Nuclear Waste Management
Long-term disposal solutions
Currently waste is incinerated, compacted, encapsulated or goes through the process of vitrification. Spent fuel is also reprocessed to achieve two objectives:
- The recovery of reusable materials, uranium and plutonium, which reduces the need for natural uranium extraction;
- The reduction of waste toxicity and volumes.
Reprocessing reduces waste volume by 80%.
A long-term option that is being looked into by many countries is geological disposal. This involves disposing waste in rock, clay or salt 500 to 1000 metres deep. The waste is first immobilised through the process of encapsulation or vitrification, then sealed in a canister made from stainless steel or copper (which is corrosion resistant) and finally buried in one of the three geological structures. The final disposal of HLW is regulated by governments with the support of the nuclear industry. Examples of geological repositories are Olkiluoto in Finland, Yucca Mountain in Nevada, USA and AECL.