GS3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

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All radioactive waste facilities are designed with numerous layers of protection to make sure that people remain protected for as long as it takes for radioactivity to reduce to background levels.

Types of nuclear waste:

  • Low-level waste is made up of lightly-contaminated items like tools and work clothing from power plant operation and makes up the bulk of radioactive wastes. It represent 90% of the total volume of radioactive wastes, but contain only 1% of the radioactivity.
  • Intermediate-level wastes might include used filters, steel components from within the reactor and some effluents from reprocessing.
  • High-level wastes from nuclear generation, but they contain 95% of the radioactivity arising from nuclear power.

Types of nuclear waste
VolumeRadioactive content
High-level waste3% 95%
Intermediate-level waste7% 4%
Low-level waste 90% 1%

Waste disposal:

  • Intermediate- and low-level wastes are disposed of closer to the surface, in many established repositories. Low-level waste disposal sites are purpose built, but are not much different from normal municipal waste sites.
  • Low-level and intermediate wastes are buried close to the surface.
  • High-level wastes require shielding and cooling, low-level wastes can be handled easily without shielding. High-level wastes can remain highly radioactive for thousands of years. They need to be disposed of deep underground in engineered facilities built in stable geological formations.
  • The regular monitoring is done as per the requirements which are in line with the guidelines of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • The monitoring of various environmental matrices such as air, water, soil etc., in and around the waste disposal facilities is carried out by independent Environmental Survey Laboratories (ESL) of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) which are stationed at all the nuclear sites.
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