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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