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Environmental Science - Grisdale
Transcript of Environmental Science - Grisdale
Radioactive Waste Management
What is Radioactive Waste?
Different Types of Radioactive Waste
Traditional Methods of Radioactive Waste Disposal
Impact on the Environment
- the radioactive by-products from the operation of a nuclear reactor or from the reprocessing of depleted nuclear fuel.
What is it?
Transmutation is the process of changing one element or isotope into another. In the case of radioactive waste disposal, transmutation could be used to change harmful radioactive waste into a safer less radioactive substance. This is a good long-term solution to the problems keeping radioactive waste poses.
How does transmutation work?
Transmutation can be done by using particle accelerators to turn radioactive elements into elements with shorter half-lives. A shorter half-life means that the process of radioactive decay is greatly shortened.
The waste would still be hazardous for hundreds of years but it is a great improvement when untreated radioactive waste stays hazardous for millions of years.
Waste that is buried in Nuclear landfills that has undergone the process of transmutation will eventually decay on its own, and at a much quicker rate.
As well as reducing the half-lives of radioactive isotopes found in the waste, transmutation can turn these isotopes into less dangerous ones. The amount of radiation they emit can be reduced as well, making the waste altogether not as harmful.
Effects of Low Level Radiation:
- An increased rate of cancer in people who live near nuclear plants
-DNA and cell damage (causes birth defects and deformities)
- Effect on wildlife, plants, and ozone is still currently being researched
Effects of High Level Radiation:
-Burning of skin and tissue
-Nausea and Vomiting
-Changes in blood chemistry
-Destruction of intestinal lining
-Damage to central nervous system
-Loss of consciousness
When buried, radioactive waste could always possibly leak. This could contaminate ground, lake and river water, and make many people and animals sick.
With how Nuclear technology is expanding, we need to build more waste disposal sites in order to keep up with the nuclear plants that are being built
Exempt waste & very low level waste: contains very low levels of radiation (not considered harmful to people or the environment). i.e concrete, plaster, bricks, metal, etc. used in the production of nuclear plants
Low level waste: generated from hospitals and industries. i.e paper, rags, tools, filters, clothing, etc.
Intermediate level waste: contains higher amounts of radioactivity and requires a small amount of shielding. i.e resins, chemical sludge, metal cladding, and contaminated materials from nuclear reactor, etc.
High level waste: from the 'burning' of nuclear fuel from the nuclear reactor. It contains fission products generated in the reactor core. It is highly radioactive and very hot. Therefore it requires a lot of cooling and shielding.
Impact on the Economy
The machine created for the process of transmutation is called an Accelerator-Driven-System (ADS for short).
In Belgium, this technology has already been tested out on a small scale. A larger design is currently in-progress. The construction of this larger machine will begin in the year 2015-- its cost will be approximately 960 million Euros. ($1,230,829,672 CAD)
Technology to make use of transmutation in the disposal of radioactive waste is currently under development in some countries. i.e Japan, India, and Belgium.
There are many countries starting to use transmutation and it is spreading worldwide which makes this technology a realistic solution to nuclear waste.
There are no international agreements on how to dispose of radioactive waste. In fact, in many countries there are no national policies for dealing with waste.
Different nuclear power plants will dispose of their waste in different ways. The two forms most commonly used are water storage and burial.
Water Storage is when radioactive waste is
sealed in containers made of concrete and
steel, then submerged in a large, deep pool
of water located inside the power plant.
While this method prevents the waste from
being exposed to the outside environment,
it is only a temporary solution, as there is a limited amount of space.
Burial is when radioactive waste is sealed, then buried deep underground at a designated location. This is seen as a more permanent solution-- but it can greatly impact the environment. The result of burying radioactive waste is highly hazardous "landfill" which requires careful monitoring. Leaking and contamination of the surrounding area are constant concerns.
There is a method of disposal for radioactive waste that is no longer used-- ocean dumping. Ocean dumping is when some low level waste is sealed in a steel drum and dumped directly into the ocean. Great Britain's main form of waste disposal was to throw it into the Atlantic Ocean. In 1983, Ocean dumping was officially banned.