Radioactive waste

Radioactive waste

Overview
Radioactive wastes are waste
Waste
Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

s that contain radioactive
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

 material. Radioactive wastes are usually by-product
By-product
A by-product is a secondary product derived from a manufacturing process or chemical reaction. It is not the primary product or service being produced.A by-product can be useful and marketable or it can be considered waste....

s of nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

 generation and other applications of nuclear fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

 or nuclear technology
Nuclear technology
Nuclear technology is technology that involves the reactions of atomic nuclei. Among the notable nuclear technologies are nuclear power, nuclear medicine, and nuclear weapons...

, such as research
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 and medicine
Nuclear medicine
In nuclear medicine procedures, elemental radionuclides are combined with other elements to form chemical compounds, or else combined with existing pharmaceutical compounds, to form radiopharmaceuticals. These radiopharmaceuticals, once administered to the patient, can localize to specific organs...

. Radioactive waste is hazardous to human health and the environment, and is regulated
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

 by government agencies in order to protect human health and the environment.

Radioactivity diminishes over time
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

, so waste is typically isolated and stored for a period of time until it no longer poses a hazard.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Radioactive waste'
Start a new discussion about 'Radioactive waste'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Radioactive wastes are waste
Waste
Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

s that contain radioactive
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

 material. Radioactive wastes are usually by-product
By-product
A by-product is a secondary product derived from a manufacturing process or chemical reaction. It is not the primary product or service being produced.A by-product can be useful and marketable or it can be considered waste....

s of nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

 generation and other applications of nuclear fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

 or nuclear technology
Nuclear technology
Nuclear technology is technology that involves the reactions of atomic nuclei. Among the notable nuclear technologies are nuclear power, nuclear medicine, and nuclear weapons...

, such as research
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 and medicine
Nuclear medicine
In nuclear medicine procedures, elemental radionuclides are combined with other elements to form chemical compounds, or else combined with existing pharmaceutical compounds, to form radiopharmaceuticals. These radiopharmaceuticals, once administered to the patient, can localize to specific organs...

. Radioactive waste is hazardous to human health and the environment, and is regulated
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

 by government agencies in order to protect human health and the environment.

Radioactivity diminishes over time
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

, so waste is typically isolated and stored for a period of time until it no longer poses a hazard. The period of time waste must be stored depends on the type of waste. Low-level waste with low levels of radioactivity per mass
Mass
Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

 or volume
Volume
Volume is the quantity of three-dimensional space enclosed by some closed boundary, for example, the space that a substance or shape occupies or contains....

 (such as some common medical or industrial radioactive wastes) may need to be stored for only hours, days, or months, while high-level wastes (such as spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel, occasionally called used nuclear fuel, is nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in a nuclear reactor...

 or by-products of nuclear reprocessing
Nuclear reprocessing
Nuclear reprocessing technology was developed to chemically separate and recover fissionable plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel. Reprocessing serves multiple purposes, whose relative importance has changed over time. Originally reprocessing was used solely to extract plutonium for producing...

) must be stored for thousands of years. Current major approaches to managing radioactive waste have been segregation and storage for short-lived wastes, near-surface disposal for low and some intermediate level wastes, and deep burial
Deep geological repository
A deep geological repository is a nuclear waste repository excavated deep within a stable geologic environment...

 or transmutation for the long-lived, high-level wastes.

A summary of the amounts of radioactive wastes and management approaches for most developed countries are presented and reviewed periodically as part of the International Atomic Energy Agency
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

 (IAEA) Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

The nature and significance of radioactive waste


Radioactive waste typically comprises a number of radioisotopes: unstable configurations of elements that decay
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

, emitting ionizing radiation
Ionizing radiation
Ionizing radiation is radiation composed of particles that individually have sufficient energy to remove an electron from an atom or molecule. This ionization produces free radicals, which are atoms or molecules containing unpaired electrons...

 which can be harmful to humans and the environment. Those isotopes emit different types and levels of radiation, which last for different periods of time.

Physics


The radioactivity of all nuclear waste diminishes with time. All radioisotopes contained in the waste have a half-life
Half-life
Half-life, abbreviated t½, is the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms , but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to...

—the time it takes for any radionuclide to lose half of its radioactivity—and eventually all radioactive waste decays into non-radioactive elements
Radionuclide
A radionuclide is an atom with an unstable nucleus, which is a nucleus characterized by excess energy available to be imparted either to a newly created radiation particle within the nucleus or to an atomic electron. The radionuclide, in this process, undergoes radioactive decay, and emits gamma...

 (i.e., stable isotope
Stable isotope
Stable isotopes are chemical isotopes that may or may not be radioactive, but if radioactive, have half-lives too long to be measured.Only 90 nuclides from the first 40 elements are energetically stable to any kind of decay save proton decay, in theory...

s). Certain radioactive elements (such as plutonium-239
Plutonium-239
Plutonium-239 is an isotope of plutonium. Plutonium-239 is the primary fissile isotope used for the production of nuclear weapons, although uranium-235 has also been used and is currently the secondary isotope. Plutonium-239 is also one of the three main isotopes demonstrated usable as fuel in...

) in “spent” fuel will remain hazardous to humans and other creatures for hundreds of thousands of years. Other radioisotopes remain hazardous for millions of years. Thus, these wastes must be shielded for centuries and isolated from the living environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

 for millennia. Some elements, such as iodine-131
Iodine-131
Iodine-131 , also called radioiodine , is an important radioisotope of iodine. It has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days. Its uses are mostly medical and pharmaceutical...

, have a short half-life (around 8 days in this case) and thus they will cease to be a problem much more quickly than other, longer-lived, decay products, but their activity is therefore much greater initially. The two tables show some of the major radioisotopes, their half-lives, and their radiation yield
Fission product yield
Nuclear fission splits a heavy nucleus such as uranium or plutonium into two lighter nuclei, which are called fission products. Yield refers to the fraction of a fission product produced per fission.Yield can be broken down by:#Individual isotope...

 as a proportion of the yield of fission of uranium-235.

The shorter a radioisotope's half-life, the more radioactive a sample of it will be. The opposite also applies; for instance, 96% of the element Indium
Indium
Indium is a chemical element with the symbol In and atomic number 49. This rare, very soft, malleable and easily fusible post-transition metal is chemically similar to gallium and thallium, and shows the intermediate properties between these two...

 in nature is the In-115 radioisotope, but it is considered non-toxic in pure metal form and mainly like a stable element because its multi-trillion-year half-life
Half-life
Half-life, abbreviated t½, is the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms , but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to...

 means that a relatively minuscule portion of its atoms decay per unit of time. The energy and the type of the ionizing radiation
Ionizing radiation
Ionizing radiation is radiation composed of particles that individually have sufficient energy to remove an electron from an atom or molecule. This ionization produces free radicals, which are atoms or molecules containing unpaired electrons...

 emitted by a radioactive substance are also important factors in determining its threat to humans. The chemical properties of the radioactive element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

 will determine how mobile the substance is and how likely it is to spread into the environment and contaminate humans. This is further complicated by the fact that many radioisotopes do not decay immediately to a stable state but rather to radioactive decay product
Decay product
In nuclear physics, a decay product is the remaining nuclide left over from radioactive decay. Radioactive decay often involves a sequence of steps...

s within a decay chain
Decay chain
In nuclear science, the decay chain refers to the radioactive decay of different discrete radioactive decay products as a chained series of transformations...

 before ultimately reaching a stable state.

Pharmacokinetics



Exposure to high levels of radioactive waste may cause serious harm or death
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. Treatment of an adult
Adult
An adult is a human being or living organism that is of relatively mature age, typically associated with sexual maturity and the attainment of reproductive age....

 animal with radiation
Radiation
In physics, radiation is a process in which energetic particles or energetic waves travel through a medium or space. There are two distinct types of radiation; ionizing and non-ionizing...

 or some other mutation
Mutation
In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

-causing effect, such as a cytotoxic anti-cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 drug
Drug
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

, may cause cancer in the animal. In humans it has been calculated that a 5 sievert
Sievert
The sievert is the International System of Units SI derived unit of dose equivalent radiation. It attempts to quantitatively evaluate the biological effects of ionizing radiation as opposed to just the absorbed dose of radiation energy, which is measured in gray...

 dose is usually fatal, and the lifetime risk of dying from radiation-induced cancer from a single dose of 0.1 sieverts is 0.8%, increasing by the same amount for each additional 0.1 sievert increment of dosage. Ionizing radiation causes deletions in chromosomes. If a developing organism such as an unborn child
Unborn child
Unborn child may refer to:*A vernacular or political term for a human in any stage of prenatal development from fertilization to birth* Unborn Child, an album by Seals and Crofts...

 is irradiated, it is possible a birth defect may be induced, but it is unlikely this defect will be in a gamete
Gamete
A gamete is a cell that fuses with another cell during fertilization in organisms that reproduce sexually...

 or a gamete-forming cell
Cell (biology)
The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life. The Alberts text discusses how the "cellular building blocks" move to shape developing embryos....

. The incidence of radiation-induced mutations in humans is undetermined, due to flaws in studies done to date.

Depending on the decay mode and the pharmacokinetics
Pharmacokinetics
Pharmacokinetics, sometimes abbreviated as PK, is a branch of pharmacology dedicated to the determination of the fate of substances administered externally to a living organism...

 of an element (how the body processes it and how quickly), the threat due to exposure to a given activity of a radioisotope will differ. For instance iodine-131
Iodine-131
Iodine-131 , also called radioiodine , is an important radioisotope of iodine. It has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days. Its uses are mostly medical and pharmaceutical...

 is a short-lived beta
Beta decay
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

 and gamma emitter, but because it concentrates in the thyroid
Thyroid
The thyroid gland or simply, the thyroid , in vertebrate anatomy, is one of the largest endocrine glands. The thyroid gland is found in the neck, below the thyroid cartilage...

 gland, it is more able to cause injury than caesium
Caesium
Caesium or cesium is the chemical element with the symbol Cs and atomic number 55. It is a soft, silvery-gold alkali metal with a melting point of 28 °C , which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at room temperature...

-137 which, being water soluble, is rapidly excreted in urine. In a similar way, the alpha
Alpha decay
Alpha decay is a type of radioactive decay in which an atomic nucleus emits an alpha particle and thereby transforms into an atom with a mass number 4 less and atomic number 2 less...

 emitting actinides and radium
Radium
Radium is a chemical element with atomic number 88, represented by the symbol Ra. Radium is an almost pure-white alkaline earth metal, but it readily oxidizes on exposure to air, becoming black in color. All isotopes of radium are highly radioactive, with the most stable isotope being radium-226,...

 are considered very harmful as they tend to have long biological half-lives
Biological half-life
The biological half-life or elimination half-life of a substance is the time it takes for a substance to lose half of its pharmacologic, physiologic, or radiologic activity, as per the MeSH definition...

 and their radiation has a high relative biological effectiveness
Relative biological effectiveness
In radiology, the relative biological effectiveness is a number that expresses the relative amount of damage that a fixed amount of ionizing radiation of a given type can inflict on biological tissues...

