CHAPTER 5-RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT Page: 4 of 10
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CHAPTER 5- RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT
High Level Waste: (HLW) contains sufficiently high levels of radioactive
materials that a high degree of isolation from the biosphere, normally in a
geologic repository, is required for long periods of time. Such wastes normally
require both special shielding and cooling periods.
Substantial amounts of radioactive waste are generated through civilian applications of
radionuclides in medicine, research and industry. A typical 1000 MWe nuclear power
station produces approximately 300 m3 of low- and intermediate-level waste (LILW) per
year and some 30 tons of high-level solid packed waste per year. By comparison a 1000
MWe coal plant produces some 300,000 tons of ash alone per year containing radioactive
material and heavy metals which end up in landfill sites and in the atmosphere .
Worldwide, nuclear power generation facilities produce about 200,000 m3 of LILW and
10,000 m3 of HLW (including spent fuel designated as waste) each year worldwide.
5.2. NUCLEAR WASTE TREATMENT & PROCESSING
Research studies into the management of radioactive waste began in the 1930s. As the
commercial nuclear industry evolved through the 1960s and 1970s, additional emphasis
was placed on developing long-term solutions for radioactive wastes. Exempt and LILW
from commercial nuclear power facilities are handled much like ordinary municipal
wastes, although most LILW is disposed of in stable near-surface disposal sites, or as is
the case with transuranic waste (TRU) from the United States defense program in stable
salt-based repositories (such as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WIPP in New Mexico,
In 2007, in response to growing concerns about management of LILW in the United
States, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) performed a comprehensive
review of worldwide practices associated with LILW handling . This report provides a
comprehensive analysis of management approaches for LILW, including soil, debris,
rubble, process materials, and clothing that have been exposed to radioactivity or
contaminated with radioactive material. The report also looked at disposition of excess
sealed radiological sources that are no longer useful for industrial or medical applications.
The GAO found that most countries maintain waste inventory databases that include
information on waste generators (nuclear utilities, hospitals, universities, and research
laboratories), waste types, storage locations, and present and future waste generation
predictions and disposal capacity needs. The report also found that disposal practices
vary according to the hazard presented by the LILW in question. As discussed above,
lower-activity LILW is handled much like municipal waste and is typically disposed in
near-surface burial sites that are monitored over time. Depending on the level of activity
being treated, most of this disposal is handled as Exempt Waste per the IAEA definitions
(see above) and no review is required from the nuclear regulatory authority. For higher-
activity LILW, most countries have centralized storage and disposal options that are
licensed by the appropriate nuclear regulatory authority. Funding for operations of these
facilities is either provided by the central government or by collecting disposal fees at the
time of disposal. For sealed sources used in industrial and medical applications, the
disposal fee is often collected at the time of purchase.
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Marra, J. CHAPTER 5-RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT, book, May 5, 2010; South Carolina. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc932490/m1/4/: accessed April 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.