kids encyclopedia robot

Radioactive waste facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Nuclear dry storage
Radioactive waste, in the US
Nuclear waste is being transported by rail, in Germany
TINT Radioactive wastes' barrel
Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT) low-level radioactive waste barrels.

Radioactive waste is a type of hazardous waste that contains radioactive material. Radioactive waste is a result of many activities, including nuclear medicine, nuclear research, nuclear power generation, nuclear decommissioning, rare-earth mining, and nuclear weapons reprocessing. The storage and disposal of radioactive waste is regulated by government agencies in order to protect human health and the environment.

Radioactive waste is broadly classified into low-level waste (LLW), such as paper, rags, tools, clothing, which contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity, intermediate-level waste (ILW), which contains higher amounts of radioactivity and requires some shielding, and high-level waste (HLW), which is highly radioactive and hot due to decay heat, so requires cooling and shielding.

High-level radioactive wastes give off large amounts of ionizing radiation.

Radioactive waste is dangerous to the environment, and there are many regulations about transporting it, handling it, and processing it in such a way that the dangers are reduced. They can contaminate water and affect the living organisms. Storage of radioactive waste must be guaranteed for thousands of years, until it decays sufficiently to be safe to the environment and its inhabitants. 

The time radioactive waste must be stored for depends on the type of waste and radioactive isotopes it contains. Short-term, radioactive waste can be stored on the surface or near-surface. Burial in a deep geological repository is a favored solution for long-term storage of high-level waste. Radioactive waste can be stored by deep geological burial or by dry cask storage. Dry Cask Storage is large cylinders of concrete and steel that are used to hold 10 or more metric tons of high-level radioactive waste.

In nuclear reprocessing plants about 96% of spent nuclear fuel is recycled back into uranium-based and mixed-oxide (MOX) fuels. The residual 4% are subsequently converted into a glass-like ceramic for storage in a deep geological repository.

The joint convention of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) lists management approaches to storing radioactive waste for most developed countries.

The U.S. currently has no long-term radioactive waste storage site. In 1987 Yucca Mountain, Nevada was a candidate for radioactive waste storage, but was shut down.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Residuo radiactivo para niños

kids search engine
Radioactive waste Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.