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Nuclear Waste Disposal Methods

written by: Ricky • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 9/13/2008

Every useful process does leave behind some waste in one form or the other. When the process is as sensitive as the nuclear reaction, the waste obviously has to be handled very carefully. Read here how nuclear power plant waste is treated!

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    It is all very well to eat the fruits (electricity) of labour (nuclear reaction) in a nuclear power plant setup but the reaction also leaves behind some waste materials which should be disposed off and discarded in a proper manner, simply because of the reason that it is a radioactive waste hence cannot be dumped like some ordinary waste material

    A nuclear reaction leads to the production of various types of wastes during different stages of the reaction. These waste materials could include all three phases of matter namely solid, liquid as well as gaseous. Needless to say these wastes are radioactive in nature and need to be disposed off in such a manner that human society, flora, fauna and the environment in general are not harmed by them.

    Different methods are used to dispose off each of these wastes and these are disposed off in ground, air or water as the case may be.

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    Ground is a resource which is available in plenty and offers one of the cheapest methods of disposal of nuclear waste. Earth has got good radio activity absorption capacity but the problem is that if the waste is buried at the ground water level, the water would get poisoned from "radioactivity" and hence they have to be buried at a lesser depth. Sometimes used coal mines which are not mined for coal anymore and the solid wastes are buried in them within heaps of sodium chloride. Usually solid radioactive waste is buried few meters deep in water for nearly 3 months. This leads to disappearance of a major proportion of their radioactivity after which it is buried in the ground.



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    The gaseous wastes can be left freely in the air but the problem here is that these gases will get absorbed by the plants and finally will get into the human food chain thus entering the human body and causing serious health hazards in the long run as the number of nuclear reactors in the world increases. Hence another safe method is to collect the gases in solid containers and keep them buried in ground; then disperse them off in the air when their radioactivity levels fall to considerably lower level.

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    Liquid wastes of highly radioactive nature are first enclosed in concrete containers and buried inside the ground just like solid wastes till the decay of their radioactivity. Other lesser toxic wastes are disposed off directly into the oceans but care should be taken to see that the sea life is not affected in a harmful manner.


    Whatever be the method of disposal of radioactive waste materials, it must be always kept in mind that the safety of all forms of life is of utmost importance and should not be compromised even if it means taking some extra pains or incurring some extra costs to properly dispose off the waste material. Only then the nuclear energy would be useful for the human race in the long run and our future generations will also benefit from it.