, making it far more damaging to tissues per amount of energy deposited. Because of such differences, the rules determining biological injury differ widely according to the radioisotope, and sometimes also the nature of the chemical compound which contains the radioisotope.

Sources of waste


Radioactive waste comes from a number of sources. The majority of waste originates from the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear weapons reprocessing. However, other sources include medical and industrial wastes, as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) that can be concentrated as a result of the processing or consumption of coal, oil and gas, and some minerals, as discussed below.

Nuclear fuel cycle


This article is about radioactive waste, for contextual information, see Nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

.

Front end


Waste from the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle
Nuclear fuel cycle
The nuclear fuel cycle, also called nuclear fuel chain, is the progression of nuclear fuel through a series of differing stages. It consists of steps in the front end, which are the preparation of the fuel, steps in the service period in which the fuel is used during reactor operation, and steps in...

 is usually alpha-emitting waste from the extraction of uranium. It often contains radium and its decay products.

Uranium dioxide
Uranium dioxide
Uranium dioxide or uranium oxide , also known as urania or uranous oxide, is an oxide of uranium, and is a black, radioactive, crystalline powder that naturally occurs in the mineral uraninite. It is used in nuclear fuel rods in nuclear reactors. A mixture of uranium and plutonium dioxides is used...

 (UO2) concentrate from mining is not very radioactive - only a thousand or so times as radioactive as the granite
Granite
Granite is a common and widely occurring type of intrusive, felsic, igneous rock. Granite usually has a medium- to coarse-grained texture. Occasionally some individual crystals are larger than the groundmass, in which case the texture is known as porphyritic. A granitic rock with a porphyritic...

 used in buildings. It is refined from yellowcake
Yellowcake
Yellowcake is a kind of uranium concentrate powder obtained from leach solutions, in an intermediate step in the processing of uranium ores. Yellowcake concentrates are prepared by various extraction and refining methods, depending on the types of ores...

 (U3O8), then converted to uranium hexafluoride
Uranium hexafluoride
Uranium hexafluoride , referred to as "hex" in the nuclear industry, is a compound used in the uranium enrichment process that produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It forms solid grey crystals at standard temperature and pressure , is highly toxic, reacts violently with water...

 gas (UF6). As a gas, it undergoes enrichment
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium is a kind of uranium in which the percent composition of uranium-235 has been increased through the process of isotope separation. Natural uranium is 99.284% 238U isotope, with 235U only constituting about 0.711% of its weight...

 to increase the U-235
Uranium-235
- References :* .* DOE Fundamentals handbook: Nuclear Physics and Reactor theory , .* A piece of U-235 the size of a grain of rice can produce energy equal to that contained in three tons of coal or fourteen barrels of oil. -External links:* * * one of the earliest articles on U-235 for the...

 content from 0.7% to about 4.4% (LEU). It is then turned into a hard ceramic
Ceramic
A ceramic is an inorganic, nonmetallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling. Ceramic materials may have a crystalline or partly crystalline structure, or may be amorphous...

 oxide (UO2) for assembly as reactor fuel elements.

The main by-product of enrichment is depleted uranium
Depleted uranium
Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

 (DU), principally the U-238
Uranium-238
Uranium-238 is the most common isotope of uranium found in nature. It is not fissile, but is a fertile material: it can capture a slow neutron and after two beta decays become fissile plutonium-239...

 isotope, with a U-235 content of ~0.3%. It is stored, either as UF6 or as U3O8. Some is used in applications where its extremely high density makes it valuable, such as the keels of yachts, and anti-tank shells. It is also used with plutonium for making mixed oxide fuel (MOX) and to dilute, or downblend, highly enriched uranium from weapons stockpiles which is now being redirected to become reactor fuel.

Back end



The back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, mostly spent fuel rods, contains fission product
Fission product
Nuclear fission products are the atomic fragments left after a large atomic nucleus fissions. Typically, a large nucleus like that of uranium fissions by splitting into two smaller nuclei, along with a few neutrons and a large release of energy in the form of heat , gamma rays and neutrinos. The...

s that emit beta and gamma radiation, and actinide
Actinide
The actinide or actinoid series encompasses the 15 metallic chemical elements with atomic numbers from 89 to 103, actinium through lawrencium.The actinide series derives its name from the group 3 element actinium...

s that emit alpha particle
Alpha particle
Alpha particles consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus, which is classically produced in the process of alpha decay, but may be produced also in other ways and given the same name...

s, such as uranium-234, neptunium-237, plutonium-238
Plutonium-238
-External links:**...

 and americium-241, and even sometimes some neutron emitters such as californium
Californium
Californium is a radioactive metallic chemical element with the symbol Cf and atomic number 98. The element was first made in the laboratory in 1950 by bombarding curium with alpha particles at the University of California, Berkeley. It is the ninth member of the actinide series and was the...

 (Cf). These isotopes are formed in nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

s.

It is important to distinguish the processing of uranium to make fuel from the reprocessing
Nuclear reprocessing
Nuclear reprocessing technology was developed to chemically separate and recover fissionable plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel. Reprocessing serves multiple purposes, whose relative importance has changed over time. Originally reprocessing was used solely to extract plutonium for producing...

 of used fuel. Used fuel contains the highly radioactive products of fission (see high level waste below). Many of these are neutron absorbers, called neutron poisons in this context. These eventually build up to a level where they absorb so many neutrons that the chain reaction stops, even with the control rods completely removed. At that point the fuel has to be replaced in the reactor with fresh fuel, even though there is still a substantial quantity of uranium-235
Uranium-235
- References :* .* DOE Fundamentals handbook: Nuclear Physics and Reactor theory , .* A piece of U-235 the size of a grain of rice can produce energy equal to that contained in three tons of coal or fourteen barrels of oil. -External links:* * * one of the earliest articles on U-235 for the...

 and plutonium
Plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

 present. In the United States, this used fuel is stored, while in countries such as Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan and India, the fuel is reprocessed to remove the fission products, and the fuel can then be re-used. This reprocessing involves handling highly radioactive materials, and the fission products removed from the fuel are a concentrated form of high-level waste as are the chemicals used in the process. While these countries reprocess the fuel carrying out single plutonium cycles, India is the only country known to be planning multiple plutonium recycling schemes.

Fuel composition and long term radioactivity


Long-lived radioactive waste from the back end of the fuel cycle is especially relevant when designing a complete waste management plan for spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel, occasionally called used nuclear fuel, is nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in a nuclear reactor...

 (SNF). When looking at long term radioactive decay, the actinides in the SNF have a significant influence due to their characteristically long half-lives. Depending on what a nuclear reactor is fueled with, the actinide composition in the SNF will be different.

An example of this effect is the use of nuclear fuel
Nuclear fuel
Nuclear fuel is a material that can be 'consumed' by fission or fusion to derive nuclear energy. Nuclear fuels are the most dense sources of energy available...

s with thorium
Thorium
Thorium is a natural radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. It was discovered in 1828 and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder....

. Th-232 is a fertile material that can undergo a neutron capture reaction and two beta minus decays, resulting in the production of fissile U-233
Uranium-233
Uranium-233 is a fissile isotope of uranium, bred from Thorium as part of the thorium fuel cycle. It has been used in a few nuclear reactors and has been proposed for much wider use as a nuclear fuel. It has a half-life of 160,000 years....

. The SNF of a cycle with thorium will contain U-233. Its radioactive decay will strongly influence the long-term activity
Radioactive decay
Radioactive decay is the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ionizing particles . The emission is spontaneous, in that the atom decays without any physical interaction with another particle from outside the atom...

 curve of the SNF around 1 million years. A comparison of the activity associated to U-233 for three different SNF types can be seen in the figure on the top right.

The burnt fuels are thorium with reactor-grade plutonium (RGPu), thorium with weapons-grade plutonium (WGPu) and Mixed Oxide fuel
MOX fuel
Mixed oxide fuel, commonly referred to as MOX fuel, is nuclear fuel that contains more than one oxide of fissile material. MOX fuel contains plutonium blended with natural uranium, reprocessed uranium, or depleted uranium. MOX fuel is an alternative to the low-enriched uranium fuel used in the...

 (MOX). For RGPu and WGPu, the initial amount of U-233 and its decay around 1 million years can be seen. This has an effect in the total activity curve of the three fuel types. The absence of U-233 and its daughter products in the MOX fuel results in a lower activity in region 3 of the figure on the bottom right, whereas for RGPu and WGPu the curve is maintained higher due to the presence of U-233 that has not fully decayed.

The use of different fuels in nuclear reactors results in different SNF composition, with varying activity curves.

Proliferation concerns


Since uranium and plutonium are nuclear weapons materials, there have been proliferation concerns. Ordinarily (in spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel, occasionally called used nuclear fuel, is nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in a nuclear reactor...

), plutonium is reactor-grade plutonium. In addition to plutonium-239
Plutonium-239
Plutonium-239 is an isotope of plutonium. Plutonium-239 is the primary fissile isotope used for the production of nuclear weapons, although uranium-235 has also been used and is currently the secondary isotope. Plutonium-239 is also one of the three main isotopes demonstrated usable as fuel in...

, which is highly suitable for building nuclear weapons, it contains large amounts of undesirable contaminants: plutonium-240
Plutonium-240
Plutonium-240 is an isotope of the metal plutonium formed when plutonium-239 captures a neutron. About 62% to 73% of the time when Pu-239 captures a neutron it undergoes fission; the rest of the time it forms Pu-240. The longer a nuclear fuel element remains in a nuclear reactor the greater the...

, plutonium-241
Plutonium-241
Plutonium-241 is an isotope of plutonium formed when plutonium-240 captures a neutron. Like Pu-239 but unlike 240Pu, 241Pu is fissile, with a neutron absorption cross section about 1/3 greater than 239Pu, and a similar probability of fissioning on neutron absorption, around 73%. In the non-fission...

, and plutonium-238
Plutonium-238
-External links:**...

. These isotopes are difficult to separate, and more cost-effective ways of obtaining fissile material exist (e.g. uranium enrichment or dedicated plutonium production reactors).

High-level waste is full of highly radioactive fission products, most of which are relatively short-lived. This is a concern since if the waste is stored, perhaps in deep geological storage
Deep geological repository
A deep geological repository is a nuclear waste repository excavated deep within a stable geologic environment...

