Radioactive Wastes Andrew Cope & Jon Pence

What are they? The radioactive by-products from the operation of a nuclear reactor or from the reprocessing of depleted nuclear fuel ( 2017). There are many different levels of radioactive waste ranging from relatively harmless to very hazardous.

Exempt waste and very low level waste- contains radioactive materials that are not harmful to people or the environment( 2017)

Low level waste- contains small amounts of short- lived radioactivity( 2017).

Intermediate waste- higher amounts of radioactivity, and may require some shielding( 2017).

High Level waste- arises from the burning of fuel in a nuclear reactor. Very radioactive and requires shielding and cooling. 2 distinct types of HLW, used fuel or separated wastes from reprocessing the fuel. HLW is a major focus of attention for nuclear power( 2017).

Levels Of Radioactive Waste Potency

Low-level waste items have been contaminated with radioactive material or by being exposed to neutron radiation ( 2016). High-level waste items are produced as a byproduct of reactions that take place in a reactor. Low levels of radio-activity are more found in objects such as clothing, mops, filter, medical tubes, injection needles, etc. Whereas highly radioactive materials are things straight from the nuclear plants. One of these materials are spent nuclear fuels ( 2016).

Low-level waste products typically are kept on site until the radiation has decayed away and disposed of, or it can be shipped to a disposal company. High-level waste products are safely stored at a reactor, and then after a permanent disposal respiratory is built it is transferred there( 2016).

Government Oversight- due to the potentially hazardous properties the use of radioactive materials is closely regulated by the government.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency set air emissions and drinking water standards for radioisotopes( 2017).

Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacture and use of specialized devices that are used to create radioisotopes for some use in nuclear medical procedures( 2017).

The U.S Regulatory Commission s the Federal agency responsible protecting the health and safety of the public and the environment by licensing and regulating the civilian uses of the following radioactive materials: source material (uranium and thorium), special nuclear material (enriched uranium and plutonium), byproduct material (material that is made radioactive in a reactor, and residue from the milling of uranium and thorium).

The agency's requirements for the following aspects of radiation protection include dose limits for radiation workers and members of the public.

Monitoring and labeling radioactive materials( 2017).

Posting signs in and around radiation areas( 2017).

Reporting the theft or loss of radioactive material( 2017).

Penalties for not complying with NRC regulations( 2017).

Exposure limits for individual radionuclide( 2017).

In special situations the nrc may enter into agreements with state governors. These agreements authorize individual States to regulate the use of specific radioactive materials within their borders( 2017).

States that meet these conditions and agree to regulate materials using the same standards as the NRC are called Agreement States.

Agreement States regulate the sources of radiation that the NRC does not. This generally includes all naturally occurring radioactive materials (such as radium and radon) within their borders. In addition, the States regulate radiation-producing machines, such as X-ray machines (both medical and industrial) and particle accelerators, as well as the radioisotopes (such as cobalt-57) that they produce( 2017)

Agreement states usually do not regulate nuclear power plants, large quantities of certain nuclear materials, and storage of high-level radioactive waste.

Nuclear storage waste and major disadvantages.

One disadvantage of nuclear waste storage is that it needs to be isolated for long periods of time. Another issue present is the storage, weather it should be stored above ground, in ground, ocean disposal and some even talk of ejecting it into space. The biggest concern has to be its affects of nature. Accidents or leaks may occur causing cancerous growths or genetic problems for plants and animals( 2017).

Pros of permanent storage of high level nuclear wastes are that all the spent fuel could fit within a relatively small space, lets say about the size of a football field. That's a small amount compared to the millions of tons of other industrial wastes accumulating each year.The small volume of wastes also makes it highly controllable. More then 5000 specially designed casks have been shipped without an accident or release in radiation( 2017).

While there are pros there are also cons with permanent storage.The extremely lengthy amount of time that nuclear wastes must be isolated casts doubt on our ability to guarantee a safe system of disposal. None of our political or social institutions have remained free of revolution for as long as 1,000 years, so there is no way to ensure that a stable monitoring system can remain in place as long as necessary( 2017).Also while there have been no major incidents there have certainly been flaws.


As of 2017 the radiation levels at Fukushima are at an all time high since the meltdown. They have been measured at 530 sieverts an hour in reactor number two. Currently, the radiation levels are at a slow decline ( 2017). There are solutions being developed to get rid of the wastes at fukushima. Since the meltdown there has been some progress (


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