Treatment and Conditioning of Nuclear Waste
Treatment and conditioning processes are used to convert a wide variety of radioactive waste materials into forms that are suitable for their subsequent management, including transportation, storage and final disposal. The principal aims are to:
It is important to note that, while treatment processes such as compaction and incineration reduce the volume of waste, the amount of radioactivity remains the same. As such, the radioactivity of the waste will become more concentrated as the volume is reduced.
The choice of process(es) used is dependent on the level of activity and the type (classification) of waste. Each country’s nuclear waste management policy and its national regulations also influence the approach taken.
Conditioning processes such as cementation and vitrification are used to convert waste into a stable solid form that is insoluble and will prevent dispersion to the surrounding environment. A systematic approach typically incorporates:
A more sophisticated approach is incorporating the particular wastes into the crystal structure of natural minerals which are geochemically stable (see Synroc and composite wasteforms section below).
High-level waste (HLW) is the main focus of attention, though it comprises only about one percent of all radioactive waste by volume. The main scope for volume reduction is within low-level waste (LLW) and intermediate-level waste (ILW). Both ILW and HLW require shielding, so the handling and conditioning may be in hot cells of various kinds to provide that.
The combustible elements of both radioactive and other wastes can be incinerated to reduce volume. The incineration of many kinds of hazardous waste (e.g. waste oils, solvents) and non-hazardous waste (municipal waste, biomass, tyres, sewage sludge) is practised in many countries, subject to emission limits.
In the case of radioactive waste, it has been used for the treatment of LLW from nuclear power plants, fuel production facilities, research centers (such as biomedical research), the medical sector, and waste treatment facilities.
Till we meet next time;
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Writer: Priscilla Oforiwaa
Editor: Yvonne Sefakor Dzovor
Designers: Zhang Jing & Zhang Chao
Translation : Zhang Chao