, over many years the fission products decay, decreasing the radioactivity of the waste and making the plutonium easier to access. The undesirable contaminant Pu-240 decays faster than the Pu-239, and thus the quality of the bomb material increases with time (although its quantity decreases during that time as well). Thus, some have argued, as time passes, these deep storage areas have the potential to become "plutonium mines", from which material for nuclear weapons can be acquired with relatively little difficulty. Critics of the latter idea point out that the half-life of Pu-240 is 6,560 years and Pu-239 is 24,110 years, and thus the relative enrichment of one isotope to the other with time occurs with a half-life of 9,000 years (that is, it takes 9000 years for the fraction of Pu-240 in a sample of mixed plutonium isotopes, to spontaneously decrease by half—a typical enrichment needed to turn reactor-grade into weapons-grade Pu). Thus "weapons grade plutonium mines" would be a problem for the very far future (>9,000 years from now), so that there remains a great deal of time for technology to advance to solve it.

Pu-239 decays to U-235
Uranium-235
- References :* .* DOE Fundamentals handbook: Nuclear Physics and Reactor theory , .* A piece of U-235 the size of a grain of rice can produce energy equal to that contained in three tons of coal or fourteen barrels of oil. -External links:* * * one of the earliest articles on U-235 for the...

 which is suitable for weapons and which has a very long half-life (roughly 109 years). Thus plutonium may decay and leave uranium-235. However, modern reactors are only moderately enriched with U-235 relative to U-238, so the U-238 continues to serve as a denaturation
Denaturation (fissile materials)
Denaturation of fissile materials suitable for nuclear weapons is the process of transforming them into a form that is not suitable for weapons use and can not easily be reversely transformed...

 agent for any U-235 produced by plutonium decay.

One solution to this problem is to recycle the plutonium and use it as a fuel e.g. in fast reactors. In pyrometallurgical fast reactors
Integral Fast Reactor
The Integral Fast Reactor is a design for a nuclear reactor using fast neutrons and no neutron moderator . IFR is distinguished by a nuclear fuel cycle that uses reprocessing via electrorefining at the reactor site.The U.S...

, the separated plutonium and uranium are contaminated by actinides and cannot be used for nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons decommissioning


Waste from nuclear weapons decommissioning is unlikely to contain much beta or gamma activity other than tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

 and americium
Americium
Americium is a synthetic element that has the symbol Am and atomic number 95. This transuranic element of the actinide series is located in the periodic table below the lanthanide element europium, and thus by analogy was named after another continent, America.Americium was first produced in 1944...

. It is more likely to contain alpha-emitting actinides such as Pu-239 which is a fissile material used in bombs, plus some material with much higher specific activities, such as Pu-238 or Po.

In the past the neutron trigger for an atomic bomb
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 tended to be beryllium
Beryllium
Beryllium is the chemical element with the symbol Be and atomic number 4. It is a divalent element which occurs naturally only in combination with other elements in minerals. Notable gemstones which contain beryllium include beryl and chrysoberyl...

 and a high activity alpha emitter such as polonium
Polonium
Polonium is a chemical element with the symbol Po and atomic number 84, discovered in 1898 by Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie. A rare and highly radioactive element, polonium is chemically similar to bismuth and tellurium, and it occurs in uranium ores. Polonium has been studied for...

; an alternative to polonium is Pu-238. For reasons of national security, details of the design of modern bombs are normally not released to the open literature.

Some designs might contain a radioisotope thermoelectric generator
Radioisotope thermoelectric generator
A radioisotope thermoelectric generator is an electrical generator that obtains its power from radioactive decay. In such a device, the heat released by the decay of a suitable radioactive material is converted into electricity by the Seebeck effect using an array of thermocouples.RTGs can be...

 using Pu-238 to provide a long lasting source of electrical power for the electronics in the device.

It is likely that the fissile material of an old bomb which is due for refitting will contain decay products of the plutonium isotopes used in it, these are likely to include U-236 from Pu-240 impurities, plus some U-235 from decay of the Pu-239; due to the relatively long half-life of these Pu isotopes, these wastes from radioactive decay of bomb core material would be very small, and in any case, far less dangerous (even in terms of simple radioactivity) than the Pu-239 itself.

The beta decay of Pu-241 forms Am-241; the in-growth of americium is likely to be a greater problem than the decay of Pu-239 and Pu-240 as the americium is a gamma emitter (increasing external-exposure to workers) and is an alpha emitter which can cause the generation of heat
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

. The plutonium could be separated from the americium by several different processes; these would include pyrochemical processes and aqueous/organic solvent extraction. A truncated PUREX
PUREX
PUREX is an acronym standing for Plutonium - URanium EXtraction — de facto standard aqueous nuclear reprocessing method for the recovery of uranium and plutonium from used nuclear fuel. It is based on liquid-liquid extraction ion-exchange.The PUREX process was invented by Herbert H. Anderson and...

 type extraction process would be one possible method of making the separation.
Naturally occurring uranium is not fissionable because it contains 99.3% of U-238 and only 0.7% of U-235.

Legacy waste


Due to historic activities typically related to radium industry, uranium mining, and military programs, there are numerous sites that contain or are contaminated with radioactivity. In the United States alone, the Department of Energy
United States Department of Energy
The United States Department of Energy is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government concerned with the United States' policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material...

 states there are "millions of gallons of radioactive waste" as well as "thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel, occasionally called used nuclear fuel, is nuclear fuel that has been irradiated in a nuclear reactor...

 and material" and also "huge quantities of contaminated soil and water." Despite copious quantities of waste, the DOE has stated a goal of cleaning all presently contaminated sites successfully by 2025. The Fernald, Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 site for example had "31 million pounds of uranium product", "2.5 billion pounds of waste", "2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris", and a "223 acre portion of the underlying Great Miami Aquifer had uranium levels above drinking standards." The United States has at least 108 sites designated as areas that are contaminated and unusable, sometimes many thousands of acres. DOE wishes to clean or mitigate many or all by 2025, however the task can be difficult and it acknowledges that some may never be completely remediated. In just one of these 108 larger designations, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a multiprogram science and technology national laboratory managed for the United States Department of Energy by UT-Battelle. ORNL is the DOE's largest science and energy laboratory. ORNL is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near Knoxville...

, there were for example at least "167 known contaminant release sites" in one of the three subdivisions of the 37000 acres (150 km²) site. Some of the U.S. sites were smaller in nature, however, cleanup issues were simpler to address, and DOE has successfully completed cleanup, or at least closure, of several sites.

It is a common misconception that nuclear waste has to be stored in a cave after its 20-year decommissioning process.

Medical


Radioactive medical waste
Medical waste
Medical waste, also known as clinical waste, normally refers to waste products that cannot be considered general waste, produced from healthcare premises, such as hospitals, clinics, doctors offices, veterinary hospitals and labs.-Europe:...

 tends to contain beta particle
Beta particle
Beta particles are high-energy, high-speed electrons or positrons emitted by certain types of radioactive nuclei such as potassium-40. The beta particles emitted are a form of ionizing radiation also known as beta rays. The production of beta particles is termed beta decay...

 and gamma ray
Gamma ray
Gamma radiation, also known as gamma rays or hyphenated as gamma-rays and denoted as γ, is electromagnetic radiation of high frequency . Gamma rays are usually naturally produced on Earth by decay of high energy states in atomic nuclei...

 emitters. It can be divided into two main classes. In diagnostic nuclear medicine
Nuclear medicine
In nuclear medicine procedures, elemental radionuclides are combined with other elements to form chemical compounds, or else combined with existing pharmaceutical compounds, to form radiopharmaceuticals. These radiopharmaceuticals, once administered to the patient, can localize to specific organs...

 a number of short-lived gamma emitters such as technetium-99m
Technetium-99m
Technetium-99m is a metastable nuclear isomer of technetium-99, symbolized as 99mTc. The "m" indicates that this is a metastable nuclear isomer, i.e., that its half-life of 6 hours is considerably longer than most nuclear isomers that undergo gamma decay...

 are used. Many of these can be disposed of by leaving it to decay for a short time before disposal as normal waste. Other isotopes used in medicine, with half-lives in parentheses, include:
  • Y-90
    Yttrium
    Yttrium is a chemical element with symbol Y and atomic number 39. It is a silvery-metallic transition metal chemically similar to the lanthanides and it has often been classified as a "rare earth element". Yttrium is almost always found combined with the lanthanides in rare earth minerals and is...

    , used for treating lymphoma
    Lymphoma
    Lymphoma is a cancer in the lymphatic cells of the immune system. Typically, lymphomas present as a solid tumor of lymphoid cells. Treatment might involve chemotherapy and in some cases radiotherapy and/or bone marrow transplantation, and can be curable depending on the histology, type, and stage...

     (2.7 days)
  • I-131, used for thyroid
    Thyroid
    The thyroid gland or simply, the thyroid , in vertebrate anatomy, is one of the largest endocrine glands. The thyroid gland is found in the neck, below the thyroid cartilage...

     function tests and for treating thyroid cancer
    Thyroid cancer
    Thyroid neoplasm is a neoplasm or tumor of the thyroid. It can be a benign tumor such as thyroid adenoma, or it can be a malignant neoplasm , such as papillary, follicular, medullary or anaplastic thyroid cancer. Most patients are 25 to 65 years of age when first diagnosed; women are more affected...

     (8.0 days)
  • Sr-89
    Strontium
    Strontium is a chemical element with the symbol Sr and the atomic number 38. An alkaline earth metal, strontium is a soft silver-white or yellowish metallic element that is highly reactive chemically. The metal turns yellow when exposed to air. It occurs naturally in the minerals celestine and...

    , used for treating bone cancer, intravenous injection (52 days)
  • Ir-192
    Iridium
    Iridium is the chemical element with atomic number 77, and is represented by the symbol Ir. A very hard, brittle, silvery-white transition metal of the platinum family, iridium is the second-densest element and is the most corrosion-resistant metal, even at temperatures as high as 2000 °C...

    , used for brachytherapy
    Brachytherapy
    Brachytherapy , also known as internal radiotherapy, sealed source radiotherapy, curietherapy or endocurietherapy, is a form of radiotherapy where a radiation source is placed inside or next to the area requiring treatment...

     (74 days)
  • Co-60
    Cobalt
    Cobalt is a chemical element with symbol Co and atomic number 27. It is found naturally only in chemically combined form. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal....

    , used for brachytherapy and external radiotherapy (5.3 years)
  • Cs-137, used for brachytherapy, external radiotherapy (30 years)

Industrial


Industrial
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

 source waste can contain alpha
Alpha decay
Alpha decay is a type of radioactive decay in which an atomic nucleus emits an alpha particle and thereby transforms into an atom with a mass number 4 less and atomic number 2 less...

