Nuclear Waste Blog – Introduction
Camille speaking here. I’ll be taking over our Insights section for the summer.
I am thinking about writing some articles about waste management. Today, I will start with an introduction to set the scene. What I am going to write is mostly focussed towards new comers, with a bit of understanding on how the nuclear industry works and would like to discover all the challenges associated with radioactive waste. In this series, you will find my sources at the end of each article. Now let’s discuss a little bit about nuclear waste. 😊
Let’s first understand what radioactivity refers to – just to be sure we are on the same page. It is the spontaneous emission of particles or energy from the nucleus of an atom. This emission occurs in the form of radiation: particles, beta particles, or gamma rays. When we are in contact with these radioactive particles or rays, they can cause damage to cells and DNA, potentially leading to various health issues, including cancer and radiation sickness. We should be conscious that we can’t avoid them. As a matter of fact, we are exposed to cosmic radiation, earth radiation, medical-purpose radiation all our life. But avoiding being over exposed is critical. This is why radioactive waste can’t be tackled the same way as normal waste most of the time.
These nuclear wastes we are talking about are produced by several manmade activities, including nuclear power generation, nuclear deterrent production, and medical and industrial applications of radioactive materials. Those wastes are categorised into different levels based on their level of radioactivity – in some countries such as France also on their half-life. These categories range from low-level waste, such as contaminated protective clothing – ie. PPEs – or tools, to intermediate-level waste, which includes reactor components, and high-level waste, such as spent fuel rods.
So, what are we doing with them? Well, various approaches are being explored for the management of nuclear waste. These methods depend on the waste activity level and aim to ensure their long-term isolation and containment for the safety of human health and the environment. We will talk more about those in my next articles.
To conclude for today, I wish to share with you my plan for the upcoming articles. I thought about discussing the impact of radioactivity on humans, national focus on nuclear waste management (such as France’s CIGEO, Sweden’s KBSS, Finland’s Onkalo, and projects in the US and UK), public opinion on the subject, a focus on waste package and the recycling of low-level waste especially metallic waste. Let me know if you have a preference or if there is any other subject you would like to read about.
Hope you have a good day!