Radioactive Waste Brooke Michael & Maddie Young

Did you know? Wind power is very popular because it has a lot of fans.

What is Radioactive Waste?

Radioactive waste is the radioactive by-product from the operation of a nuclear reactor or from the reprocessing of depleted nuclear fuel, it is also called nuclear waste. In a nuclear facility, before producing power, the fuel is mostly Uranium (or Thorium), oxygen, and steel. After producing power, many of the Uranium atoms have split into various isotopes of almost all of the transition metals on the periodic table of elements. The waste, which also can be referred to as spent fuel, is dangerously reactive and remains for thousands of years. The spent fuel is never unshielded. It is kept underwater (water is an excellent shield) for a few years until the radiation decays to levels that can be shielded by concrete in large storage casks (What, 2017, para. 1,2,3).

Compare and Contrast high and low level radioactive waste and the disposal of both.

Low-level waste is generated from hospitals and industry, as well as the nuclear fuel cycle. It comprises paper, rags, tools, clothing, etc. These contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity. It does not require shielding during handling and transport and is suitable for shallow land burial. To reduce its volume, it is often compacted or incinerated before disposal (Radioactive,2017,para. 3,4).

High-level waste is from the 'burning' of uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor. High-level waste contains the fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core. High-level waste has both long and short-lived components, depending on the length of time it will take for the radioactivity of radionuclides to decrease to levels that are considered no longer hazardous for people and the surrounding environment. It is highly radioactive and hot due to decay heat, so it requires cooling and shielding. If generally short-lived fission products can be separated from long-lived actinides, this distinction becomes important in management and disposal of high-level waste. High-level waste is a major focus of attention regarding nuclear power, and is managed accordingly(Radioactive,2017, para. 1,3).

Outline 4-5 government agencies that oversee or regulate radioactive wastes

-The Food and Drug Administration checked the food that was imported from Japan after Fukushima for any traces of radionuclides that would pose a health concern( FDA, 2014, para. 1).

-The Environmental Protection Agency's RadNet system monitors the nation's air, precipitation and drinking water for radiation( RadNet, 2017, para. 1).

-The U.S. Department of Energy is working on developing clean, affordable nuclear power options(Office,2017, para. 3).

-The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements(NRC, 2014, para.1).

Describe storage of nuclear waste and the major disadvantages of nuclear waste storage.

The storage of nuclear waste is when the nuclear waste is put into a cylinder made of concrete, these layers prevent the radiation from getting outside and harming the air around us. This is very important because it is stored to make sure the waste does not harm the atmosphere. A couple disadvantages of nuclear waste storage is that the products of nuclear fission have long half lives, which makes them radioactive, and that means that when the material is stored, it is still very hot. Another disadvantage is the storage of nuclear waste is still being discussed about today, many different methods have been discussed throughout history, one that was discussed was ocean disposal, which is dumping nuclear waste into the oceans in order to get rid of it. This method is used by 13 different countries but is no longer implemented. Lastly, there is a disadvantage because of the affects on nature; although most of the nuclear waste is well sealed inside huge drums of steel and concrete, leaks can still occur, causing cancerous growths. For example, causing genetic problems for future generations of animals or plants (Nuclear 2016, para. 3, 4, 5,6 ).

Relate the pros and cons on permanent storage of high-level radioactive waste
This is a radioactive waste storage area where the radioactive waste is being stored under ground.

The pros on permanent storage of high-level radioactive waste is it does not pose any greater danger than what we already live in. Critics of nuclear power have greatly exaggerated the risks of waste disposal, but it does not present any major technological problems. More than 5000 spent fuel elements have already been shipped over the past two decades in specially designed casks without a single accident causing a harmful release of radiation (Storage, 2017, para. 1, 2, 4 ).

The cons on permanent storage of high-level radioactive waste is that storing it underground is dangerous, there is other ideas, such as burying nuclear waste beneath the ocean floor, scientists also have thought of putting the waste in really deep holes, burying it in polar ice sheets and stashing it under uninhabited islands, but there are problems that come along with that, for example, when waste is buried under the ocean floor, you are not sure of where the waste would float to, and as the ice sheets melt, it is hard to say how long the nuclear waste would be buried (Shere 2010 para. 2, 3, 4)

Give a recent update on the radiation levels at Fukushima- what is currently happening, what is the solution?
This is a picture taken by the robot who went in but these robots could not handle the high amounts of radiation and melted. This was one of the few photos taken before the robot melted.
  • The current radiation levels at Fukushima are higher than expected -about 530 Sieverts per hour (Sv/h) - TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) sent in a robot, but the levels of radiation were too high for it to handle and it fried (Six, 2017, para. 4). What is currently happening in Fukushima is that the radiation levels are high because the cooling system is not working anymore (due to the tsunami) and any robot that goes in to take photos or record temperatures melts. As a result, the temperatures do not get recorded and pictures do not get taken. There is no solution for it quite yet because the robots can not handle the heat that the nuclear waste gives off (Six, 2017. para. 4).

Hope we didn't waste your time ;-)


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