, beta
Beta decay
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

, neutron
Neutron emission
Neutron emission is a type of radioactive decay of atoms containing excess neutrons, in which a neutron is simply ejected from the nucleus. Two examples of isotopes which emit neutrons are helium-5 and beryllium-13...

 or gamma emitters. Gamma emitters are used in radiography
Radiography
Radiography is the use of X-rays to view a non-uniformly composed material such as the human body. By using the physical properties of the ray an image can be developed which displays areas of different density and composition....

 while neutron emitting sources are used in a range of applications, such as oil well
Oil well
An oil well is a general term for any boring through the earth's surface that is designed to find and acquire petroleum oil hydrocarbons. Usually some natural gas is produced along with the oil. A well that is designed to produce mainly or only gas may be termed a gas well.-History:The earliest...

 logging.

Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM)


Processing of substances containing natural radioactivity is often known as NORM. A lot of this waste is alpha particle
Alpha particle
Alpha particles consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus, which is classically produced in the process of alpha decay, but may be produced also in other ways and given the same name...

-emitting matter from the decay chains of uranium
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 and thorium
Thorium
Thorium is a natural radioactive chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90. It was discovered in 1828 and named after Thor, the Norse god of thunder....

. The main source of radiation in the human body is potassium
Potassium
Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

-40 (40K
Potassium-40
Potassium-40 is a radioactive isotope of potassium which has a very long half-life of 1.248 years, or about 39.38 seconds.Potassium-40 is a rare example of an isotope which undergoes all three types of beta decay. About 89.28% of the time, it decays to calcium-40 with emission of a beta particle...

), typically 17 milligrams in the body at a time and 0.4 milligrams/day intake. Most rocks, due to their components, have a certain, but low, level of radioactivity. Usually ranging from 1 milli-Sievert
Sievert
The sievert is the International System of Units SI derived unit of dose equivalent radiation. It attempts to quantitatively evaluate the biological effects of ionizing radiation as opposed to just the absorbed dose of radiation energy, which is measured in gray...

 to 13 milli-Sievert
Sievert
The sievert is the International System of Units SI derived unit of dose equivalent radiation. It attempts to quantitatively evaluate the biological effects of ionizing radiation as opposed to just the absorbed dose of radiation energy, which is measured in gray...

 (mSv) annually depending on location, average radiation exposure from natural radioisotopes is 2.0 mSv per person a year worldwide. Such is most of typical total dosage (with mean annual exposure from other sources amounting to 0.4 mSv from cosmic ray
Cosmic ray
Cosmic rays are energetic charged subatomic particles, originating from outer space. They may produce secondary particles that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and surface. The term ray is historical as cosmic rays were thought to be electromagnetic radiation...

s, 0.007 mSv from the legacy of past atmospheric nuclear testing along with the Chernobyl disaster
Chernobyl disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...

, 0.0002 mSv from the nuclear fuel cycle, and, averaged over the whole populace, 0.6 mSv medical tests and 0.005 mSv occupational exposure).

Coal


Coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 contains a small amount of radioactive uranium, barium, thorium and potassium, but, in the case of pure coal, this is significantly less than the average concentration of those elements in the Earth's crust. The surrounding strata, if shale or mudstone, often contain slightly more than average and this may also be reflected in the ash content of 'dirty' coals. The more active ash minerals become concentrated in the fly ash
Fly ash
Fly ash is one of the residues generated in combustion, and comprises the fine particles that rise with the flue gases. Ash which does not rise is termed bottom ash. In an industrial context, fly ash usually refers to ash produced during combustion of coal...

 precisely because they do not burn well. The radioactivity of fly ash is about the same as black shale
Shale
Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

 and is less than phosphate
Phosphate
A phosphate, an inorganic chemical, is a salt of phosphoric acid. In organic chemistry, a phosphate, or organophosphate, is an ester of phosphoric acid. Organic phosphates are important in biochemistry and biogeochemistry or ecology. Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in...

 rocks, but is more of a concern because a small amount of the fly ash ends up in the atmosphere where it can be inhaled. According to U.S. NCRP
National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements
The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements is a U.S. organization. It has a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code, but this does not imply it has any sort of oversight or supervision from Congress; it is not a government entity.This text appears on the...

 reports, population exposure from 1000-MWe power plants amounts to 490 person-rem/year for coal power plants and 4.8 person-rem/year for nuclear plants during normal operation, the latter being 136 person-rem/year for the complete nuclear fuel cycle.

Oil and gas


Residues from the oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 and gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

 industry often contain radium and its daughters. The sulfate scale from an oil well can be very radium rich, while the water, oil and gas from a well often contain radon
Radon
Radon is a chemical element with symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally as the decay product of uranium or thorium. Its most stable isotope, 222Rn, has a half-life of 3.8 days...

. The radon decays to form solid radioisotopes which form coatings on the inside of pipework. In an oil processing plant the area of the plant where propane
Propane
Propane is a three-carbon alkane with the molecular formula , normally a gas, but compressible to a transportable liquid. A by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining, it is commonly used as a fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, barbecues, portable stoves, and residential central...

 is processed is often one of the more contaminated areas of the plant as radon has a similar boiling point to propane.

Classification of radioactive waste


Classifications of nuclear waste varies by country. The IAEA, which publishes the Radioactive Waste Safety Standards (RADWASS), also plays a significant role.

Uranium tailings



Uranium tailings are waste by-product materials left over from the rough processing of uranium
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

-bearing ore
Ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

. They are not significantly radioactive. Mill tailings are sometimes referred to as 11(e)2 wastes, from the section of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946
Atomic Energy Act of 1946
The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 determined how the United States federal government would control and manage the nuclear technology it had jointly developed with its wartime allies...

 that defines them. Uranium mill tailings typically also contain chemically hazardous
Dangerous goods
Dangerous goods are solids, liquids, or gases that can harm people, other living organisms, property, or the environment. They are often subject to chemical regulations. "HazMat teams" are personnel specially trained to handle dangerous goods...

 heavy metal such as lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 and arsenic
Arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

. Vast mounds of uranium mill tailings are left at many old mining sites, especially in Colorado
Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, and Utah
Utah
Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

.

Low-level waste


Low level waste
Low level waste
Low-Level Waste is a term used to describe nuclear waste that does not fit into the categorical definitions for high-level waste , spent nuclear fuel , transuranic waste , or certain byproduct materials known as 11e wastes, such as uranium mill tailings...

 (LLW) is generated from hospitals and industry, as well as the nuclear fuel cycle
Nuclear fuel cycle
The nuclear fuel cycle, also called nuclear fuel chain, is the progression of nuclear fuel through a series of differing stages. It consists of steps in the front end, which are the preparation of the fuel, steps in the service period in which the fuel is used during reactor operation, and steps in...

. Low-level wastes include paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

, rags, tool
Tool
A tool is a device that can be used to produce an item or achieve a task, but that is not consumed in the process. Informally the word is also used to describe a procedure or process with a specific purpose. Tools that are used in particular fields or activities may have different designations such...

s, clothing
Clothing
Clothing refers to any covering for the human body that is worn. The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic and is a feature of nearly all human societies...

, filters, and other materials which contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity. Materials that originate from any region of an Active Area are commonly designated as LLW as a precautionary measure even if there is with only a remote possibility of being contaminated with radioactive materials. Such LLW typically exhibits no higher radioactivity than one would expect from the same material disposed of in a non-active area, such as a normal office block.

Some high-activity LLW requires shielding during handling and transport but most LLW is suitable for shallow land burial. To reduce its volume, it is often compacted or incinerated before disposal. Low-level waste is divided into four classes: class A, class B, class C, and Greater Than Class C (GTCC).

Intermediate-level waste



Intermediate-level waste (ILW) contains higher amounts of radioactivity and in some cases requires shielding. Intermediate-level wastes includes resin
Resin
Resin in the most specific use of the term is a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, particularly coniferous trees. Resins are valued for their chemical properties and associated uses, such as the production of varnishes, adhesives, and food glazing agents; as an important source of raw materials...

s, chemical sludge and metal reactor nuclear fuel
Nuclear fuel
Nuclear fuel is a material that can be 'consumed' by fission or fusion to derive nuclear energy. Nuclear fuels are the most dense sources of energy available...

 cladding, as well as contaminated materials from reactor decommissioning
Nuclear decommissioning
Nuclear decommissioning is the dismantling of a nuclear power plant and decontamination of the site to a state no longer requiring protection from radiation for the general public...

. It may be solidified in concrete
Concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 or bitumen for disposal. As a general rule, short-lived waste (mainly non-fuel materials from reactors) is buried in shallow repositories, while long-lived waste (from fuel and fuel reprocessing
Nuclear reprocessing
Nuclear reprocessing technology was developed to chemically separate and recover fissionable plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel. Reprocessing serves multiple purposes, whose relative importance has changed over time. Originally reprocessing was used solely to extract plutonium for producing...

) is deposited in geological repository
Deep geological repository
A deep geological repository is a nuclear waste repository excavated deep within a stable geologic environment...

. U.S. regulations do not define this category of waste; the term is used in Europe and elsewhere.

High-level waste


High-level waste (HLW) is produced by nuclear reactors. It contains fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core. It is highly radioactive and often thermally hot. HLW accounts for over 95 percent of the total radioactivity produced in the process of nuclear electricity generation
Electricity generation
Electricity generation is the process of generating electric energy from other forms of energy.The fundamental principles of electricity generation were discovered during the 1820s and early 1830s by the British scientist Michael Faraday...

. The amount of HLW worldwide is currently increasing by about 12,000 metric tons every year, which is the equivalent to about 100 double-decker bus
Double-decker bus
A double-decker bus is a bus that has two storeys or 'decks'. Global usage of this type of bus is more common in outer touring than in its intra-urban transportion role. Double-decker buses are also commonly found in certain parts of Europe, Asia, and former British colonies and protectorates...

es or a two-story structure with a footprint the size of a basketball court
Basketball court
In basketball, the basketball court is the playing surface, consisting of a rectangular floor with tiles at either end. In professional or organized basketball, especially when played indoors, it is usually made out of a wood, often maple, and highly polished...

. A 1000-MW
Watt
The watt is a derived unit of power in the International System of Units , named after the Scottish engineer James Watt . The unit, defined as one joule per second, measures the rate of energy conversion.-Definition:...

 nuclear power plant produces about 27 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel (unreprocessed) every year.

Transuranic waste


Transuranic waste
Transuranic waste
Transuranic waste is, as stated by U.S. regulations and independent of state or origin, waste which has been contaminated with alpha emitting transuranic radionuclides possessing half-lives greater than 20 years and in concentrations greater than 100 nCi/g .Elements having atomic numbers greater...

 (TRUW) as defined by U.S. regulations is, without regard to form or origin, waste that is contaminated with alpha
Alpha particle
Alpha particles consist of two protons and two neutrons bound together into a particle identical to a helium nucleus, which is classically produced in the process of alpha decay, but may be produced also in other ways and given the same name...

