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Nuclear Waste

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

What is nuclear waste?

Nuclear waste is the byproduct of making electricity using nuclear fission in a nuclear reactor. Waste is a byproduct of other methods of energy production. Nuclear waste gets so much attention because although it is minimal, it is severely hazardous. The footprint of a nuclear power plant and its nuclear waste is a fraction of other energy-producing technologies. But, there is a valid concern that the risks may be challenging to contain.

-  The amount of nuclear waste produced is minimal but is serverly hazardous. However, we can safety manage the globes waste.
-  It is the fission product elements that make up the nuclear waste due to the nuclear fission of billion of atoms that are the cause of concern when dealing with nuclear waste.
-  Nuclear waste and nuclear fuel are identical to look at. Not a green florsescent goo as some programme would have you believe.
-  Unlike most toxic waste, the fact that atomic waste becomes less toxic with time is unique.


What does nuclear waste look like?

Nuclear waste looks identical to the fuel when the operators loaded it into the reactor. When loaded into commercial reactors, solid ceramic pellets of nuclear fuel are stacked into thin metal tubes and packed together into fuel assemblies. After 1-2 years of nuclear fission generating lots of heat, it is time to remove the tubes. The nuclear fuel pellets inside are now known as nuclear waste as part of the refuelling cycle.

Not as episodes of The Simpsons will have you believer, nuclear waste is not a freeze fluorescent goo. Nuclear waste has the same consistency as a plate that you eat your food off. However, nuclear waste may look like nuclear fuel; it is, in fact, not. There has been quite a lot happening inside of those fuel pellets.

The fission product elements make up the nuclear waste due to the nuclear fission of billion of atoms that cause concern when dealing with nuclear waste.

Nuclear waste disposal

Nuclear waste is never actually unshielded; the spent fuel remains underwater for the first five or so years. The water acts as both a radiation shield and also cools the nuclear waste. It remains here until the radiation levels decay enough that the waste can be kept cool without being submerged in water.

After cooling in the pools, it is possible to recycle nuclear waste back into nuclear fuel. There remains some waste from this process that is turned into glass and stored in air-draft cooling racks. However, this is a costly process. As such, most of the worlds nuclear waste reside in large concrete canisters where people can walk right by without worrying about any radiation.

No one has been injured or killed by the commercial nuclear waste in dry cask storage. The fact that atomic plants keep all of their waste on-site for their entire lifecycle is a significant positive environmental attribute compared with energy sources that emit vast waste into the atmosphere or produce vast manufacturing wastes during fabrication.

How long does nuclear waste last?

When nuclear fission occurs, much of the energy is released immediately. However, energy continues to be released for thousands of years after the atom splits. This afterglow heat is what makes nuclear waste dangerous. Unlike most toxic waste, the fact that atomic waste becomes less harmful with time is unique.

When nuclear waste is removed from the reactor if left unshielded, it is lethal. So dangerous that if a person stood too close it within a few minutes, they would receive a lethal radiation dose and die of acute radiation sickness within days. You have images of the HBO series Chernobyl in your mind now don't you. As the energy continues to be released, the waste becomes less radioactive. Still, it does not transform from dangerous to harmless for thousands of years.

When people ask the question "what about the waste" what they ask whether we can prevent this radioactive material from causing harm to people and the environment, hopefully, we have demonstrated that above.

Further references:

2 Kommentare

23. Nov. 2021

Sorry for nitpicking on the keeper of this blog for the last of

the above list of takeaways. I see now that it came directly from Nick

Touran's blog "What Is Nuclear" which is

referenced above and is usually pretty good on most subjects.

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22. Nov. 2021

I think that the last of the "key takeaways" in this section is severely

misleading and needs to be removed or replaced. Currently it reads:

Unlike most toxic waste, the fact that atomic waste becomes less

toxic with time is unique.

The fact that atomic waste becomes less toxic with time is irrelevant, due

to the fact that the timescale of radiotoxic decrease (100Ks of years) is

many times longer than the total timescale of the human species itself.

What is equally misleading is the omission of the fact that the radiotoxic

longevity of nuclear waste is a direct result of the design of the reactor

(light water cooled, solid fueled uranium), which was locked into place

by the prevailing…

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