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Nuclear Energy. G4 Radioactive Waste. Radioactive Waste. Nuclear power plants produce radioactive wastes. About 32 metric tons of spent fuel is produced by a typical reactor each year. This waste could be reprocessed into 1.5 tons of extremely radioactive materials.

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Nuclear energy

Nuclear Energy

G4 Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste
Radioactive Waste

  • Nuclear power plants produce radioactive wastes

  • About 32 metric tons of spent fuel is produced by a typical reactor each year

  • This waste could be reprocessed into 1.5 tons of extremely radioactive materials

  • But such work is a dangerous and would produce waste that is much more hazardous

  • Nuclear plants also produce large quantities of low-level nuclear wastes during the course of normal operation

Radioactive waste1
Radioactive Waste

  • Radiation is unhealthy for living things

  • Cells that are activelydividing, such as skin cells and the blood-cell producing cells in bone marrow, are especially sensitive to radiation

  • The amount of exposure determines the extent of damage

  • Large doses can cause severe, immediate effects including skin burns, anemia, and even death

  • Causes changes in DNA, leading to long-term effects such as cancer and genetic mutations

Radiation exposure
Radiation Exposure

  • Radiation exposure is measured in rems

  • Most Americans receive between 0.2-0.5 rems per year from background radiation

  • Most background radiation comes from naturally occurring elements in our surroundings.

  • Earth – rocks, water, carbon-14 (living organisms)

  • Cosmic – sun, space, other stars

  • Food – potassium: bananas, potatoes, beans

  • Medial – dental x-rays, skeletal x-rays, medications

Types of radioactive waste
Types of Radioactive Waste

  • High-Level Waste - wastes that emit large amounts of radiation

  • Includes used uranium, fuel rods, control rods, and water used to cool and control the chain reactions

  • The vessel that surrounds the fuel rods is also radioactive

  • These wastes are very dangerous to handle and may also be poisonous

Types of radioactive waste1
Types of Radioactive Waste

  • Medium-Level and Low-Level Waste – are not as radioactive as high-level, although a much larger volume of these wastes is generated

  • Can be anything from the mine wastes scattered around a uranium mine to the contaminated protective clothes of a power plant worker

  • Low-Level wastes are also produced by hospitals and laboratories

  • The damage to people's health is not as obvious as the damage caused by high-level wastes

  • But they pose a greater risk because they are more common and effects can add up over time

Radioactive waste disposal
Radioactive Waste Disposal

  • Radioactive wastes are very difficult to dispose of safely

  • Low-level wastes can be dangerous for 300 years or more

  • High-level wastes may be dangerous for tens of thousands of years

Radioactive waste disposal1
Radioactive Waste Disposal

  • The US government has decided on the following criteria for disposing of nuclear waste safely

  • Must be sealed in containers that will not corrode for thousands of years

  • The US has decided on sealing the wastes in thick blocks of glass

  • The site must be geologically stable

  • An earthquake or volcano could spill the stored wastes into the environment

  • Must also be stored deep under the ground

  • The cost of this disposal method is very high

Radioactive waste disposal2
Radioactive Waste Disposal

  • Almost all the high-level radioactive wastes in the world have not been disposed of permanently.

  • They sit in storagetanks outside nuclear power and weapons plants

  • Many tanks have begun to leak, contaminating groundwater and the environment

  • These wastes must be permanently removed before the contamination gets worse

Radioactive waste disposal3
Radioactive Waste Disposal

  • The government predicts that the cleanup of 20 of the most contaminated nuclear weapons sites in the United States could cost $600 billion.

  • At theHanford nuclear weapons facility in Washington state, large amounts of radioactive wastes have been released into the environment.

  • The Columbia River has been contaminated several times.

  • The Hanford was shutdown in 1987. Cleanup at the site has begun

Safety and cost
Safety and Cost

  • Nuclear power plants are very expensive because the required safety measures are very costly

  • The danger that radioactive contamination creates makes safety at nuclear power plants very important

  • If the cooling or control systems in a reactor core fail, the chain reaction can no longer be controlled

  • The core will grow hotter, causing the fuel rods and even the reactor vessel to melt

  • This is called a meltdown.

  • A full meltdown would release huge amounts of radiation into the environment.

Section review
Section Review

  • Answer the questions in the section review