-emitting transuranic radionuclide
Radionuclide
A radionuclide is an atom with an unstable nucleus, which is a nucleus characterized by excess energy available to be imparted either to a newly created radiation particle within the nucleus or to an atomic electron. The radionuclide, in this process, undergoes radioactive decay, and emits gamma...

s with half-lives
Half-life
Half-life, abbreviated t½, is the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. The name was originally used to describe a characteristic of unstable atoms , but it may apply to any quantity which follows a set-rate decay.The original term, dating to...

 greater than 20 years and concentrations greater than 100 nCi
Curie
The curie is a unit of radioactivity, defined asThis is roughly the activity of 1 gram of the radium isotope 226Ra, a substance studied by the pioneers of radiology, Marie and Pierre Curie, for whom the unit was named. In addition to the curie, activity can be measured using an SI derived unit,...

/g (3.7 MBq
Becquerel
The becquerel is the SI-derived unit of radioactivity. One Bq is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second. The Bq unit is therefore equivalent to an inverse second, s−1...

/kg), excluding high-level waste. Elements that have an atomic number greater than uranium are called transuranic ("beyond uranium"). Because of their long half-lives, TRUW is disposed more cautiously than either low- or intermediate-level waste. In the U.S., it arises mainly from weapons
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 production, and consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris and other items contaminated with small amounts of radioactive elements (mainly plutonium
Plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

).

Under U.S. law, transuranic waste is further categorized into "contact-handled" (CH) and "remote-handled" (RH) on the basis of radiation dose measured at the surface of the waste container. CH TRUW has a surface dose rate not greater than 200 Roentgen equivalent man per hour (to millisievert/hr), whereas RH TRUW has a surface dose rate of 200 Röntgen equivalent man per hour (2 mSv/h) or greater. CH TRUW does not have the very high radioactivity of high-level waste, nor its high heat generation, but RH TRUW can be highly radioactive, with surface dose rates up to 1000000 Röntgen equivalent man per hour (10000 mSv/h). The U.S. currently disposes of TRUW generated from military facilities at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, is the world's third deep geological repository licensed to permanently dispose of transuranic radioactive waste for 10,000 years that is left from the research and production of nuclear weapons...

.

Prevention of waste



Due to the many advances in reactor design, it is today possible to reduce the radioactive waste by a factor of 100. This can be done by using new reactor types such as Generation IV reactor
Generation IV reactor
Generation IV reactors are a set of theoretical nuclear reactor designs currently being researched. Most of these designs are generally not expected to be available for commercial construction before 2030...

s. This reduction of nuclear waste is possible because these new reactor types are capable of burning the lower actinides.

Management of waste


Of particular concern in nuclear waste management are two long-lived fission products, Tc-99 (half-life 220,000 years) and I-129 (half-life 17 million years), which dominate spent fuel radioactivity after a few thousand years. The most troublesome transuranic elements in spent fuel are Np-237 (half-life two million years) and Pu-239 (half-life 24,000 years). Nuclear waste requires sophisticated treatment and management to successfully isolate it from interacting with the biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

. This usually necessitates treatment, followed by a long-term management strategy involving storage, disposal or transformation of the waste into a non-toxic form. Governments around the world are considering a range of waste management and disposal options, though there has been limited progress toward long-term waste management solutions.

Vitrification


Long-term storage of radioactive waste requires the stabilization of the waste into a form which will neither react nor degrade for extended periods of time. One way to do this is through vitrification
Vitrification
Vitrification is the transformation of a substance into a glass. Usually, it is achieved by rapidly cooling a liquid through the glass transition. Certain chemical reactions also result in glasses...

. Currently at Sellafield
Sellafield
Sellafield is a nuclear reprocessing site, close to the village of Seascale on the coast of the Irish Sea in Cumbria, England. The site is served by Sellafield railway station. Sellafield is an off-shoot from the original nuclear reactor site at Windscale which is currently undergoing...

 the high-level waste (PUREX
PUREX
PUREX is an acronym standing for Plutonium - URanium EXtraction — de facto standard aqueous nuclear reprocessing method for the recovery of uranium and plutonium from used nuclear fuel. It is based on liquid-liquid extraction ion-exchange.The PUREX process was invented by Herbert H. Anderson and...

 first cycle raffinate
Raffinate
Raffinating something is a technique used in metallurgy to remove impurities from liquid material. There are many different kinds of raffination, for example you can use vacuum to extract hydrogen from metals....

) is mixed with sugar
Sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

 and then calcined. Calcination
Calcination
Calcination is a thermal treatment process applied to ores and other solid materials to bring about a thermal decomposition, phase transition, or removal of a volatile fraction. The calcination process normally takes place at temperatures below the melting point of the product materials...

 involves passing the waste through a heated, rotating tube. The purposes of calcination are to evaporate the water from the waste, and de-nitrate the fission products to assist the stability of the glass produced.

The 'calcine' generated is fed continuously into an induction heated furnace with fragmented glass
Glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

. The resulting glass is a new substance in which the waste products are bonded into the glass matrix when it solidifies. This product, as a melt, is poured into stainless steel
Stainless steel
In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass....

 cylindrical containers ("cylinders") in a batch process. When cooled, the fluid solidifies ("vitrifies") into the glass. Such glass, after being formed, is highly resistant to water.

After filling a cylinder, a seal is welded
Welding
Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. This is often done by melting the workpieces and adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material that cools to become a strong joint, with pressure sometimes...

 onto the cylinder. The cylinder is then washed. After being inspected for external contamination, the steel cylinder is stored, usually in an underground repository. In this form, the waste products are expected to be immobilized for a long period of time (many thousands of years).

The glass inside a cylinder is usually a black glossy substance. All this work (in the United Kingdom) is done using hot cell
Hot cell
Shielded nuclear radiation containment chambers are commonly referred to as hot cells. The word "hot" refers to radioactivity.Hot cells are used in both the nuclear-energy and the nuclear-medicines industries....

 systems. The sugar is added to control the ruthenium
Ruthenium
Ruthenium is a chemical element with symbol Ru and atomic number 44. It is a rare transition metal belonging to the platinum group of the periodic table. Like the other metals of the platinum group, ruthenium is inert to most chemicals. The Russian scientist Karl Ernst Claus discovered the element...

 chemistry and to stop the formation of the volatile RuO4
Ruthenium tetroxide
Ruthenium tetroxide is a diamagnetic tetrahedral ruthenium compound. As expected for a charge-neutral symmetrical oxide, it is quite volatile. The analogous OsO4 is more widely used and better known...

 containing radioactive ruthenium isotopes. In the west, the glass is normally a borosilicate glass
Borosilicate glass
Borosilicate glass is a type of glass with the main glass-forming constituents silica and boron oxide. Borosilicate glasses are known for having very low coefficients of thermal expansion , making them resistant to thermal shock, more so than any other common glass...

 (similar to Pyrex
Pyrex
Pyrex is a brand name for glassware, introduced by Corning Incorporated in 1915.Originally, Pyrex was made from borosilicate glass. In the 1940s the composition was changed for some products to tempered soda-lime glass, which is the most common form of glass used in glass bakeware in the US and has...

), while in the former Soviet bloc it is normal to use a phosphate glass
Phosphate glass
Phosphate glass is a class of optical glasses composed of metaphosphates of various metals. Instead of SiO2 in silicate glasses, the glass forming substrate is P2O5....

. The amount of fission products in the glass must be limited because some (palladium
Palladium
Palladium is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pd and an atomic number of 46. It is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired...

, the other Pt group metals, and tellurium) tend to form metallic phases which separate from the glass. Bulk vitrification uses electrodes to melt soil and wastes, which are then buried underground. In Germany a vitrification plant is in use; this is treating the waste from a small demonstration reprocessing plant which has since been closed down.

Ion exchange


It is common for medium active wastes in the nuclear industry to be treated with ion exchange
Ion exchange
Ion exchange is an exchange of ions between two electrolytes or between an electrolyte solution and a complex. In most cases the term is used to denote the processes of purification, separation, and decontamination of aqueous and other ion-containing solutions with solid polymeric or mineralic 'ion...

 or other means to concentrate the radioactivity into a small volume. The much less radioactive bulk (after treatment) is often then discharged. For instance, it is possible to use a ferric
Ferric
Ferric refers to iron-containing materials or compounds. In chemistry the term is reserved for iron with an oxidation number of +3, also denoted iron or Fe3+. On the other hand, ferrous refers to iron with oxidation number of +2, denoted iron or Fe2+...

 hydroxide
Hydroxide
Hydroxide is a diatomic anion with chemical formula OH−. It consists of an oxygen and a hydrogen atom held together by a covalent bond, and carrying a negative electric charge. It is an important but usually minor constituent of water. It functions as a base, as a ligand, a nucleophile, and a...

 floc
Flocculation
Flocculation, in the field of chemistry, is a process wherein colloids come out of suspension in the form of floc or flakes by the addition of a clarifying agent. The action differs from precipitation in that, prior to flocculation, colloids are merely suspended in a liquid and not actually...

 to remove radioactive metals from aqueous mixtures. After the radioisotopes are absorbed onto the ferric hydroxide, the resulting sludge can be placed in a metal drum before being mixed with cement to form a solid waste form. In order to get better long-term performance (mechanical stability) from such forms, they may be made from a mixture of fly ash
Fly ash
Fly ash is one of the residues generated in combustion, and comprises the fine particles that rise with the flue gases. Ash which does not rise is termed bottom ash. In an industrial context, fly ash usually refers to ash produced during combustion of coal...

, or blast furnace
Blast furnace
A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally iron.In a blast furnace, fuel and ore and flux are continuously supplied through the top of the furnace, while air is blown into the bottom of the chamber, so that the chemical reactions...

 slag
Slag
Slag is a partially vitreous by-product of smelting ore to separate the metal fraction from the unwanted fraction. It can usually be considered to be a mixture of metal oxides and silicon dioxide. However, slags can contain metal sulfides and metal atoms in the elemental form...

, and Portland cement
Portland cement
Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world because it is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and most non-specialty grout...

, instead of normal concrete
Concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 (made with Portland cement, gravel and sand).

Synroc


The Australian Synroc
Synroc
Synroc, a portmanteau of "synthetic rock", is a means of safely storing radioactive waste. It was pioneered in 1978 by a team led by Dr Ted Ringwood at the Australian National University, with further research undertaken in collaboration with ANSTO at research laboratories in Lucas...

 (synthetic rock) is a more sophisticated way to immobilize such waste, and this process may eventually come into commercial use for civil wastes (it is currently being developed for US military wastes). Synroc was invented by the late Prof Ted Ringwood (a geochemist) at the Australian National University
Australian National University
The Australian National University is a teaching and research university located in the Australian capital, Canberra.As of 2009, the ANU employs 3,945 administrative staff who teach approximately 10,000 undergraduates, and 7,500 postgraduate students...

