One of the main problems of the use of nuclear energy is the management of nuclear waste as they are very dangerous and difficult to remove.
What is done with the nuclear waste?
Nuclear waste is one of the main problems of nuclear energy. If this waste is not properly treated, are highly hazardous to the environment poblacióny.
Radioactive waste can be classified according to their physical and chemical characteristics and activity.
Classificandolos for activity are:
- high-level nuclear waste, composed of fuel elements won.
- intermediate level nuclear wastes are radionuclides produced in nuclear fission process.
- low level nuclear waste, it is basically the tools, clothes and other material used for matenenimiento of a nuclear power plant.
The National Radioactive Waste (ENRESA) is the company in charge in Spain of the nuclear waste management (come from nuclear or other radioactive facilities such as hospitals and research centers related to nuclear energy). The management of such nuclear waste is defined in the Waste Plan approved by Parliament.
The protocols for the treatment of nuclear waste depends on its level of radioactivity:
Nuclear waste medium and low activity
The intermediate level nuclear waste generated by radionuclides released in the fission process (which is currently used in nuclear power plants) in small amounts, well below those considered dangerous to the safety and the protection of persons.
With a separate treatment containing radioactive elements in these by-products and residues deposited solidifying steel drums with tar, resin or cement.
The low level nuclear waste radioactive (clothes, tools, etc.) are crushed and mixed with concrete to form a solid block. As in the previous case they are also introduced in steel drums.
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In Spain, the drums are moved to the Storage Center The Cabril (Córdoba), which manages ENRESA. Besides all nuclear waste deposited all Spanish plants, also deposited nuclear waste generated by the medicine, research, industry and other fields that also work with energy nuclear.
All nuclear waste storage, today, are strictly monitored and controlled.
high-level nuclear waste
Once spent fuel in a nuclear power plant, is removed from the reactor to be temporarily stored in a water pool walls constructed of stainless steel hormigóny within the plant to create a barrier to radiation and prevent leakage.
If it is true that these pools can be extended by an operation called "reracking" recent General Waste Plans provide for the construction of temporary dry storage inside the nuclear plant itself. This would be an addition to the pools in the intermediate step to define a permanent location.
Research on final storage takes place in many countries, some of which, such as Finland and the U.S., have taken significant steps to construccióny commissioning.
One of the solutions which are accepted among experts is Deep Geological Disposal (AGP), usually in mines excavated in stable geological formations.
Currently ENRESA works to locate, build and manage a Centralized Temporary Storage to store as a temporary and safe, high-level nuclear waste currently stored at the Spanish plants. This storage will buy time to find a suitable location for the AGP allowing continuity of nuclear facilities and the safe storage of high level waste.
European Nuclear Waste Classification
Since not all countries use the same classification, the European Commission has recommended unify criteria, for which he proposes the following classification, in force since January 1, 2002 :
- transition nuclear waste: waste, mainly from medical origin, which disintegrate during the period of temporary storage and can then run as non-radioactive waste, provided that derating values.
- Nuclear waste, low and intermediate level: the radionuclide concentration is such that thermal power generation during its disposal is sufficiently low. Turn are classified into short-lived waste containing radionuclides whose half-life is less than or equal to 30 years, with a limited concentration of long-lived alpha radionuclides-and long-lived waste radionuclide-and long-lived alpha emitters whose concentration exceeds the limits for short-lived waste.
- high-level nuclear waste: waste with a concentration of such radionuclides to be taken into account thermal generation during its storage and disposal. This type of waste is mainly the treatment and conditioning of spent fuel.