This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
N UCLEAR W ASTE M ANAGEMENT
B.Tech 2nd Semester EVS
This Assignment is only for educational distribution purpose. Reprinting and reproduction of this document is prohibited. I hope it will be proved useful for you. Have a nice day and all the best for your studies. Disclaimer:
Radioactive waste, like other wastes, may be composed of materials varying in origin, chemical composition, and physical state. However, what differentiates radioactive waste from other waste forms is that it contains components that are unstable due to radioactive decay. Managing radioactive waste requires different approaches to ensure the protection of both humans and the environment from the radiation.
In general, three options exist for managing radioactive waste: (1) concentrate and contain (concentrate and isolate the wastes in an appropriate environment); (2) dilute and disperse (dilute to regulatory-acceptable levels and then discharge to the environment); (3) delay to decay (allow the radioactive constituents to decay to an acceptable or background level). The first two options are common to managing non-radioactive waste but the third is unique to radioactive waste. Eventually all radioactive wastes become benign because they decay to stable elements while non-radioactive, hazardous waste remains hazardous forever or until their chemical speciation is changed Classification of Radioactive Wastes
In order to manage nuclear wastes, it is useful to classify or group them into categoriesbased on the properties of the waste, which can be done in a number of ways. Forexample, radioactive waste can be classified by the level of radioactivity present (high,intermediate, low, or below regulatory concern), by the dominant type of radiationemitted (alpha, beta, gamma, or X-ray) or, by its half-life (a length of time required forthe material to decay to half of its original value). Also, radioactive wastes can beclassified by their physical characteristics (primarily, solid or liquid, but they can alsoexist in the gaseous state). A quantitative way to classify radioactive waste is byspecific activity or activity concentration; i.e., by the activity per quantity of waste (mass or volume). The heat generated in a sample (that depends on half-life,concentration, and type of radiation) can also be used for classification. Finally, wastecan be classified for security and non-proliferation purposes (e.g., designated as “specialnuclear materials”), for worker safety, and for transportation.
High-level Waste (HLW) HLW generally refers to the radioactive nuclides at high levels from nuclear power generation, (i.e. reprocessing waste streams or unprocessed spent fuel) or from the isolation of fissile radionuclides from irradiated materials associated with nuclear weapons production. When the spent nuclear fuel from reactor operations (civilian or defense) is chemically processed, the radioactive wastes include nuclides from the aqueous phase from the first extraction cycle (and other reprocessing waste streams) as it contains high concentrations of radioactive fission products. As a result, HLW is highly radioactive, generates a significant amount of heat, and contains long-lived radionuclides. Typically these aqueous waste streams are treated by the principle of “concentrate and contain,” as the HLW is normally further processed and solidified into either a glass (vitrification) or a ceramic matrix waste form.
Intermediate-level Waste (ILW) ILW contains lower amounts of radioactivity than HLW but still requires use of specialshielding to assure worker safety. Reactor components, contaminated materials fromreactor decommissioning, sludge from spent fuel cooling and storage areas, andmaterials used to clean coolant systems such as resins and filters are generally classifiedas ILW. The most common management option is “delay to decay” for short-lived solid waste, but for the long-lived waste, the “concentrate and contain” principle(solidification for deep geologic disposal) is required. ILW comprises about 7% of thevolume and, roughly, 4% of the radioactivity of all
radioactive wastes. The disposaloptions for this class of waste are burial in a deep geologic repository for the long-livedradionuclides and near-surface burial for the short-lived ones.
Low-level Waste (LLW) All civilian and defense-related facilities that use or handle radioactive materials generate some LLW. These include research laboratories, hospitals using radionuclides for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, as well as nuclear power plants. LLW includes materials that become contaminated by exposure to radiation or by contact with radioactive materials. Items such as paper, rags, tools, protective clothing, filters and other lightly contaminated materials that contain small amounts of short-lived nuclides are usually classified as LLW. By its nature, LLW does not require shielding during normal handling and transportation and both principles of “delay to decay” and “dilute and disperse” can be employed for disposal depending on the exact nature of the waste.
Classification of Radioactive Waste
Who is Responsible for Radioactive Wastes? Internationally it is accepted that each country is ethically and legally responsible for the radioactive wastes generated within its borders. Specifics related to what constitutes radioactive waste, the parties responsible, as well as the bodies charged with regulating its use and ultimate disposal, are issues defined by governmental processes.
The Nuclear Fuel Cycle The nuclear fuel cycle, shown schematically in Figure 3, consists of the processes use to produce electricity from nuclear reactions. The cycle begins with mining the uraniumand ends with disposal of the wastes generated. Such wastes include the spent fuel itselfand/or the material from reprocessing to recover the unused fissile material.