. The Synroc contains pyrochlore
Pyrochlore
Pyrochlore 2Nb2O6 is a solid solution between the niobium end member , and the tantalum end member .-Occurrence:...

 and cryptomelane type minerals. The original form of Synroc (Synroc C) was designed for the liquid high level waste (PUREX raffinate) from a light water reactor
Light water reactor
The light water reactor is a type of thermal reactor that uses normal water as its coolant and neutron moderator. Thermal reactors are the most common type of nuclear reactor, and light water reactors are the most common type of thermal reactor...

. The main minerals in this Synroc are hollandite (BaAl2Ti6O16), zirconolite
Zirconolite
Zirconolite is a mineral, calcium zirconium titanate; formula CaZrTi2O7. Some examples of the mineral may also contain thorium, uranium, cerium, niobium and iron; the presence of thorium and/or  uranium would make the mineral radioactive....

 (CaZrTi2O7) and perovskite
Perovskite
A perovskite structure is any material with the same type of crystal structure as calcium titanium oxide , known as the perovskite structure, or XIIA2+VIB4+X2−3 with the oxygen in the face centers. Perovskites take their name from this compound, which was first discovered in the Ural mountains of...

 (CaTiO3). The zirconolite and perovskite are hosts for the actinides. The strontium
Strontium
Strontium is a chemical element with the symbol Sr and the atomic number 38. An alkaline earth metal, strontium is a soft silver-white or yellowish metallic element that is highly reactive chemically. The metal turns yellow when exposed to air. It occurs naturally in the minerals celestine and...

 and barium
Barium
Barium is a chemical element with the symbol Ba and atomic number 56. It is the fifth element in Group 2, a soft silvery metallic alkaline earth metal. Barium is never found in nature in its pure form due to its reactivity with air. Its oxide is historically known as baryta but it reacts with...

 will be fixed in the perovskite. The caesium
Caesium
Caesium or cesium is the chemical element with the symbol Cs and atomic number 55. It is a soft, silvery-gold alkali metal with a melting point of 28 °C , which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at room temperature...

 will be fixed in the hollandite.

Long term management of waste



The time frame in question when dealing with radioactive waste ranges from 10,000 to 1,000,000 years, according to studies based on the effect of estimated radiation doses.
Researchers suggest that forecasts of health detriment for such periods should be examined critically.
Practical studies only consider up to 100 years as far as effective planning and cost evaluations are concerned. Long term behavior of radioactive wastes remains a subject for ongoing research projects.

Above-ground disposal


Dry cask storage
Dry cask storage
Dry cask storage is a method of storing high-level radioactive waste, such as spent nuclear fuel that has already been cooled in the spent fuel pool for at least one year.. These casks are typically steel cylinders that are either welded or bolted closed. When inside, the fuel rods are surrounded...

 typically involves taking waste from a spent fuel pool
Spent fuel pool
Spent fuel pools are storage pools for spent fuel from nuclear reactors. They are typically 40 or more feet deep, with the bottom 14 feet equipped with storage racks designed to hold fuel assemblies removed from the reactor. A reactor's pool is specially designed for the reactor in which the...

 and sealing it (along with an inert gas
Inert gas
An inert gas is a non-reactive gas used during chemical synthesis, chemical analysis, or preservation of reactive materials. Inert gases are selected for specific settings for which they are functionally inert since the cost of the gas and the cost of purifying the gas are usually a consideration...

) in a steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 cylinder, which is placed in a concrete
Concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 cylinder which acts as a radiation shield. It is a relatively inexpensive method which can be done at a central facility or adjacent to the source reactor. The waste can be easily retrieved for reprocessing.

Geologic disposal


The process of selecting appropriate deep final repositories
Deep geological repository
A deep geological repository is a nuclear waste repository excavated deep within a stable geologic environment...

 for high level waste and spent fuel is now under way in several countries with the first expected to be commissioned some time after 2010. The basic concept is to locate a large, stable geologic formation and use mining technology to excavate a tunnel, or large-bore tunnel boring machine
Tunnel boring machine
A tunnel boring machine also known as a "mole", is a machine used to excavate tunnels with a circular cross section through a variety of soil and rock strata. They can bore through anything from hard rock to sand. Tunnel diameters can range from a metre to almost 16 metres to date...

s (similar to those used to drill the Channel Tunnel
Channel Tunnel
The Channel Tunnel is a undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is deep...

 from England to France) to drill a shaft 500–1,000 meters below the surface where rooms or vaults can be excavated for disposal of high-level radioactive waste. The goal is to permanently isolate nuclear waste from the human environment. Many people remain uncomfortable with the immediate stewardship cessation
Stewardship Cessation
Stewardship Cessation is a concept useful in System Engineering. Certain systems remain hazardous for a considerable period after their useful life, and will usually be managed to ensure that the public and the environment is not exposed to the hazard...

 of this disposal system, suggesting perpetual management and monitoring would be more prudent.

Because some radioactive species have half-lives longer than one million years, even very low container leakage and radionuclide migration rates must be taken into account. Moreover, it may require more than one half-life until some nuclear materials lose enough radioactivity to cease being lethal to living things. A 1983 review of the Swedish radioactive waste disposal program by the National Academy of Sciences found that country’s estimate of several hundred thousand years—perhaps up to one million years—being necessary for waste isolation “fully justified.” Aside from dilution, chemically toxic stable
Stable isotope
Stable isotopes are chemical isotopes that may or may not be radioactive, but if radioactive, have half-lives too long to be measured.Only 90 nuclides from the first 40 elements are energetically stable to any kind of decay save proton decay, in theory...

 elements in some waste such as arsenic
Arsenic
Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

 remain toxic for up to billions of years or indefinitely.

Sea-based options for disposal of radioactive waste include burial beneath a stable abyssal plain
Abyssal plain
An abyssal plain is an underwater plain on the deep ocean floor, usually found at depths between 3000 and 6000 metres. Lying generally between the foot of a continental rise and a mid-ocean ridge, abyssal plains cover more than 50% of the Earth’s surface. They are among the flattest, smoothest...

, burial in a subduction
Subduction
In geology, subduction is the process that takes place at convergent boundaries by which one tectonic plate moves under another tectonic plate, sinking into the Earth's mantle, as the plates converge. These 3D regions of mantle downwellings are known as "Subduction Zones"...

 zone that would slowly carry the waste downward into the Earth's mantle
Mantle (geology)
The mantle is a part of a terrestrial planet or other rocky body large enough to have differentiation by density. The interior of the Earth, similar to the other terrestrial planets, is chemically divided into layers. The mantle is a highly viscous layer between the crust and the outer core....

, and burial beneath a remote natural or human-made island. While these approaches all have merit and would facilitate an international solution to the problem of disposal of radioactive waste, they would require an amendment of the Law of the Sea
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea , also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, is the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea , which took place from 1973 through 1982...

.

Article 1 (Definitions), 7., of the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, (the London Dumping Convention) states:
“Sea” means all marine waters other than the internal waters of States, as well as the seabed and the subsoil thereof; it does not include sub-seabed repositories accessed only from land.”


The proposed land-based subductive waste disposal method disposes of nuclear waste in a subduction
Subduction
In geology, subduction is the process that takes place at convergent boundaries by which one tectonic plate moves under another tectonic plate, sinking into the Earth's mantle, as the plates converge. These 3D regions of mantle downwellings are known as "Subduction Zones"...

 zone accessed from land, and therefore is not prohibited by international agreement. This method has been described as the most viable means of disposing of radioactive waste, and as the state-of-the-art as of 2001 in nuclear waste disposal technology.
Another approach termed Remix & Return would blend high-level waste with uranium mine
Uranium mining
Uranium mining is the process of extraction of uranium ore from the ground. The worldwide production of uranium in 2009 amounted to 50,572 tonnes, of which 27% was mined in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia are the top three producers and together account for 63% of world uranium...

 and mill tailings down to the level of the original radioactivity of the uranium ore
Uraninite
Uraninite is a radioactive, uranium-rich mineral and ore with a chemical composition that is largely UO2, but also contains UO3 and oxides of lead, thorium, and rare earth elements...

, then replace it in inactive uranium mines. This approach has the merits of providing jobs for miners who would double as disposal staff, and of facilitating a cradle-to-grave cycle for radioactive materials, but would be inappropriate for spent reactor fuel in the absence of reprocessing, due to the presence in it of highly toxic radioactive elements such as plutonium.

Deep borehole disposal
Deep borehole disposal
Deep borehole disposal is the concept of disposing of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear reactors in extremely deep boreholes. Deep borehole disposal seeks to place the waste as much as five kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth and relies primarily on the thickness of the natural...

 is the concept of disposing of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear reactors in extremely deep boreholes. Deep borehole disposal seeks to place the waste as much as five kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth and relies primarily on the immense natural geological barrier to confine the waste safely and permanently so that it should never pose a threat to the environment. The Earth's crust contains 120 trillion tons of thorium and 40 trillion tons of uranium (primarily at relatively trace concentrations of parts per million each
Abundance of elements in Earth's crust
The table shows the abundance of elements in Earth's crust. Numbers show percentage or parts per million in mass; 10,000 ppm = 1%.Note that numbers are estimates, and they will vary depending on source and method of estimation. Order of magnitude of data can roughly be relied upon.The table shows...

 adding up over the crust's 3 * 1019 ton mass), among other natural radioisotopes. Since the fraction of nuclides decaying per unit of time is inversely proportional to an isotope's half-life, the relative radioactivity of the lesser amount of human-produced radioisotopes (thousands of tons instead of trillions of tons) would diminish once the isotopes with far shorter half-lives than the bulk of natural radioisotopes decayed.

Transmutation



There have been proposals for reactors that consume nuclear waste and transmute it to other, less-harmful nuclear waste. In particular, the Integral Fast Reactor
Integral Fast Reactor
The Integral Fast Reactor is a design for a nuclear reactor using fast neutrons and no neutron moderator . IFR is distinguished by a nuclear fuel cycle that uses reprocessing via electrorefining at the reactor site.The U.S...

 was a proposed nuclear reactor with a nuclear fuel cycle that produced no transuranic waste and in fact, could consume transuranic waste. It proceeded as far as large-scale tests, but was then canceled by the US Government. Another approach, considered safer but requiring more development, is to dedicate subcritical reactor
Subcritical reactor
A subcritical reactor is a nuclear fission reactor that produces fission without achieving criticality. Instead of a sustaining chain reaction, a subcritical reactor uses additional neutrons from an outside source...

s to the transmutation
Nuclear transmutation
Nuclear transmutation is the conversion of one chemical element or isotope into another. In other words, atoms of one element can be changed into atoms of other element by 'transmutation'...

 of the left-over transuranic elements.

