Though nuclear energy is one of the significant sources of energy but have we ever thought about the cost we are paying for this energy? Every year nuclear plants produce tonnes of radioactive wastes. This waste causes major risks to our health and planet. The temperature of the Earth is rising, due to which, hazardous radiations are emitted. These radiations cause skin burns and radiation sickness. In the long term, it can cause cardiovascular diseases and cancer. There are so many disasters that have happened in nuclear power plants, destroying so many lives. Here we are to tell you about the different types of radioactive wastes. So that you can distinguish between them, and be aware and careful at all times.
Types of Radioactive Waste
There are different types of radioactive wastes. These types are low, intermediate, high-level waste, transuranic waste, and tailings. Since each of these wastes has different levels of radioactivity in them. Therefore, they are disposed of with proper care. Given below are the reasons for the distinction for these wastes.
Low-Level Waste (LLW)
This type of waste has short-lived radioactivity. The disposal of these wastes is the same as the disposal of office waste. These wastes are termed LLW because of their generation from an Active Area. Since there can be chances of contamination from radioactive materials. Also, shallow land burial is the disposal method of LLW. Furthermore, it is incinerated or contained to reduce the capacity before burial. It is of four categories, Class A, Class B, Class C, and Greater Than C (GCCC). Industries and hospitals generate LLW. Clothing, rags, tools, paper, and filters are low-level waste.
Intermediate Level Waste (ILW)
Intermediate-level waste is a degree higher compared to LLW. It requires shielding rather than cooling. It is vitrified for disposal. Before vitrification, it is solidified with bitumen or concrete or mixed with silica. There is the deposition of long-lived waste like fuel and fuel reprocessing in geological repositories. On the other hand, there is the burial of short-lived waste like non-fuel material from reactors. Intermediate level waste includes nuclear fuel cladding, chemical sludge, and resins. Also, there are no specific categories for ILW.
High-Level Waste (HLW)
The definition of high-level waste (HLW) differs from country to country around the globe. When there is the completion of the nuclear fuel rod in one fuel cycle. It is called HLW when there is the removal of it from the core. The main source of HLW is nuclear reactors. Mostly Cesium- 137 and Strontium- 90 are the main radioactive elements present in the waste. Plutonium may also be present in this waste. Furthermore, they can be a transuranic waste. There are extreme differences between the half-lives of these elements. Plutonium can have a half-life of up to 24,000 years. Whereas, cesium and strontium can be up to 30 years. Electricity generation produces 95%. Also, every year there is the production of 12,000 tonnes of HLW worldwide. It is the most hazardous type of waste. It can cause serious damage from a small amount of exposure to it.
Transuranic Waste (TRUW) and Tailing
Transuranic elements are the elements having a half-life greater than uranium. The alpha-emitting radionuclide contaminates the transuranic waste. It is radioactive waste. It has a half-life of up to 20 years. Also, TRUW disposal is done cautiously due to its long half-lives. The production of nuclear weapons is the main reason for TRUW in the U.S. Also, it consists of residues, debris, and clothing, tools, rags, other items contaminated with small amounts of radioactive elements.
Tailing is a waste by-product of uranium-bearing ore. They are removable of the radioactive sludge from the ore. All mill tailing is not radioactive but they do have long half-lives. But uranium tailings are highly radioactive and hazardous. Also, they contain elements like lead and arsenic. This waste can enter our food chain if left on open ground. The wind carries this radioactive sand everywhere. Other elements often present in tailing are thorium and radium.
There are various sources of radioactive wastes. Countries that have nuclear power plants are a major source of radioactive waste. Other sources which contribute to radioactive wastes are naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), industrial and medical wastes. The consumption of gas, oil, and coal generates NORM waste.
What can YOU do
You can also contribute as a citizen to stop radioactive waste from harming and polluting our planet. Be aware of your surroundings. You must know about any radioactive power plant or radioactive waste around you. Since your unawareness can be harmful to you. If you find that someone is not disposing of the waste properly and is damaging the environment. Raise your voice. Report the concerned authority. Also, if you see that a power plant is causing harm to a residential area. Do the same, raise your voice. Lastly, if you have any innovative ideas about reducing or stopping the use of nuclear power. Make those ideas known to the world. Your small step can save the whole planet.
The medical waste should be carried out of hospitals and laboratories with caution, without affecting the public. The disposal grounds for radioactive waste should be away from the human population to prevent them from the radiations emitted. As mentioned above, nuclear energy is one of the significant forms of energy. One can use natural energy like solar, hydro, and wind. Since these natural energies do not cause any damage to human life. Also, it does not bring any changes to the earth’s atmosphere. As we have told you about the severe damages caused by radioactive waste, it is upon us citizens to be more careful in our lifestyle.
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