Radioactive waste is divided into two main categories. There
is high-level radioactive waste and low-level radioactive waste.
High-level radioactive waste has complimentary categories that
contain uranium milling residues and waste with greater quantities
of elements that are heavier than uranium (Ohio State University).
Low-level radioactive waste is further divided into four classes.
These classes are class A, class B, class C, and greater than
C class (Ohio State University).
Low-level radioactive waste, according to the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office, is waste from "activities associated with nuclear electricity generation, from nuclear research and development, and from the production and use of radioisotopes in medicine, education, research, agriculture and industry" (LLRWMO). Specific examples of Low- level radioactive waste, as mentioned by Ohio State University, include:
According to the waste management office, they classify over all low-level radioactive waste to be "ongoing waste" and "historic waste" (LLRWMO). Ongoing waste is "[Low- level radioactive waste] that is generated from ongoing activities of companies that are currently in business, for example, nuclear electricity generators" (LLRWMO). The owners are also responsible for handling their own waste management. The historic waste is "[Low- level radioactive waste] that was managed in the paste in a manner no longer acceptable but for which the original producer cannot reasonably be held responsible. The Federal government has accepted responsibility for this waste" (LLRWMO).
Requirements are set for disposal sites for radiation that can be emitted. The amount cannot exceed an annual dose of 25 millirem to the whole body and 25 millirem to the thyroid (Denial of Application). When compared to an average person exposure it totals about 360 millirem of radiation annually (Denial of Application). The exposure is mainly from natural sources such as radon and medical sources like x-rays.
Radioactivity is measured in curies. To show the amount of
radiation is by stating the activity. Another way to express
radiation can be in cubic feet or in cubic meters. A chart and
graph is displayed below comparing the volume to the activity
of low- level radioactive waste by class. The University of Ohio
provides the information for the year of 1987.
Percent Volume and Percent Radioactivity by Class in 1987
Chart 1: Table1:
Class of Radioactive Waste
Class A 97.4 9.7
Class B 2.1 24.8
Class C .5 65.5
* The table and chart information is from Ohio State University.
With this range of radiation, there must be precautions that need to be followed. Transportation and disposal becomes a big issue. About 100 million US shipments of hazardous material annually, about two million contain radioactive materials (Denial of Application). The transportation is usually by ground and is regulated by the DOT and the NRC. The NRC has special requirements that the radioactive materials be packaged before being shipped (Denial of Application). The packaging type depends on the type of radioactive elements and they type of waste. Disposal containers under type "A" conditions are shipped with low enough radiation levels so they only need a tight seal but must be able to withstand ordinary transportation conditions (Denial of Application). Type "B" containers follow the same format but must withstand accident conditions such as a 30-foot fall and a 30-minuet fire exposure (Denial of Application). Computer programs can also be used in route selection to guarantee the safest possible path. The carriers also are trained in emergency response procedures.
Burton, D. "Denial of Application For A License." 4 Jan. 2005. <http://www.geocities.com/~daburton/USE/Denial/decision.html>
Fentiman, Dr. Audeen W. "What Is Low-Level Radioactive Waste?" Ohio State University. 20 Jan. 2005. <http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/rer/rerhtml/rer_10.html>
Unknown. "What is Low-Level Radioactive Waste?" Low-Level
Radioactive Waste Management Office. 12 Jan. 2005. <http://www.llrwmo.org/en/faq/lowlevel.html>