An isotope that is found in nuclear waste and that represents a concern in terms of proliferation is Pu-239. The estimated world total of plutonium in the year 2000 was of 1,645 MT, of which 210 MT had been separated by reprocessing. The large stock of plutonium is a result of its production inside uranium-fueled reactors and of the reprocessing of weapons-grade plutonium during the weapons program. An option for getting rid of this plutonium is to use it as a fuel in a traditional Light Water Reactor (LWR). Several fuel types with differing plutonium destruction efficiencies are under study. See Nuclear transmutation
Nuclear transmutation
Nuclear transmutation is the conversion of one chemical element or isotope into another. In other words, atoms of one element can be changed into atoms of other element by 'transmutation'...

.

Transmutation was banned in the US in April 1977 by President Carter due to the danger of plutonium proliferation, but President Reagan rescinded the ban in 1981. Due to the economic losses and risks, construction of reprocessing plants during this time did not resume. Due to high energy demand, work on the method has continued in the EU. This has resulted in a practical nuclear research reactor called Myrrha
SCK•CEN
SCK•CEN is the Belgian nuclear research centre located in Mol, Belgium. SCK•CEN is active in various areas of research and services in the nuclear sector.-Organisation profile:...

 in which transmutation is possible. Additionally, a new research program called ACTINET has been started in the EU to make transmutation possible on a large, industrial scale. According to President Bush's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) of 2007, the US is now actively promoting research on transmutation technologies needed to markedly reduce the problem of nuclear waste treatment.

There have also been theoretical studies involving the use of fusion reactors as so called "actinide burners" where a fusion reactor plasma
Plasma (physics)
In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

 such as in a tokamak
Tokamak
A tokamak is a device using a magnetic field to confine a plasma in the shape of a torus . Achieving a stable plasma equilibrium requires magnetic field lines that move around the torus in a helical shape...

, could be "doped" with a small amount of the "minor" transuranic atoms which would be transmuted (meaning fissioned in the actinide case) to lighter elements upon their successive bombardment by the very high energy neutrons produced by the fusion of deuterium
Deuterium
Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotopes of hydrogen. It has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in of hydrogen . Deuterium accounts for approximately 0.0156% of all naturally occurring hydrogen in Earth's oceans, while the most common isotope ...

 and tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

 in the reactor. A study at MIT found that only 2 or 3 fusion reactors with parameters similar to that of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) could transmute the entire annual minor actinide production from all of the light water reactor
Light water reactor
The light water reactor is a type of thermal reactor that uses normal water as its coolant and neutron moderator. Thermal reactors are the most common type of nuclear reactor, and light water reactors are the most common type of thermal reactor...

s presently operating in the United States fleet while simultaneously generating approximately 1 gigawatt of power from each reactor.

Re-use of waste


Another option is to find applications for the isotopes in nuclear waste so as to re-use them.

Already, caesium-137
Caesium-137
Caesium-137 is a radioactive isotope of caesium which is formed as a fission product by nuclear fission.It has a half-life of about 30.17 years, and decays by beta emission to a metastable nuclear isomer of barium-137: barium-137m . Caesium-137 is a radioactive isotope of caesium which is formed...

, strontium-90
Strontium-90
Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope of strontium, with a half-life of 28.8 years.-Radioactivity:Natural strontium is nonradioactive and nontoxic, but 90Sr is a radioactivity hazard...

 and a few other isotopes are extracted for certain industrial applications such as food irradiation
Food irradiation
Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, or insects that might be present in the food. Further applications include sprout inhibition, delay of ripening, increase of juice yield, and improvement of re-hydration...

 and radioisotope thermoelectric generators. While re-use does not eliminate the need to manage radioisotopes, it reduces the quantity of waste produced.

The Nuclear Assisted Hydrocarbon Production Method, Canadian patent application 2,659,302, is a method for the temporary or permanent storage of nuclear waste materials comprising the placing of waste materials into one or more repositories or boreholes constructed into an unconventional oil formation. The thermal flux of the waste materials fracture the formation, alters the chemical and/or physical properties of hydrocarbon material within the subterranean formation to allow removal of the altered material. A mixture of hydrocarbons, hydrogen, and/or other formation fluids are produced from the formation. The radioactivity of high-level radioactive waste affords proliferation resistance to plutonium placed in the periphery of the repository or the deepest portion of a borehole.

Breeder reactor
Breeder reactor
A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor capable of generating more fissile material than it consumes because its neutron economy is high enough to breed fissile from fertile material like uranium-238 or thorium-232. Breeders were at first considered superior because of their superior fuel economy...

s can run on U-238 and transuranic elements, which comprise the majority of spent fuel radioactivity in the 1000-100000 year time span.

Space disposal


Space disposal is an attractive notion because it permanently removes nuclear waste from the environment. It has significant disadvantages, not least of which is the potential for catastrophic failure of a launch vehicle
Launch vehicle
In spaceflight, a launch vehicle or carrier rocket is a rocket used to carry a payload from the Earth's surface into outer space. A launch system includes the launch vehicle, the launch pad and other infrastructure....

 which would spread radioactive material into the atmosphere and around the world. The high number of launches that would be required (because no individual rocket would be able to carry very much of the material relative to the total which needs to be disposed of) makes the proposal impractical (for both economic and risk-based reasons) using current rockets,
resulting in some suggestions for developing a mass driver for disposal instead. To further complicate matters, international agreements on the regulation of such a program would need to be established.

National management plans



Most countries are considerably ahead of the United States in developing plans for high-level radioactive waste disposal. Sweden and Finland are furthest along in committing to a particular disposal technology, while many others reprocess spent fuel or contract with France or Great Britain to do it, taking back the resulting plutonium and high-level waste. “An increasing backlog of plutonium from reprocessing is developing in many countries... It is doubtful that reprocessing makes economic sense in the present environment of cheap uranium.”

In many European countries (e.g., Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland) the risk or dose limit for a member of the public exposed to radiation from a future high-level nuclear waste facility is considerably more stringent than that suggested by the International Commission on Radiation Protection or proposed in the United States. European limits are often more stringent than the standard suggested in 1990 by the International Commission on Radiation Protection by a factor of 20, and more stringent by a factor of ten than the standard proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository for the first 10,000 years after closure.

The U.S. EPA’s proposed standard for greater than 10,000 years is 250 times more permissive than the European limit. The U.S. EPA proposed a legal limit of a maximum of 3.5 milli
Milli
Milli is a prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of one thousandth . Adopted in 1795, the prefix comes from the Latin mille, meaning one thousand ....

-Sievert
Sievert
The sievert is the International System of Units SI derived unit of dose equivalent radiation. It attempts to quantitatively evaluate the biological effects of ionizing radiation as opposed to just the absorbed dose of radiation energy, which is measured in gray...

s (350 millirem) each annually to local individuals after 10,000 years, which would be up to several percent of the exposure currently received by some populations in the highest natural background regions on Earth, though the U.S. DOE
United States Department of Energy
The United States Department of Energy is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government concerned with the United States' policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material...

 predicted that received dose would be much below that limit. Over a timeframe of thousands of years, after the most active short half-life radioisotopes decayed, burying U.S. nuclear waste would increase the radioactivity in the top 2000 feet of rock and soil in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 (10 million km2) by ≈ 1 part in 10 million over the cumulative amount of natural radioisotopes in such a volume, but the vicinity of the site would have a far higher concentration of artificial radioisotopes underground than such an average.

Mongolia


After serious opposition had risen about plans and negotiations between Mongolia with Japan and the United States of America to build nuclear waste facilities in Mongolia, Mongolia stopped all negotiations in September 2011. These negotiations started after U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman
Daniel Poneman
Daniel Bruce Poneman is currently the United States Deputy Secretary of Energy. Since 2001, Poneman was a Principal of The Scowcroft Group, a business advisory firm in Washington, D.C...

 visited Mongolia in September, 2010. Talks were held in Washington DC between officials of Japan, the United States and Mongolia in February 2011. After this the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which wanted buy nuclear fuel from Mongolia, joined in the negotiations. The talks were kept secret, and although The Mainichi Daily News reported on it in May. Mongolia officially denied the existence of these negotiations. But alarmed by this news, Mongolian citizens protested against the plans, and demanded the government withdraw the plans and disclose information. The Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj issued a presidential order on Sept. 13 banning all negotiations with foreign governments or international organizations on nuclear waste storage plans in Mongolia.

Illegal dumping



Authorities in Italy are investigating a 'Ndrangheta mafia clan accused of trafficking and illegally dumping nuclear waste. According to a turncoat
Turncoat
A turncoat is a person who shifts allegiance from one loyalty or ideal to another, betraying or deserting an original cause by switching to the opposing side or party...

, a manager of the Italy’s state energy research agency Enea
Enea
Enea is a genus of moths of the Noctuidae family.-References:*...

 paid the clan to get rid of 600 drums of toxic and radioactive waste from Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the US, with Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

 as the destination, where the waste was buried after buying off local politicians. Former employees of Enea are suspected of paying the criminals to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. Shipments to Somalia continued into the 1990s, while the 'Ndrangheta clan also blew up shiploads of waste, including radioactive hospital waste, and sending them to the sea bed off the Calabrian coast
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

. According to the environmental group Legambiente, former members of the 'Ndrangheta have said that they were paid to sink ships with radioactive material for the last 20 years.

Accidents involving radioactive waste


A number of incidents have occurred when radioactive material was disposed of improperly, shielding during transport was defective, or when it was simply abandoned or even stolen from a waste store. In the Soviet Union, waste stored in Lake Karachay
Lake Karachay
Lake Karachay , sometimes spelled Karachai, is a small lake in the southern Ural mountains in western Russia. Starting in 1951 the Soviet Union used Karachay as a dumping site for radioactive waste from Mayak, the nearby nuclear waste storage and reprocessing facility, located near the town of...

 was blown over the area during a dust storm
Dust storm
A dust / sand storm is a meteorological phenomenon common in arid and semi-arid regions. Dust storms arise when a gust front or other strong wind blows loose sand and dirt from a dry surface. Particles are transported by saltation and suspension, causing soil to move from one place and deposition...

 after the lake had partly dried out. At Maxey Flat
Maxey Flat
The Maxey Flat Low-Level Radioactive Waste facility is a Superfund site in Kentucky.-Location:Maxey Flat is a hilltop community in Kentucky approximately northwest of Morehead and approximately south of Flemingsburg on County Road 1895. It is on the county line of Rowan and Fleming counties...