Figure 3: Schematic of the nuclear fuel cycle. Courtesy of the World Nuclear The fuel cycle is often described in terms of the front-end activities, beginning withmining and milling up through and including burning the uranium fuel in a nuclearreactor and the back-end activities in which the vast majority of the waste is isolatedand the unburned uranium and/or plutonium recovered. As the term “nuclear fuel cycle” suggests, the standard scenario envisioned by thenuclear power industry was to reprocess the spent fuel to recover the unburnt uraniumand plutonium and recycle it to generate additional energy. In addition, by recoveringuranium and returning it to the fuel cycle, the demand for new uranium and the need forenrichment services are reduced by about 30% compared to “once-through” fuelmanagement. A main advantage of reprocessing in waste management is the largereduction in volume (factor of ~100) of the materials to be disposed of as HLW. Somecountries, most notably the US and Canada, at the present time are not reprocessingfuel, and thus do not close the fuel cycle. France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Indiaand some other nations are currently reprocessing spent fuel and recycling plutonium.Japan is expected to join this group with an active reprocessing program. 8.1. Options in the Fuel Cycle that Impact Waste Management The three major back-end fuel cycle options currently under consideration by variouscountries are: •a once through fuel option with direct disposal of spent fuel as HLW; •reprocessing fuel cycle (RFC) with mixed oxide (MOX) recycle of U and Pu inlight water or fast breeder reactors and disposal of HLW; •an advanced fuel cycle (AFC), an extension of RFC in which the wastes arepartitioned and some are transmuted (P&T) to reduce the long-termradiotoxicity.
These options have different advantages and disadvantages and pose differentchallenges that vary in complexity to the management of nuclear wastes. 8.1.1. Once-Through Fuel Option In the “once through” option, shown in Figure 4, fuel is burned in a reactor to makeenergy.
Figure 4: Schematic of the once-through fuel option When energy can no longer be efficiently produced, the spent fuel is removed from thereactor. Because the spent fuel is both thermally hot and intensely radioactive due to thedecay of the short-lived fission products, it is normally stored in special, water-filledcooling ponds at or near the reactor. The water serves to absorb and dissipate heat and isalso used as a radiation barrier. Since water can moderate the neutron energy, thecooling ponds are designed to physically separate the fuel to prevent criticality. The fuelis allowed to cool for periods varying from 7-10 years to over 20 years depending onthe capacity at the reactor site to store spent fuel after which it is removed and placed incasks under a blanket of inert gas to be stored in shielded, dry storage areas for furthercooling. The once-through fuel cycle places the largest demand on repository capacitiesand after 50100 years poses one of the biggest proliferation concerns since decay of thefission products over time could allow access and retrieval of plutonium. The advantageof the once-through fuel cycle is that, in the near-term, potentially dangerous andexpensive handling and processing of spent fuel is avoided. However, in the long term,large, expensive geologic repositories are needed that must be secured over very longtimes to prevent removal of plutonium. Currently, the US, Sweden, Spain, Canada, andS. Korea are using the once-through fuel option.
8.1.2. The Reprocessing Fuel Cycle (RFC)
Figure 5: Schematic of a simple RFC. RFC, Figure 5, was the option envisioned by the nuclear power industry from thebeginning because it offers the following advantages: •Uranium and plutonium would be recovered and recycled to make more energy. •The volume of material to be disposed of as HLW would be significantlyreduced since the uranium and plutonium comprise about 97% of the total massof spent fuel. •Recovered uranium could be re-enriched, and returned to the LWR fuel cycle,reducing the demand for mining and milling new uranium and the need forenrichment services by about 30%. The option to reprocess fuel effectivelycloses the fuel cycle and has the advantages noted above. However, thedevelopment of new separation processes that are efficient and can be carriedout under a high-radiation environment is required. Recycling Plutonium as Mixed–Oxide Fuel (MOX) Reprocessed plutonium can be used as fuel in modified LWRs. By adding more controlrods to manage the reactivity over the reactor volume, LWRs can be configured tooperate using fuel consisting of both uranium and plutonium–oxide or what is termedmixed–oxide (MOX) fuel. Over the past 10 years, reactors in France, Germany,Switzerland and Belgium have been licensed to use MOX fuel to generate electricity.Japan plans to have one-third of its 53 reactors using MOX fuel by 2010.
Uranium Recycling The uranium recovered from the reprocessing of commercial spent fuel usually containsabout 1% , and, because the PUREX process does not remove 100% of the fissionproducts and other actinides, reprocessed uranium is slightly more radioactive thannatural uranium. The increased radioactivity is primarily due to the presence of other -emitting contaminants. [According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA1977), the level of fission products in reprocessed uranium cannot exceed 19 MBq/kg ofU. Similarly, reprocessed U can contain no more than 250 kBq/kg U of other nonuraniumalpha activity.] During irradiation, the level of increases over that innatural uranium. In addition, , not present in natural uranium, is produced by thedecay of 2.85 a isotope. Although the total accumulation of is small, itdecays with a 72 a half-life by α-emission through a chain of other α- and –rayemitters including the 1.9 a .
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.