Radioactive Waste Management

Radioactive waste: what you need to know

It’s not often that someone will ever have to deal with radioactive waste.

But for those who do have to deal with it – knowing how to treat it is important.

Radioactive waste, sometimes known as ‘radwaste’, is the solid, liquid, or even gaseous waste produced by nuclear power stations, hospitals and other entities.

Authorities, including the Government and the Environmental Agency are working to provide ever safer and more sustainable options for disposing of radioactive waste, which affects both human health and the natural environment.

As with other waste materials, there are different categories and types of radioactive waste, and each of them needs to be treated accordingly.

Low-level radioactive waste

Low-level radioactive waste tends to consist of materials that have been used at the site of radioactive activity, such as paper, metal, and plastics.

There is also very-low level waste that can originate from places such as hospitals and universities.

Waste within this category can be low in volume and can be safely disposed of with other waste headed to specified landfill.

Any landfill operator that wants to take high volumes of low-level radioactive waste must be granted authorisation from the Environmental Agency.

Intermediate-level radioactive waste

As you can imagine, intermediate-level waste is radioactive waste that poses a higher threat than low-level or very low-level waste.

This can often consist of metal items such as nuclear reactor components, reactor cores and other such machinery.

This waste will be stored in drums, vaults, and tanks.

High-level radioactive waste

The most harmful kind of radioactive waste, high-level radioactive waste, this comprises of acidic solutions and waste materials. Much of this waste is stored as liquid and is water-cooled in glass blocks or steel tanks.

These are then placed within thick concrete walls to help shield the surrounding environment from the radiation.

How is radioactive material managed?

All radioactive waste needs to be handled and disposed of by professionals and with approval from the Environmental Agency.

Radioactive waste can be handled in a variety of different ways, including near-surface and deep geological disposal facilities.

The lower the level of radiation, the more likely it will be stored near-surface.

All low-level radioactive waste will need authorisation from the Environmental Agency, as it limits the quantities of radioactive waste authorised for disposal.

The agency must also audit the site and ensure that the waste disposal operator complies with regulations.

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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