Nuclear Waste Storage

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The production, storage and management of the nuclear wastes are a serious issue for key stakeholders related to the environmental safety.

Across the globe, nuclear power generation and other applications of radioactive materials commenced before a strategy for the disposal was put in place. Nuclear waste can be classified into three levels: low activity/low-level, intermediate activity/intermediate-level, and high activity/high-level wastes.

Low-Level Waste

It consists of materials that can be utilized to manage nuclear material – radiation suits and laboratory equipment. They are usually stored for 15 years securely and after proper packaging, they are disposed of as a waste.

Intermediate-Level Waste

They are heavier in nature (metal fuel cladding, chemical sludge’s and other radioactive wastes) and represented by low heat emission. At first, the waste is enclosed in resin/concrete and then sealed in steel drums.

The drums are then loaded into concrete containers and lowered into concrete trenches (18 meters deep). The trenches are then covered with a concrete slab, a layer of compacted clay, a reinforced concrete intrusion shield, and a final layer of clay.

High-Level Waste

High-level waste is very radioactive and exists in that form for thousands of years. Therefore, storing it safely is a serious issue. The modern storage methods include the utilization of glass vitrification – interfacing the radioactive liquid waste with glass to create a heavy compound. Hence, it has less probability of contaminating the environment.

The energy department is responsible for the establishment of a disposal facility for managing used uranium fuel from America’s nuclear power plants in the long run.

However, the federal government does not have a feasible plan for managing used nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear energy facilities and high-level radioactive waste from defence & research functions.

All commercial used fuel is stored safely at the reactor sites in steel-lined concrete pools filled with water or in airtight steel/concrete-and-steel containers until the federal government plans its disposal.

In the recent past, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has proposed various new disposal options for managing radioactive waste based on a nation’s national legislation, geological variations, and changes in the quantity/features of various waste types.

The IAEA’s Waste Technology Section provides assistance pertaining to the following functions:

  • Establishing disposal programs under the aegis of a framework of an included national radioactive waste management infrastructure.
  • Creating near surface/geological disposal infrastructure.
  • Conserving and spreading waste disposal subject matter expertise.
  • Modifying near-surface repositories.
  • Conducting training in the use of waste disposal technologies.
  • Managing scientific, technical, institutional, and socio-political issues.
  • Facilitating investigations in the usage of regional and global shared disposal facilities.

Nuclear wastes are a substantial aspect of the nuclear power environment, and must be handled and disposed of efficiently. Other alternates for power generation also have specific challenges. Nuclear wastes have not resulted in any serious health or environmental issues globally.

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