The Ideal Site For Radioactive Waste Disposal

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Define the ideal site for radioactive waste disposal.

In the present day, nuclear power is responsible for generating roughly one sixth of the UK’s electrical energy. We have a total of nine active nuclear power plants distributed around the country, housing sixteen nuclear reactors. In the US, one fifth of energy is produced by nuclear power. Nuclear energy production has many advantages compared to other sources. For example, it has very low pollution levels, unlike methods involving fossil fuels, which produce high amounts of pollution, therefore harming the atmosphere and environment. Also, nuclear power has a high energy density production and so less fuel is required; it is estimated that a single nuclear fission reaction releases
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Radiation exposure can cause birth defects, cancer, and in extreme cases, death. The extent of the damage caused depends on the radioactivity of the substance as well as the length of exposure. The length of time that a certain type of waste is dangerous depends on the half-life of each isotope in the waste. During the process of radioactive decay, energy is released as the nucleus of a radioactive isotope (the “parent”) is changed into that of another isotope (the “daughter”). This radioactive decay from parent to daughter continues until the original parent isotope changes into a stable, non-radiactive isotope. Throughout the process, energy is released in the form of energetic particles or rays. Hence, in a sample of uranium, the parent uranium isotopes are constantly decaying until the sample consists of only lead, the final daughter isotope in the uranium decay series. It takes a very long time for all the uranium to decay completely to lead, the half-life of the uranium isotope uranium-238, for example, is 4.5 billion years.

Much research is constantly going into updating and improving disposal schemes for radioactive waste, in the search to find the ideal site and method. Low-level and high-level radioactive wastes are handled very differently but it is important that both are safely and securely disposed of in order to minimize risk of damage to the surrounding population and environment.

Low-Level Waste Disposal
The term
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