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On October 29th 2014 “The new York times” reported an
article on the explosion of radioactive waste storage
drums which stored wastes from making of plutonium
bombs, which occurred in New Mexico, leading to the
closure of the repository. This is a message which
conveys that radioactive wastes are very harmful and
measures had to be taken for the safe storage and
disposal of them. Radioactivity naturally decays over time,
so radioactive waste has to be isolated and confined in
appropriate disposal facilities for a sufficient period of time
until it no longer poses a threat. The period of time,
radioactive waste must be stored for ,depends on the type
of waste and radioactive isotopes. It can range from a few
days for very short-lived isotopes to millions of years.
Current major approaches in managing radioactive wastes
has been segregation and storage for short-lived waste,
near-surface disposal for low and some intermediate level
waste, and deep burial or partitioning / transmutation for
the high-level waste. This presentation discusses in detail
about the safe management of radioactive waste, leading
to a green and safe atmosphere.
 Sources of radioactive wastes:
 The primary sources of radioactive wastes in a country without nuclear fuel cycle activities are: - nuclear
research - production of radioisotopes - application of radioisotopes decontamination and decommissioning
of nuclear installations. As a result of these activities, mainly low and intermediate waste are produced.



 Low level waste contains small amounts of radioactivity. This type of waste is generated from hospitals,
laboratories and industry as well as in every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, which refers to the series of
steps to produce fuel for generating electricity. It can include many kinds of material: paper, rags, tools,
clothing, shoe covers and filters. It can also include fireproof fabrics and protective plastic sheeting used in
maintenance work, and equipment parts and pipes removed from a power plant.
Segregation of Radioactive Waste:
 All radioactive waste must be segregated according to isotope. Only Tritium
(3H) and Carbon-14 (14C) can be placed in the same container; all other
isotopes must be placed in separate containers.
 1. Solid
 2. Glass
 3. Sharps
 4. Liquid
 5. Liquid Scintillation Vials
 6. Biological
 7. Animal Remains
 8. Source Vials
 9.Lead Pigs
Radioactive Liquid:

 The category of radioactive liquid waste can be further divided into: (a)
Aqueous, (b) Organic, and (c) Other liquids. Examples:
 Aqueous Liquids - Water-based liquids with a pH between 5.0-9.0, such as
saline and buffer solutions or washings from contaminated laboratory
glassware, weak acids or bases that contain no biological, pathogenic, or
infectious materials.
 (b) Organic Liquids - Organic laboratory solvents such as alcohols, aldehydes,
ketones, and organic acids. Note: This category does not include scintillation
 (c) Other Liquids - Contaminated pump oil, etc. Containers for Disposal:
Specially designated containers (carboys). These carboys are to be filled to
approximately 80% of available container volume. Do not overfill these
 The chemical and volume control system (CVCS) on a pressurized water reactor is used to
remove the activation products and fission products from the reactor coolant. It will be used
to show some of the sources of solid, liquid, and gaseous radioactive wastes. As the reactor
coolant flows through the chemical and volume control system, it passes through
demineralizers and filters.
 The demineralizer resins and filter cartridges become contaminated due to the impurities
they remove from the coolant. After use, the resins and cartridges will be disposed of as solid
radioactive waste. In the volume control tank, the reactor coolant is sprayed into a hydrogen
gas bubble. As the water is sprayed, gases are stripped out of solution. These gases can then
be vented to the waste gas system to be processed as gaseous radioactive waste. If water
needs to be removed from the reactor coolant system, there is a flow path that can be lined
up to divert the reactor coolant flow from the chemical and volume control system to the
liquid radiowaste system for processing.
 The chemical and volume control system is only one example of how radioactive waste is
generated by the operation of a power plant system. Wastes are also generated due to the
clean up of areas (rags, clothing, etc.), the replacement of equipment (used parts,
contaminated tools, etc.), and by improper housekeeping (contaminated clothing from
stepping in a puddle, etc.).
 Nuclear fuel consists of fuel pins that are stacks of uranium oxide or mixed uranium plutonium oxide
(MOX) cylindrical ceramic pellets, with diameters of 8–15 mm, that are encapsulated in metallic
tubes. The fuel pins are grouped together in fuel assemblies. Each fuel assembly can be handled as a
single entity, thus simplifying the fuelling and defuelling of reactors and the subsequent handling of
spent nuclear fuel.
 The useful life of a fuel element in the core of an operating reactor is usually 3–7 years. By the time
it is removed from the core it is highly radioactive and generates both heat and radiation, primarily
gamma radiation and neutrons. The fuel elements are therefore handled and stored under water,
which provides both the necessary cooling and necessary radiation shielding. Over time both the
radioactivity and the cooling requirements decrease. The minimum period for storing spent fuel under
water is 9–12 months, after which cooling requirements have usually dropped enough that dry storage
can be considered. Shielding requirements, however, remain for thousands of years.
Spent nuclear fuel
 Spent nuclear fuel looks just like it did when it was loaded into the reactor. Within the fuel rods there is a
change in the chemical species due to the nuclear processes at work. There is a minuscule loss of weight
because in the fission process some mass is converted into energy (heat).
 Nuclear fuel consists of 1/2 inch diameter by 1/2 inch long ceramic uranium dioxide pellets stacked in 10 to 12-
foot long tubes of corrosion-resistant zirconium alloy. From 50 to 300 of these fuel rods, depending on the
particular fuel design, are mounted in metal fixtures in a square array. These fuel rod assemblies are called fuel
elements or fuel assemblies.
 A large number of fuel elements -- containing a total of 100 to 150 tons of uranium -- are grouped in the “core”
of the reactor. When the reactor is operating, the nuclear reaction produces heat, mostly inside the fuel rods.
This heat is transferred to water flowing through the fuel assemblies and the water is directly or indirectly
converted to steam. The steam powers turbine-generators which produce electricity.
 This is how electricity is typically generated except that the heat is provided by a nuclear process rather than by
a chemical combustion process, such as the burning of coal, gas, oil, or other combustibles. A significant
difference is that in the nuclear-powered system there are no gases -- greenhouse or otherwise -- emitted.
 The fuel rods are very resistant to corrosion. They remain in the reactor typically for three or four years, in 600+
degrees Fahrenheit water, and at a pressure of 2,000 pounds per square inch steam or water. In some instances,
reactors have run continuously for over a year at essentially full power -- a quite remarkable technical feat.
 About every 15 to 18 months, a fourth to one-third of the fuel is removed and replaced by fresh fuel. The fuel
rods survive this harsh environment very well and only rarely does inconsequential leakage from within a fuel
rod occur.
 Upon removal from the reactor, the spent fuel is stored in a pool of water to allow the short-lived radionuclides
to decay to more-stable isotopes. When a nuclear power plant is shut down, the rate of heat production
immediately drops by a factor of 16, to about 6% of what it was when the fission process was operating. The
residual heat is generated by the collective decay of all of the radioactive fission products. An hour later, heat
evolution is down by a factor of 100, to about 1%. After a month, the reduction factor is about 1,000 (0.1%).
After a year, it is about 3,300 (0.3%), and after 5 years, about 20,000 (0.005%)
 The spent fuel is 95–96% uranium with an
enrichment level at or slightly above that of
natural uranium, 1% plutonium, 0.1% other
actinides and 3–4% fission products. The
uranium and plutonium can potentially be
reused for new nuclear fuel.

