What is nuclear waste disposal? Definition of this term suggested by the dictionary is that nuclear waste is any type of waste that contains radionuclide. The Cold war and its nuclear race have brought us a problem that is almost impossible to solve, and that is – how to get rid of radioactive waste. People often link this problem to war games – but the problem is real. With great industrial boom and progress, many non-military branches also produce radioactive waste, for example medical industry.
You should be familiar with the types of nuclear waste. This categorization is made according to the radioactivity levels, so there are three levels. There are different ways of nuclear waste disposal, for each type of nuclear waste.
Nuclear Waste Types
• Low level
• Medium level
• High level
♦ Low level waste consists of radioactive material that is not considered very harmful and is scheduled for shallow burying. This includes waste material from hospitals, industrial waste such as paper, rags, plastic bags etc. Half-life of this waste is relatively small so it doesn’t need to be stored permanently or to be guarded.
♦ Half life of the nuclear waste is period in which radioactivity falls below one half of its original radioactivity. Depending on the radioactivity level, half time of waste can count from a week to 100.000 years.
♦ Regarding medium level waste, its half-life is considerably higher and it cannot be handled without protection. Every country has a right to choose how to dispose of nuclear waste.
♦ As for high level of radioactive waste, disposing is very difficult and expensive. Half-life of this waste is very long and can imply storage or guarding long after the world we know is gone.
♦ High level waste includes material used in nuclear plants, fuel for example, or material used during fission. It would be enough to say that percentage of this fuel in general is very low (about 1 %), but the radioactivity that is emitted by this type on global scale is 99 % .
Nuclear Waste Disposal
♦ There are many methods how to dispose of the nuclear waste and all of them are very expensive. France for example, has chosen to store the waste for 300 years, after which this waste will be safe to be handled without protection.
♦ Nuclear waste can be disposed of by burying under the seabed or under the ground. When choosing the right method, every country has to pay some attention to possible risks whether it is a natural risk (an earthquake) or human cause. Industrial progress is getting greater day by day, but we must pay attention to risks we are creating, because our grandsons will live in this world, too.