Nuclear Waste Management
LLW and ILW account for 90% by volume of radioactive waste generated and contain about 1% of the total radioactivity. There are three types of waste: process (filters, resins and radioactive particulates), technological (tools, rags, oil, lubricant) and decommissioning, which occurs at the end of a nuclear reactor’s life.
These wastes are managed by either being compacted or incinerated before disposal in existing facilities, or being enclosed, typically in cement and stored awaiting disposal.
HLW accounts for 10% by volume of radioactive waste generated and contains about 99% of the total radioactivity. This includes fission products and spent fuel. Fission products, residual waste that occurs from reprocessing, are first extracted in liquid form (after acid has dissolved them). They are then stored in stainless steel tanks that have cooling systems. The products transform into solids and are incorporated into solid blocks of borosilicate glass (also known as vitrification).
Spent fuel can be packaged in containers made of steel or concrete for shielding purposes. It must be stored underwater or in a space with a cooling system; the heat the fuel generates needs to be removed. There is usually a cooling period of 20 to 50 years before removal of the spent fuel from the reactor site and its long-term disposal.