 This trend of more storage for longer durations is expected to continue, and some
countries are now considering storage periods of 100 years or more. While no
significant problems are anticipated with extended wet storage, it is important to
monitor these facilities, learn from experience and apply the results in designing
and operating newer facilities, from the beginning, for extended storage.
 Dry spent fuel storage is a younger technology that has developed substantially
over the past twenty years. It is more limited in heat dissipation capability than
wet storage, but has the advantage Page 3 of being modular, which spreads capital
investments over time, and, in the longer term, the simpler passive cooling
systems used in dry storage reduce operation and maintenance requirements and
costs. Dry storage facilities use a variety of configurations including modular
vaults, silos and casks.
Dry fuel storage technologies: casks at the Fort St. Vrain vault in the USA
the ZWILAG facility in Switzerland (right).
 Special storage facilities have been built for these HLW containers at spent fuel
reprocessing plants. The containers must be continually cooled to avoid thermal stress
and to prevent possible changes in the glass structure. Depending on how much heat is
generated, stored containers can be cooled by natural or forced air convection. Any air
used for cooling is filtered to remove possible contamination before being exhausted to
the general environment. Dry storage can ensure the integrity and safety of vitrified
HLW for extended storage periods (i.e. more than 50 years) while geological repositories
are being developed.
 Canisters are stored in vaults, each with a number of channels, the round tops of which
are visible in the picture. Each channel can hold up to twelve canisters stacked on top
of each other. The storage facilities are modular, so that they can be extended as the
need arises, and very compact. The technology used permits storage of all vitrified
waste from 50 years’ operation of France’s 59 nuclear power plants on an area the size
of a rugby field.
 Radioactive waste needs decades and decades for the
complete decomposition.For now measures are taken
for the safe disposal of them.
Developing Multinational Radioactive Waste Repositories:
Infrastructural Framework and Scenarios of Cooperation,
IAEATECDOC-1413, IAEA, Vienna (2004).
Technical, economic and institutional aspects of regional spent
fuel storage facilities, IAEA-TECDOC-1482, Vienna (2005).
Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle,
INFCIRC/640, IAEA, Vienna (2005).