radioactive waste

GC: n

CT: Radioactive waste comes mainly from nuclear power production, but also from medicine, research, industry, and agriculture. Radioactive waste is produced in all EU countries and spent fuel in countries with nuclear power programmes and research reactors.
While low and medium-level nuclear waste such as from medical equipment is increasingly being taken care of, there is not yet a single final repository for intermediate-level and high-level radioactive waste, such as spent fuel from nuclear power plants. Fourteen EU countries currently produce spent fuel which can take millions of years to decay.

S: CE - https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/nuclear-energy/radioactive-waste-and-spent-fuel(external link) (last access: 27 November 2015)

N: 1. radioactive (adj): 1898, from French radio-actif, coined by Pierre and Marie Curie from radio-, comb. form of Latin radius + actif "active".
waste (n): Replaced or merged with Old English westen, woesten "a desert, wilderness," from the Latin word. Meanings "consumption, depletion," also "useless expenditure" are from c. 1300; sense of "refuse matter" is attested from c. 1400. Waste basket first recorded 1850.
2. Waste that contains radioactive material.
(Radioactive waste is also described as) any material containing or contaminated with radionuclides in concentrations greater than would be considered acceptable for uncontrolled use or release to the environment, and for which there is no foreseen purpose.
It must be disposed of in a safe manner according to AECB (Atomic Energy Control Board) requirements.
radioactive waste: term standardized by ISO in 1997.
3. Types of radioactive waste:
  • Exempt waste & very low level waste
Exempt waste and very low level waste (VLLW) contains radioactive materials at a level which is not considered harmful to people or the surrounding environment. It consists mainly of demolished material (such as concrete, plaster, bricks, metal, valves, piping etc) produced during rehabilitation or dismantling operations on nuclear industrial sites. Other industries, such as food processing, chemical, steel etc also produce VLLW as a result of the concentration of natural radioactivity present in certain minerals used in their manufacturing processes (see also information page on Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials). The waste is therefore disposed of with domestic refuse, although countries such as France are currently developing facilities to store VLLW in specifically designed VLLW disposal facilities.
  • Low-level waste
Low-level waste (LLW) is generated from hospitals and industry, as well as the nuclear fuel cycle. It comprises paper, rags, tools, clothing, filters etc, which contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity. It does not require shielding during handling and transport and is suitable for shallow land burial. To reduce its volume, it is often compacted or incinerated before disposal. It comprises some 90% of the volume but only 1% of the radioactivity of all radioactive waste.
  • Intermediate-level waste
Intermediate-level waste (ILW) contains higher amounts of radioactivity and some requires shielding. It typically comprises resins, chemical sludges and metal fuel cladding, as well as contaminated materials from reactor decommissioning. Smaller items and any non-solids may be solidified in concrete or bitumen for disposal. It makes up some 7% of the volume and has 4% of the radioactivity of all radwaste. By definition, its radioactive decay generates heat of less than about 2 kW/m3 so does not require heating to be taken into account in design of storage or disposal facilities.
  • High-level waste
High-level waste (HLW) arises from the 'burning' of uranium fuel in a nuclear reactor. HLW contains the fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core. It is highly radioactive and hot due to decay heat, so requires cooling and shielding. It has thermal power above about 2 kW/m3 and can be considered as the 'ash' from 'burning' uranium. HLW accounts for over 95% of the total radioactivity produced in the process of electricity generation.
4. Cultural Interrelation: We can mention two films, among others, Silkwood (1983), by Mike Nichols and The China Syndrome (1979), by James Bridges.

S: 1. OED - http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=radioactive+waste&searchmode=none(external link) (last access: 27 November 2015). 2. TERMIUM PLUS - http://goo.gl/nWUonm(external link) (last access: 27 November 2015). 3. WNA - http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/nuclear-fuel-cycle/nuclear-wastes/radioactive-waste-management/(external link) (last access: 27 November 2015). 4. PRINCETON - https://www.princeton.edu/~ota/disk1/1995/9504/950405.PDF(external link) (last access: 27 November 2015).


CR: depleted uranium, nuclear energy, radioactive contamination, radioactivity.


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