What are radioactive wastes?
Any material that is either radioactive itself, or contaminated by radioactivity. The radioactive by-products from the operation of a nuclear reactor or from the reprocessing of depleted nuclear fuel.
Radioactive waste. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2017, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/radioactive-waste
Difference between low and high level radioactive waste
HIGH radioactive wastes is in a form of used fuel rods (Friedland,2015,p.421). There are two types of high level wastes- spent reactor fuel or waste material that is left remaining(NRC.2016). LOW radioactive waste is the form of contaminated items used in plant maintenance like protective clothing, tools and rags (Friedland,2015,p.421). Low level waste can be contributed by contamination with radioactive materials or has been exposed to neutron radiation(NRC.2016).
Friedland; Relyea.(2015) Environmental Science for AP Second Edition. New York, NY: W.H. Freeman and Company.
nrc.gov.(2016). High-Level Waste. Retrieved March 17,2017 from https://nrc.gov/waste/high-level-waste.html
nrc.gov.(2016). Low-Level Waste. Retrieved March 17,2017 from http://nrc.gov/low-level-waste.html
Disposal of Radioactive Wastes
All radioactive wastes that need disposed is done very carefully. It is done very safely to protect the environment and the people. All radioactive wastes are contained and managed when they are disposed. To dispose of the wastes, they have to isolate it so if anything happens, if it returned to the biosphere, it will be harmless. Some wastes get permanently buried, very deep in the ground.
Government agencies that regulate radioactive wastes
•The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is responsible for regulating the nuclear power industry. The NRC also "oversees the clean-up of contaminated sites and the disposal of Low Level Waste, and uranium recovery activities"(nrc.gov.2017)
The Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for building, siting, and operating a deep geological disposal site (epa.gov.2017).
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protects human health and the environment. They enact the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) on the Department of Energy, NWPA is used to "support safe storage and disposal of radioactive waste" (epa.gov.2017)
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is designed as the sector-specific agency for the nuclear reactors, materials, and waste sector. "This sector deals with nuclear power plants, non-power nuclear reactors used for research, testing, and training" (dhs.gov.2017). It also deals with manufacturers of nuclear reactors and components, radioactive materials that are used in medical and industrial areas, fuel cycle facilities, decommissioned nuclear power reactors, and the transportation, disposal, storage of nuclear and radioactive wastes (dhs.gov.2017).
nrc.gov(2017). Radioactive Waste. Retrieved March 21,2017 from https://www.nrc.gov/waste.html
epa.gov. Summary of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Retrieved March 21,2017 from https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-nuclear-waste-policy-act
epa.gov. Our Mission and What We Do. Retrieved March 21,2017 from https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/our-commission-and-what-we-do
dhs.gov.(2016). Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector. Retrieved March 21,2017 from https://dhs.gov/nuclear-reactors-materials-and-waste-sector
Storage of Nuclear Wastes
• When nuclear wastes are stored temporarily, the wastes get stored in water – filled pools.
• Wastes, like nuclear fuel, is stored at the nuclear energy facilities.
• Usually, most plants store used fuel in pools that are concrete and filled with water. Putting the fuel in concrete filled with water, acts as a barrier for radiation.
• When plants get low on storage, the fuel has to be held in large concrete containers that are above ground.
• Wastes that are in storage have to be monitored regularly for safety.
• The reason why wastes are stored is to avoid any chance of radiation exposure.
• Plants can usually store wastes for 50 years before disposal of the wastes.
• At first, wastes are usually stored underground for five years and then taken out to be stored in a dry area.
• At-Reactor Storage of Used Nuclear Fuel. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2017, from https://www.nei.org/Issues-Policy/Used-Nuclear-Fuel-Management/At-Reactor-Storage-of-Used-Nuclear-Fuel
Disadvantages of storing nuclear wastes
On the chance that an accident does happen it can result in an affect on nature. Whether a leak occurs or something deep in the Earth or sealed off, the nuclear waste can cause cancerous growths or a cause of genetic problems for many generations of plants and animals in that area of the accident (Conserve Energy Future.2017). Many different storage methods have been mentioned for instance ground storage, ejection into space, ocean disposal (which is no longer a thing) and disposal into ice sheets. Its hard to find storage for something that will stay radioactive for years upon years ( Conserve Energy Future.2017).
Conserve Energy Future.(2016). Dangers and Effects of Nuclear Waste Disposal. Retrieved March 20,2017 from http://conserve-energy-future.com/dangers-and-effects-of-nuclear-waste-disposal.php
Pros of permanent storage of high - level radioactive wastes
Deep geological disposal is one of the more common ways of storing high-level wastes. Since this type of disposal makes a barrier created out of engineered and natural rock, salt, clay; there is no obligation to maintain that facility for years to come(World-Nuclear.2017).
Radioactive Waste Management l Nuclear Waste Disposal- World Nuclear Association. (2016). Retrieved March 20, 2017 from http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/nuclear-fuel-cycle/nuclear-wastes/radioactive-waste-management.aspx
Cons of permanent storage of high - level radioactive wastes
The issue with deep geological disposal is that there is a concern about how feasible this process is and how they can even assume that nuclear waste can just reside in the ground that far down(Ali.Stanford.2017).
Ali, Subhan.(2011).Nuclear Waste Disposal Methods. Retrieved March 20,2017 from https://large.stanford.edu/courses/2011/ph241/ali2
About the nuclear disaster that happened in Fukushima
• An earthquake and tsunami hit East Japan and caused a very severe accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
• Three out of the six reactors at the plant-sustained core damaged, which released hydrogen and other radioactive materials.
• This caused a widespread evacuation of people living in the area.
• This caused all nuclear power plants in Japan to shut down.
Fukushima Accident. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2017, from http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/fukushima-accident.aspx
Radiation levels now in Fukushima
About six years ago, right after a major earthquake hit Fukushima, a tsunami came and hit the nuclear power plants. This disabled the power supply and cooling of three reactors. In an article posted in sciencealert.com on February 7th, 2017, stated that the radiation levels have increased since 2011. The current radiation levels in Fukushima at the nuclear reactr number two is reaching a maximum or 530 sleverts per hour. March in 2011 was when it was last recorded, it was at 73 sleverts per hour. No one has a definite answer on why this location have such a high radiation level - but it has been said that the radiation is safely contained within the reactor(Sciencealert.2017).
MacDonald, Fiona.(2017). Latest Radiation Readings From Inside the Fukushima Reactor Are Unexpectedly High. Retrieved March 16,2017 from http://sciencealert.com/radiation-levels-in-the-fukushima-reactor-have-started-unexpectedly-climbing
What is happening now?
• 40,000 gallons of water a day keep flooding into the buildings, so they need a way to stop it.
• Japan is used $320 million so far at the nuclear power plants in Fukushima
• Built an ice wall underground, about a mile long to solve a runaway water crisis.
• They want the damaged water to stay out of the reactor buildings, and with this underground ice wall, it is possible.
• This ice wall is also intended to be able to seal off the reactor buildings.
• If it works, the frozen soil will almost act like a dam to block water from entering the buildings.
This is the ice wall in the making
• This is very vital because once the water enters, if its able to, it will become highly radioactive, dismantling the plant.
• Since the accident, they have sent five robots into the reactor, but all failed to return back because of the high radiation levels in the plant.
• The company built more than 1,000 tanks that are holding more than 800,000 tons of radioactive water
• 7,000 workers were hired in the help of cleaning up the plant
Fackler, M. (2016, August 29). Japan's $320 Million Gamble at Fukushima: An Underground Ice Wall. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/30/science/fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-plant-cleanup-ice-wall.html?_r=0