use radioisotopes and therefore produce radioactive waste as byproducts [“Radioactive Waste: Production, Storage, Disposal.”].
Not all radioactive wastes are hazardous; some are only mildly radioactive and so are considered safe. However for the ...view middle of the document...

"]. ILW contains higher amounts of radioactivity and requires special precautions such as shielding during handling to limit radiation exposures ["Radioactive Waste Management."]. It typically contains resins, metal fuel cladding, and other contaminated materials from reactor decommissioning. Some forms of this type of waste need long-term isolation because of the long-lived radionuclides that they contain. It makes up 7% of the volume and has 4% of the radioactivity of all the radioactive waste ["Press Kit: Radioactive Waste Management."]. HLW refers to the highly radioactive waste that requires shielding and permanent isolation from human environment. It is very small in total volume compared to the amount of radioactive waste produced, but accounts for over 95% of the total radioactivity of the wastes combined. Most of these materials are the fission products from nuclear power plants and the elements generated in the reactor core which are highly radioactive and hot and need longer periods of cooling [“Radioactive Waste Management."]. This leftover material from the reactor core is often a mixture of the fuel itself and the products from after the reaction and has both long-lived and short-lived components.
While with LLW there are no problems with storing and disposing of it as it is relatively safe, problems do arise when it comes to storing and disposing of ILWs and HLWs, particularly with HLWs. HLWs are highly radioactive and hot after being removed from the reactor core and many will continue to stay so for many years due to the long half-lives of the leftover products. Because of the long half-lives, the radioactive wastes need to be isolated and controlled for thousands of years during which time it is very dangerous. Currently most HLWs are stored in deep steel-lined concrete pools at the power plant site and are used to keep the used fuel cool before they are permanently stored. However the problem with that is that it relies on the electricity to work and keep the water circulating. Should it stop, it would over heat and the water would evaporate ["Safer Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel."]. Incorrect storing could be disastrous and have huge impacts on the ecosystem and on humans. Another weakness from surface storing is that it is vulnerable to outside tampering and could be targeted for attacks due to the potential disaster should an accident take place.
Many countries such as UK, China, and Russia, have taken to reprocessing to recycle the material from used fuel to extract the used fuel to treat as waste and the unused fuel to continue using ["Radioactive Waste Management."]. After nuclear fuel has been used, only part of it has been used. In this reprocessing the fission products are separated from the fuel leaving a significant amount available to use again and a it would have to be stored for a much shorter period of time as the longest living nuclei are the ones of the unused fuel ["What Is Nuclear Waste?"]. However, the US’s...

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