Nuclear Waste

What is nuclear waste?
Nuclear waste is the radioactive waste produced by industries involved with nuclear production and large-scale radioisotope production. It includes low, intermediate and high level waste.

Types of radioactive waste (radwaste)
Low-level Waste is generated from hospitals, laboratories and industry, as well as the nuclear fuel cycle. It comprises paper, rags, tools, clothing, and filters etc. which contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity. It is not dangerous to handle, but must be disposed of more carefully than normal garbage. Usually it is buried in shallow landfill sites. To reduce its volume, it is often compacted or incinerated (in a closed container) before disposal. Worldwide it comprises 90% of the volume but only 1% of the radioactivity of all radwaste.
Intermediate-level Waste contains higher amounts of radioactivity and may require special shielding. It typically comprises resins, chemical sludges and reactor components, as well as contaminated materials from reactor decommissioning. Worldwide it makes up 7% of the volume and has 4% of the radioactivity of all radwaste. It may be solidified in concrete or bitumen for disposal. Generally short-lived waste (mainly from reactors) is buried, but long-lived waste (from reprocessing nuclear fuel) will be disposed of deep underground.
High-level Waste may be the used fuel itself, or the principal waste from reprocessing this. While only 3% of the volume of all radwaste, it holds 95% of the radioactivity. It contains the highly radioactive fission products and some heavy elements with long-lived radioactivity. It generates a considerable amount of heat and requires cooling, as well as special shielding during handling and transport. If the used fuel is reprocessed, the separated waste is vitrified by incorporating it into borosilicate (Pyrex) glass which is sealed inside stainless steel canisters for eventual disposal deep underground.

Approaches to radioactive...