, a low-level radioactive waste facility located in Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, containment trenches covered with dirt, instead of steel or cement, collapsed under heavy rainfall into the trenches and filled with water. The water that invaded the trenches became radioactive and had to be disposed of at the Maxey Flat
Maxey Flat
The Maxey Flat Low-Level Radioactive Waste facility is a Superfund site in Kentucky.-Location:Maxey Flat is a hilltop community in Kentucky approximately northwest of Morehead and approximately south of Flemingsburg on County Road 1895. It is on the county line of Rowan and Fleming counties...

 facility itself. In other cases of radioactive waste accidents, lakes or ponds with radioactive waste accidentally overflowed into the rivers during exceptional storms. In Italy, several radioactive waste deposits let material flow into river water, thus contaminating water for domestic use. In France, in the summer of 2008 numerous incidents happened; in one, at the Areva plant in Tricastin
Tricastin Nuclear Power Center
The Tricastin Nuclear Power Plant is a collection of sites run by Areva and EDF located in 4 different communes Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and Pierrelatte in Drôme, Bollène and Lapalud in Vaucluse, and four departments on right bank of the Channel of Donzère-Mondragon between Valence The Tricastin...

, it was reported that during a draining operation, liquid containing untreated uranium overflowed out of a faulty tank and about 75 kg of the radioactive material seeped into the ground and, from there, into two rivers nearby; in another case, over 100 staff were contaminated with low doses of radiation.

Scavenging of abandoned radioactive material has been the cause of several other cases of radiation exposure
Radioactive contamination
Radioactive contamination, also called radiological contamination, is radioactive substances on surfaces, or within solids, liquids or gases , where their presence is unintended or undesirable, or the process giving rise to their presence in such places...

, mostly in developing nations, which may have less regulation of dangerous substances (and sometimes less general education about radioactivity and its hazards) and a market for scavenged goods and scrap metal. The scavengers and those who buy the material are almost always unaware that the material is radioactive and it is selected for its aesthetics
Aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

 or scrap value. Irresponsibility on the part of the radioactive material's owners, usually a hospital, university or military, and the absence of regulation concerning radioactive waste, or a lack of enforcement of such regulations, have been significant factors in radiation exposures. For an example of an accident involving radioactive scrap originating from a hospital see the Goiânia accident
Goiânia accident
The Goiânia accident was a radioactive contamination accident that occurred on September 13, 1987, at Goiânia, in the Brazilian State of Goiás after an old radiotherapy source was taken from an abandoned hospital site in the city...

.

Transportation accidents involving spent nuclear fuel from power plants are unlikely to have serious consequences due to the strength of the spent nuclear fuel shipping cask
Spent nuclear fuel shipping cask
Spent nuclear fuel shipping casks are used to transport spent nuclear fuel used in nuclear power plants and research reactors to disposal sites such as the nuclear reprocessing center at COGEMA La Hague site...

s.

See also


  • Agency of Nuclear Projects
  • Background radiation
    Background radiation
    Background radiation is the ionizing radiation constantly present in the natural environment of the Earth, which is emitted by natural and artificial sources.-Overview:Both Natural and human-made background radiation varies by location....

  • Deep borehole disposal
    Deep borehole disposal
    Deep borehole disposal is the concept of disposing of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear reactors in extremely deep boreholes. Deep borehole disposal seeks to place the waste as much as five kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth and relies primarily on the thickness of the natural...

  • Deep geological repository
    Deep geological repository
    A deep geological repository is a nuclear waste repository excavated deep within a stable geologic environment...

  • Depleted uranium
    Depleted uranium
    Depleted uranium is uranium with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium . Uses of DU take advantage of its very high density of 19.1 g/cm3...

  • Ducrete
    Ducrete
    DUCRETE is a high density concrete alternative investigated for use in construction of casks for storage of radioactive waste...

  • Eileen Kampakuta Brown
    Eileen Kampakuta Brown
    Eileen Kampakuta Brown is an Aboriginal elder from Australia. She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2003 together with Eileen Wani Wingfield, for efforts to stop governmental plans for nuclear waste dump in Australia's wild desert land, and for protection of their land and...

  • Eileen Wani Wingfield
    Eileen Wani Wingfield
    Eileen Wani Wingfield is an Aboriginal elder from Australia. She was jointly awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2003 with Eileen Kampakuta Brown, for efforts to stop the plans for nuclear waste dump in Australia's wild desert land, and for protection of their land and culture.Wingfield ...

  • Environmental remediation
  • Geomelting
    Geomelting
    Geomelting involves mixing nuclear waste with soil or other glass-formers in large, lined metal tanks. The mix - 20% waste and 80% soil - is heated through two graphite electrodes at temperatures of up to 3,000℃. Gases, mostly carbon dioxide and traces of hydrocarbons, are drawn off and treated...

  • Global Nuclear Energy Partnership
    Global Nuclear Energy Partnership
    The International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation formerly the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership began as a U.S. proposal, announced by United States Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman on February 6, 2006, to form an international partnership to promote the use of nuclear power and close...

  • Gudmundur S. (Bo) Bodvarsson
    Gudmundur S. (Bo) Bodvarsson
    Gudmundur Svavar Bodvarsson was director of the Laboratory’s Earth Sciences Division since 2001 at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Bodvarsson was a pioneer in 3-D mathematical modeling of unsaturated zone flow and transport...

  • Hot cell
    Hot cell
    Shielded nuclear radiation containment chambers are commonly referred to as hot cells. The word "hot" refers to radioactivity.Hot cells are used in both the nuclear-energy and the nuclear-medicines industries....

  • Institute of Nuclear Materials Management
    Institute of Nuclear Materials Management
    The Institute of Nuclear Materials Management is an international technical and professional organization that works to promote safe handling of nuclear material and the safe practice of nuclear materials management through publications, as well as organized presentations and meetings.The INMM's...

  • List of nuclear accidents
  • List of waste types
  • Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents
  • McClure radioactive site
    McClure radioactive site
    The McClure Radioactive Site was a housing site in Scarborough, Ontario that was contaminated with radium from a previous industrial use. McClure Crescent was a street in the housing complex where the contaminated soil was discovered....

     (in Scarborough, Ontario)
  • Mixed waste (radioactive/hazardous)
    Mixed waste (radioactive/hazardous)
    According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, mixed waste is a waste type defined as follows; "MW contains both hazardous waste and radioactive waste . It is jointly regulated by NRC or NRC's Agreement States and EPA or EPA's RCRA Authorized States...

  • Nuclear decommissioning
    Nuclear decommissioning
    Nuclear decommissioning is the dismantling of a nuclear power plant and decontamination of the site to a state no longer requiring protection from radiation for the general public...

  • Nuclear Waste Policy Act
    Nuclear Waste Policy Act
    During the first 40 years that nuclear waste was being created in the United States, no legislation was enacted to manage its disposal. Nuclear waste, some of which remains dangerously radioactive with a half-life of more than one million years, was kept in various types of temporary storage...

  • Occupational safety and health
    Occupational safety and health
    Occupational safety and health is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goal of all occupational safety and health programs is to foster a safe work environment...

  • Off-Site Source Recovery Project
    Off-Site Source Recovery Project
    The Off-Site Source Recovery Project is a U.S. government project funded by the Department of Energy at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The OSRP mission is to remove excess, unwanted, abandoned, or orphan radioactive sealed sources that pose a potential risk to health, safety, and national...

     (OSRP)
  • Personal protective equipment
    Personal protective equipment
    Personal protective equipment refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garment or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury by blunt impacts, electrical hazards, heat, chemicals, and infection, for job-related occupational safety and health purposes, and in...

  • Radiation protection
  • Radioactive contamination
    Radioactive contamination
    Radioactive contamination, also called radiological contamination, is radioactive substances on surfaces, or within solids, liquids or gases , where their presence is unintended or undesirable, or the process giving rise to their presence in such places...

  • Radioactive scrap metal
    Radioactive scrap metal
    Radioactive scrap metal is the situation when radioactive material enters the metal recycling process and contaminates scrap metal.- Overview :...

  • Scintillation counter
    Scintillation counter
    A scintillation counter measures ionizing radiation. The sensor, called a scintillator, consists of a transparent crystal, usually phosphor, plastic , or organic liquid that fluoresces when struck by ionizing radiation. A sensitive photomultiplier tube measures the light from the crystal...

  • Solidification / Stabilization (S/S) with Cement‎
  • Stored Waste Examination Pilot Plant
    Stored Waste Examination Pilot Plant
    The Stored Waste Examination Pilot Plant is a facility at the Idaho National Laboratory for nondestructively examining containers of radioactive waste to determine if they meet criteria to be stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant...

  • Toxic waste
    Toxic waste
    Toxic waste is waste material that can cause death or injury to living creatures. It spreads quite easily and can contaminate lakes and rivers. The term is often used interchangeably with “hazardous waste”, or discarded material that can pose a long-term risk to health or environment.Toxic waste...

  • Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
    Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, is the world's third deep geological repository licensed to permanently dispose of transuranic radioactive waste for 10,000 years that is left from the research and production of nuclear weapons...

  • Waste management
    Waste management
    Waste management is the collection, transport, processing or disposal,managing and monitoring of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity, and the process is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, the environment or aesthetics...

  • Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, proposed nuclear-waste storage facility

Further reading

  • Babu, B.V., and S. Karthik, Energy Education Science and Technology, 2005, 14, 93–102. An overview of waste from the nuclear fuel cycle.
  • Bedinger, M.S. (1989). Geohydrologic aspects for siting and design of low-level radioactive-waste disposal [U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1034]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Fentiman, Audeen W. and James H. Saling. Radioactive Waste Management. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2002. Second ed.
  • Hamblin, Jacob Darwin (2008). Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press
    Rutgers University Press
    Rutgers University Press is a nonprofit academic publishing house, operating in Piscataway, New Jersey under the auspices of Rutgers University.-History:...

    .
  • Hewitt, Robin (1985). Outer Space: the Easy Way Out?, Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign, N.Y., NY, 1985. (http://robin-hewitt.com/write/articles/space.html).
  • Marshall, Alan (2005) The Social and Ethical Aspects of Nuclear Waste, Electronic Green Journal 21, 1.
  • Marshall, Alan. (2005) Questioning the Motivations for International Repositories for Nuclear Waste Global Environmental Politics, Volume 5, Number 2, May 2005, pp. 1–9
  • Marshall, Alan. (2006) Dangerous Dawn: The New Nuclear Age, FoE and BNI, Melbourne.
  • Marshall, Alan (2007) Questioning Nuclear Waste Substitution: A Case Study. Science and Engineering Ethics 13 (1).
  • Marshall, Alan. (2008) Leaving Messages about Our Radioactive Waste for Future Generations, in A. P Latiffer, ed, Nuclear Waste Research, Nova Publishers, pp37–46.
  • Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board. (NRSB) Going the Distance? The Safe Transport of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste in the United States ISBN 0-309-10004-6
  • M.I. Ojovan (ed.). Handbook of advanced radioactive waste conditioning technologies. ISBN 1 84569 626 3. Oxford, 512 p. (2011). http://www.woodheadpublishing.com/6269

External links