Storage

Background - June 27, 2006
There's no environmentally acceptable way to "dispose" of nuclear waste, no matter what kind of waste it is. Dumping radioactive waste in remote areas just keeps the problem out of sight, out of mind, and lets the nuclear industry make even more waste.

Cooling ponds at Sellafield nuclear plant. These are used as temporary storage for nuclear waste.

The burial of radioactive materials is one touted solution to radioactive waste disposal. WIPP in New Mexico, Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Gorleben in Germany, proposed sites in the UK, Russia, Australia and elsewhere are among the places where nuclear engineers claim to have 'solved' the nuclear waste problem. However, at present, there are no known disposal routes for long-lived radioactive materials. The burial of these materials must not be confused with their safe containment and isolation from the environment.

One of the most likely mechanisms of pollution in connection with waste disposal in rock is the contamination of groundwater. Underground waters may come into contact with radioactive elements that have leached out from the waste and contaminate the drinking water of both local and distant communities. This is already happening in France.

Then some favour storage the on-reactor-site fuel pools that often holdmost of the high-level waste that has been generated by the reactor. Fuel pools were not designed for more than temporary storage. There are many hazards associated with fuel pools, including the potential for loss of coolant that could result in spontaneous combustion of the fuel, or in some circumstances, nuclear meltdown of the pool.

Until something safer is developed the only acceptable way to store radioactive materials is in on-site, above-ground, dry storagesystems. These systems secure high-level waste from accidental or deliberate break-ins; keep the waste separate from people and the environment, preventing exposure and contamination; make it easy to monitor the waste over long periods; and make it easier and safer to access the waste if we invent better ways to manage it. This system is already used by some power stations, which keep their spent nuclear fuel rods in above-ground dry stores.

But of course, the only real solution is to stop creating the waste.

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